Monday, April 16, 2012

PBR: Butch Fatale, Dyke Dick; Double-D Double Cross (Christa Faust, 2012) @faustfatale

If one were to give Philip Marlowe a libido, you just might have Christa Faust's "Butch Fatale" (c.f. Money Shot) — a tough private eye with old-school hard-boiled patter and a way with the ladies. It is mixture of lesbian erotica and traditional detective pulp, with just a smattering of LGBT issues thrown in.

Now, just to get this out of the way, this is an erotic book. There are some fairly graphic sex scenes up front, though by the point I am at currently (about 25% as of this writing) this has dwindled a bit to form a more traditional detective story. Butch is a former Los Angeles cop turned private detective. She is approached by a young chef, Mickey Hernandez, to find her girlfriend, a former drug addict and prostitute who appears to have returned to her old lifestyle. Butch is not happy with the case, but as with most pulp detectives could use they paycheck. There is, of course, more to the disappearance than meets the eye, and Butch finds herself in a bigger mess than a missing person case typically warrants.

I mostly draw the Marlowe comparison because of the sexually ambiguous nature of Chandler's detective. Rarely does Philip Marlowe get himself into sexual situations, and is able to turn it off right away when he does. There is some argument that Marlowe was (and Chandler by extension) gay; self-loathing, but gay. Marlowe's lack of sex drive in a genre that typically demands such is odd, and considering the central point two gay characters take in The Big Sleep, and the disdain Chandler treats them with, is telling. Add to that the heavy drinking by both the author and his creation, it is easy to see a man (men) at war with themselves. Of course, it is also possible that Chandler was just a prude. I have read that he hated James M. Cain's work (Double Indemnity, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Mildred Pierce) for being overly lascivious. Butch Fatale is the near opposite. She is a skirt chaser, and by the end of day one you are hard pressed to count the sexual encounters, and potential encounters, she has. She describes herself as a tom cat, and certainly lives up to the description.

The writing is quite good. Thus far it is a solid bit of hard-boiled fiction, and the eroticism is not what I would call crass, though I am a libertine so your mileage may vary. It is done in the style of its 1930s forebears, but set in our time. Some interesting turns on how those detectives of yore might phrase things in the modern age abound, without trying too hard. Those of us less down with Lesbian culture will get a few nice descriptions without things degenerating into an essay on Lesbian slang and subcultural practice. As for the eroticism, thus far it is very similar to Allison Moon's Lunatic Fringe, where you do not need to directly identify with the sexual orientation or gender of the characters involved, nor have Lesbian eroticism as your "thing" to find the scenes hot.

Butch Fatale, Dyke Dick: Double-D Double Cross is currently available on the Kindle for $2.99, and easily worth the price if the subject matter is to your liking.


Keir said...

First time I heard theidea that Marlowe was gay. I recently listened to the Teaching Company's series of lectures 'Detective Fiction: The Killer, The Detective, and Their World' by J. Dennis Huston; highly recommend it. Very interesting take on Marlowe in one lecture.

Darius Whiteplume said...

Cool. I will give that a look. I heard the Marlowe/Chandler argument from a PhD candidate who was doing her dissertation on Chandler. She was appalled that it was an idea, but said she had heard it in scholarly circles (I assume they were scholarly). I do love the Marlowe books. Even the oft-maligned "Playback" works for me. I have read "The Big Sleep" more times than I can remember.

mkhall said...

I've picked this up on your recommendation.

Darius Whiteplume said...

Cool. I hope you like it. Money Shot was good as well. I'll likely be reading Hoodtown soon.

T. Roger Thomas said...

While I think it's open to debate, I believe that the seeming lack of sexuality displayed by Chandler's Philip Marlowe can best be understood in the context of the chivalric genre. I read a very good paper arguing that Marlowe operates in "The Big Sleep" as a knight-in-shining-armor type who by the definition of the genre is more interested in completing the quest for the King (in this case General Sternwood) than anything else. The description of the door of the Sternwood home and other contextual clues further this argument.

I am a fan of the detective genre with characters of any sexual orientation so I might check out "Butch Fatale" based on your recommendation.

Darius Whiteplume said...

Agreed. Chandler was a scholar, and there are lots of Grail-myth type references to be found. That is one of the great things about The Big Sleep; you can just read it, or you can really dig into the meaning. Either way it is a great book. In a way, Rusty Reagan is the Grail of the story.

I did finish Butch Fatale, and the ending got a little goofy-cinematic, but was still fun. I think you'll enjoy it.

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