What (or who) is the “Stiletto Gumshoe”?
On one hand, it’s the working title of a project I’m currently querying, the first novel in what could hopefully become a mystery/crime fiction series.
Set in the ethnic blue collar bungalow belt of 1959 Chicago’s south side, a young woman who’s more at home perched on a bar stool in a cocktail lounge than a receptionist’s chair in an office has been between jobs for far too long when she finally lands a gig as a one-man private detective firm’s secretary. But almost before she can cash her first paycheck, she finds herself tangling with blackmailers, crooked cops and brutal murders…including her new boss found plugged full of bullets behind his desk. Discovering that he was a bit of a louse — not altogether dirty, but certainly a little dusty – she concludes that he was still her louse, and is determined to find out who killed him and why. Which puts some mighty scary people on her tail, from Chicago mobsters to political bigwigs (which can almost be one and the same in Chicago), and once she gets to the bottom of things, the press dismissively dubs her the “Stiletto Gumshoe”. They may have been poking fun at the petit twenty-two year old party girl who uncovered massive civic corruption schemes and left two rogue cops shot dead. But even if there’s a fine line between fame and notoriety, she decides to parlay it into a new career, and hangs up her private detective’s shingle right in her old boss’ office.
Well, that’s my‘stiletto gumshoe’.
But I’m also intrigued by the many other ‘stiletto gumshoes’ from mystery and crime fiction novels, vintage pulp fiction magazines, retro and current television and films, comics and graphic novels. From Sally The Sleuthto Mrs. Tree, Sally O’Neil The Undercover Girlto Miss Fury, Honey Westto Jessica Jones, there are a lot more female private eyes, detectives, cops, costumed crime fighters, crusading district attorneys and snoopy reporters than you might think.
Honestly, I simply adore all things ‘noir’. And ‘noir’ is clearly a much more inclusive aesthetic than simply Film Noir from the mid-twentieth century. I choose to shoehorn in the countless kitschy 40’s-50’s crime fiction paperbacks along with the illustrators who created their memorably garish covers. Sure, I love the classic films noir, but enjoy B-movie crime melodramas and series and contemporary ‘neo-noir’ films as well. I’m particularly intrigued by the surprising number of fine artists and commercial photographers who draw upon the tropes and clichés of classic noir cinema and pulp art in everything from serious gallery paintings to trashy – but darkly gorgeous – fashion photography. And since it seems that half the recent films and television series are adapted from comics and graphic novel sources, I get a real kick out of mystery/crime fiction comic art, from the quaint titles and characters of 50/60/70 years ago to the hipper, grimmer and sometimes shockingly dark material some cool creatives are generating today. Some of it features ‘stiletto gumshoes’. Some rely on Chandler-Hammett-Spillane clones…those more familiar gumshoes in wingtips.
Well, they’re welcome here too.