Today I’m delighted to feature a post from Sam Blake, author of Little Bones which is published tomorrow!
The men might get the best lines (and more of them, ahem) in the movies, but on the page there are a multitude of female crime fighters who absolutely rock.
When I created the character of Cat Connolly, or more accurately, when Cat Connolly found me, she was inevitably influenced by my favourite fictional characters, although in truth, she is shares a huge amount with a very good friend of mine who is a real life crime writer…
Cathy Connolly is only twenty four, but since she was twelve years old and saw a little girl alone on the green in the middle of her estate – a man in a hoody heading towards her – Cat wanted to be a cop.
Following in her older brother Aidan’s footsteps, she joined An Garda Síochána at 18 and the detective unit at 22. One of the lads, she’s an undefeated National Kickboxing champion, and took a distance learning degree in criminology when she joined the job, too impatient to get out on the street to bother with more years in education. She’s bright, focused and determined, but she’s also an impetuous risk taker and when she’s up against it, will follow her heart over her head. She gets into a lot of trouble.
Cat is really interested in what makes people tick and in piecing together the puzzle, and one of my favourite lady detectives does exactly that – but she’s not really a detective in the uniformed sense, she’s actually a pathologist, Dr. Kay Scarpetta. I’ve been blessed to have help in my writing from Ireland’s real live state pathologist (who will is launching Little Bones in Dublin) Professor Dr. Marie Cassidy, and I know she loves Scarpetta too because I was involved in an event where Patricia Cornwell spoke at Trinity College Dublin , and I invited Dr. Cassidy along to introduce her. They had a lot in common!
Dr. Kay Scarpetta is Italian American, but unlike a stereotypical Italian, she’s blonde. She is a perfectionist, a sharp dresser and an incredibly hard worker completely immersed in her work who relaxes at home in the kitchen, where she loves to cook.
In Cornwell’s early novels Scarpetta is the Chief Medical Examiner for the Commonwealth of Virginia, she becomes a private forensic consultant and later the head of the National Forensic Academy in Hollywood, Florida, before relocating as a freelance forensic examiner/expert to Charleston, South Carolina. In Scarpetta (2008), she moves to Massachusetts, where she is an M.E. The flexibility she shows in her career gives Cornwell huge flexibility in writing each book, and keeps us on the edge of our seats.
Another medical lady whom I could read forever is Karen Slaughter’s Sara Linton. A pediatrician and coroner for the town of Heartsdale, in rural Grant County, Georgia, Sara is ‘a tall drink of water’, at 5’11’’, has dark auburn hair, and (brilliantly) she spent her teenage summers working for her father’s plumbing business, Linton & Daughters, and as a result is an accomplished plumber.
After college, Sara completed her medical internship at Grady Hospital in Atlanta, and then became a pediatric resident. Working late one night she was attacked, raped and left for dead. The rape resulted in an ectopic pregnancy which led to a partial hysterectomy, and Sara can never have children.
Just like Scarpetta, Linton is a multi-talented, focused lady who has her own ghosts to deal with as she becomes embroiled in the troubled lives of her patients and she lives on the page.
Lynda La Plante’s Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison is another strong female character. She’s an eye for detail that gives her the edge when she’s interviewing suspects and she’s determined to prove to the old boys’ network that she’s better than all of them put together. Tennison doesn’t have the same deep rooted background and issues that the previous two characters have – she’s all about the now, and, as with all La Plante’s stories, the now is a fast paced, brutal place.
Lena Adams, another of Slaughter’s creations has back story and issues in spades. A detective on the Grant County police force Lena is the polar opposite of the controlled Sara Linton – she’s angry, aggressive, cocky and confrontational. She’s also only about 5’4″ and has olive skin and dark brown hair, inherited from her Mexican grandmother.
Lena and her twin sister, Sibyl, were born in the poor town of Reese in Elawah County, Georgia, their father, Calvin Adams, was a police officer who was shot and killed during a routine traffic stop three months after marrying their mother Angela. Although her identical twin, Sibyl is completely different from Lena, a chemistry professor, with a stable lesbian relationship, and is blind as a result of a childhood accident. And she’s brutally murdered at the beginning of the series. Lena has a lot of reasons to be angry. Robert McKee talks about story being about character’s reactions to each other – Lena reacts to everything around her, often explosively and I am sure she must have been as fun to write as she is captivating to read.
Written closer to home, although still based in America is Alex Barclay’s Special Agent Ren Bryce. Ren is beautiful, intelligent, insightful, sharp-minded, funny, loyal, and loving. She can also be risk-taking, paranoid, and aggressive. But she is always determined.
Ren Bryce was voted ‘Most Likely to Kill or Maim’ in her unofficial high school yearbook. She was also voted ‘Most Likely to Hug a Stranger’ and ‘Most Likely to Marry Kurt Cobain’. There are few writers who understand their characters so well that they know what is written in their High School Yearbook, and this is why I love Ren Bryce. She feels like a friend who literally jumps off the page, she’s all there, her quirks and her weaknesses as clearly drawn as her strengths.
Ren Bryce goes deep under cover and blows apart an organized crime operation but is deeply damaged as a result and spiralling into depression is diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Medicated and closely watched by her boss, she joins Rocky Mountain Safe Streets Task Force, a nine-man, one-woman violent crime squad based in Denver, Colorado, handling robbery, kidnapping, sexual crimes against children, serial killers, and violent fugitives. The perfect place for someone with a mind that can come unhinged the moment she stops taking her medication. But Ren makes some of her finest breakthroughs when she is manic, takes her greatest risks, and makes some of her most spectacular mistakes.
Getting into the head of this utterly brilliant character is the true skill of the writer. I know Alex Barclay feels like Ren is a friend who lives down the road – exactly how I feel about Cat Connolly, I can only hope I bring her to the page half as well as Barclay does!
© Sam Blake
About the author:
Sam Blake is a pseudonym for Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin, the founder of The Inkwell Group publishing consultancy and the national writing resources website Writing.ie. She is Ireland’s leading literary scout who has assisted many award winning and bestselling authors to publication. Vanessa has been writing fiction since her husband set sail across the Atlantic for eight weeks and she had an idea for a book.
Little Bones is the first in the Cat Connolly Dublin based detective thriller trilogy. When a baby’s bones are discovered in the hem of a wedding dress, Detective Garda Cathy Connolly is face with a challenge that is personal as well as professional – a challenge that has explosive consequences.
Follow Sam Blake on Twitter @samblakebooks or Vanessa @inkwellhq – be warned, they get tetchy with each other!
A fab post from Sam Blake! Huge thanks for stopping by Bibliophile Book Club today! Keep up with the blog tour! 😉