Hi everyone! Today I have a special guest for you. To celebrate the release of her new novel, Fatal Act (to be published at the end of May), Leigh Russell stopped by the blog to talk about her thoughts on female detectives on television.
Leigh Russell on Female Detectives on Television
Judging by the number of emails I receive asking when my detective Geraldine Steel is going to appear on the small screen, I might be forgiven for thinking there aren’t enough female detectives on television. Yet there are currently roughly the same number of female detectives as male ones on television these days. Starting as genteel private sleuths like Jane Marple and Jessica Fletcher, female police detectives have developed from sergeants to male inspectors, as in Linley and Rebus, to emerge as powerful protagonists in their own right: Jane Tennison, Vera, Rizzoli and Isles, Scott and Bailey, to name just a few.
On reflection, it isn’t hard to find a reason for the rise in the number of female detectives on television. In fictional detectives viewers encounter the vast variety of human life. Holmes, sharp-eyed and logical, poetic Dalgleish, dour Dalziel, brusque Taggart, twee Miss Marple, harrassed Rizzoli and Isles, plodding Vera, clumsy Goodman, widowed Foyle, witty gambler Cracker, ovuncular Frost… they each bring their own unique character to the genre. Because crime fiction not only satisfies our need for moral order, it also gives us a snapshot of society. Today, female officers occupy over thirty per cent of senior posts in the police force. This hasn’t always been the case. The evolution in gender representation in crime fiction is a reflection of cultural norms in society. Can you imagine Inspector Lestrade as a female officer? Even omniscient Sherlock Holmes would be surprised by the cultural shift towards gender equality in the workplace that we now rightly assume should exist.
My own two current ‘must watch’ series seem to reflect this change. The Belgian series Salamander features maverick Detective Inspector Paul Gerardi. In a tense action-packed political drama, he stands alone against a corrupt system that has absolute power over virtually every aspect of society. The other series I’m watching is Line of Duty. If we are to believe Detective Inspector Lindsay Denton, she has been framed by a senior officer, landing her in prison. Once again, a lone figure is pitted against a corrupt system. These dramas are not only murder stories. They have something to say about how we can feel living in a society where the rules are not always just. Does it make any difference that the protagonist in one is a man, in the other a woman? Lindsay Denton is tough. She can be violent. Salamander is tender in his relationship with his daughter. Gender differences are rightly becoming blurred.
So with such a wealth of choice in television detectives, both male and female, why are my readers asking to see Geraldine Steel on television? We have seen the superhero detective, Holmes, evolve into detectives tormented by dysfunctional private lives, through to dodgy ‘bent coppers’. Geraldine is relatively normal. Women identify with her, while her male fans tell me they’d like to take her out for a drink. The Miami Examiner describes Geraldine as ‘one of the most interesting detectives of all time’, not because of any strange quirks or eccentricities, but precisely because readers can identify with her. A single woman in her late thirties who would like to have a partner, she isn’t obsessed by men. Her main interest in life is her work. It’s a profile familiar to many people. By giving us an insight into other people’s lives, crime fiction offers a commentary on our own humanity. For many readers of crime fiction, Geraldine has become a part of that commentary.
That could be the reason readers ask to see Geraldine Steel on television. It’s a way of feeling closer to her. I don’t have the power to put my detective on our screens – but I can keep writing about her. Cut Short, Road Closed, Dead End, Death Bed, Stop Dead and Fatal Act are already published, with another title out this year. More are following, and Geraldine also makes a cameo appearance in each book in the spin off series for her sergeant, Ian Peterson. Links to all these books can be found on my website.
About the author
Leigh Russell studied at the University of Kent, gaining a Masters degree in English. For many years a secondary school English teacher, she is a creative writing tutor for adults. She is married, has two daughters, and lives in North West London. Her first novel, Cut Short, was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger Award in 2010. This was followed by Road Closed, Dead End, Death Bed, Stop Dead and Fatal Act, in the Detective Inspector Geraldine Steel series. Cold Sacrifice is the first title in a spin off series featuring Geraldine Steel’s sergeant, Ian Peterson.
About the book
Genre: Mystery & Detective; Women Sleuths; Suspense; Crime
Published by: No Exit Press
Publication Date: 29th May 2014
Number of Pages: 320pp
Series: DI Geraldine Steel #6 (standalone)
A glamorous young TV soap star dies in a car crash. Returning for her sixth case, Detective Inspector Geraldine Steel is baffled as the driver of the second vehicle miraculously survives – and vanishes. Another young actress is murdered and, once again, the killer mysteriously disappears. Geraldine unwittingly risks her sergeant’s life in their struggle to track down a serial killer who leaves no clues.
Where to buy Fatal Act:
The blog tour continues on Monday so if you enjoyed this post, make sure to stop by A Lover of Books for more exclusive content. 🙂