In the past month I have read Slaughter Falls by Bosco (McGee) and The Taken by Wolfe. While reading them I thought about the gender of the authors.
In my previous post I explained McGee’s primary reason for a pseudonym that was vaguely female, certainly ambiguous on the author’s gender:
He said that he had used the pseudonym as he was convinced the book would not get a fair chance to succeed if readers knew the author was a man, especially a man known as a rugby player, whose lead character was a woman. His decision was confirmed by a panel of readers. The two who knew he was a man did not find it credible. The three who did not know had no problems with credibility.
On identifying himself as the author I said:
McGee said he went public with his real identity because he heard it been a letdown when Bosco won the Ngaio Marsh crime writing award and there was no one to accept the award.
Even with the third in the Wolfe series being published this summer the author has chosen not be revealed.
When I read Slaughter Falls I found myself too focused on whether the sleuth, Anna Markunas, was a convincing woman character. I do not think about Agatha Christie being a woman when I read Hercule Poirot mysteries. I am equally unconcerned when I read one of my favourite Canadian series in which Louise Penny’s sleuth is Armand Gamache.
Yet I kept thinking about Anna’s creator being a man. It seems I had questions about a man creating a female sleuth. There is no good reason for doubts. Each gender must be able to develop good characters of the other gender.
Margot Kinberg at her wonderful blog, Confessions of a Mystery Novelist, had a test in a post that showed me I had little ability to distinguish male writers from female writers in anonymous short passages from their books.
When I read The Taken I was not as distracted. While the evidence would suggest Wolfe is a male author the identity is publicly anonymous. Not knowing the author’s gender made a difference in reading the book. I was more focused on the plot and was not trying to determine if Hazel sounded like a woman.
I was not reading Slaughter Falls rationally. When I read Thomas Perry’s series featuring Jane Whitfield I have not thought about the gender of the author.
I believe I influenced myself by reading about McGee’s concern in getting fair reads if it was known he was a man. I would have thought his fears were unfounded until my personal reaction while reading Slaughter Falls.
Without doing an analysis I believe I might also have been affected because I can think of far more women writing books with male sleuths than men creating female sleuths.
Going forward I am going to do my best to just concentrate on the book. As blogger, Maxine Clarke, from the excellent Petrona blog said in a comment on my review of Slaughter Falls:
To me, the gender of the author is irrelevant. I have a review going up tomorrow of Mildred Pierce by James M Cain, which is such an accurate, and wonderful, portrait of a woman on all kind of levels. Amazing that it was written by a man? No. Just someone with talent.