Lamb to the Slaughter
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Navigating a whitewater river, hiking through grizzly country and exploring an underwater wreck are all part of wildlife biologist Lauren Maxwell's daily grind. After all, her job as Alaska investigator for The Wild America Society requires proficiency at muscle-powered sports, but the twin origins of my mystery series character's active lifestyle actually can be traced to Slip F-18 in Ft. Lauderdale's Bahia Mar and to a galaxy far, far away. The first is home to Travis McGee, salvage expert and hero of the late John D.MacDonald's terrific mystery series. The second is home to Princess Leia, woman warrior and hero of George Lucas's Star Wars saga. Both characters inspired my creation of Lauren Maxwell as a courageous and competent outdoors expert, the thinking woman's action hero.
Although John D. MacDonald imbued his mystery series with many winning elements, one that really stood out for me was Travis McGee's habitat - the sun-struck beaches and cypress-shaded coves of south Florida. No dingy office or fifth-floor walkup for MacDonald's hero. Like a sea turtle carrying his home along with him, Trav McGee's excursions into mystery frequently led him to cast off the docking lines on his houseboat, The Busted Flush, and sail away to remote and exotic locales. And on those cruises, what a lot I learned - about seamanship, about marine maintenance, and about the relentless degradation of the Florida environment. Along the way, Trav also provided an insider's view of any activity that connected with his plot. Fishing, for instance, or hot air ballooning. Although Travis McGee's devotion to enormous glasses of icy gin and great slabs of charred sirloin may seem a bit dated by today's standards, his inclination for action and adventure-seeking will never go out of style for readers who crave the age-old pleasures of archetypical hero tales.
In creating the Star Wars saga's Prince Leia, filmmaker George Lucas put a feminist face on the hero's quest that some scholars claim is the fundamental story of all cultures and civilizations. For me, perhaps the most memorable moment in film occurs when, in the midst of a faltering rescue attempt, Princess Leia grabs Luke Skywalker's blaster, vaporizes an imprisoning bulkhead and succeeds in rescuing herself and her bewildered rescuers. No damsel in distress or cowering victim in Lucas's hero.
From her first appearance in the opening moments of Star Wars, Princess Leia is brainy, brave and beautiful, quite capable of out-smarting and out-fighting the meanest and most frightening creatures in the universe. Still dressed in a slave-girl's abbreviated costume, Leia uses the chain that holds her captive to strangle the pitiless Jabba the Hut. After enduring hundreds of films where smart, courageous and competent women were invariably aligned with the bad guys, Princess Leia provided a refreshing - albeit temporary - antidote to Hollywood's toxic equation that brave women = dead dames or bad girls. Not only is Leia ready to take responsibility for saving herself and her friends, she's also ready to save the universe.
The notion that women can - indeed must - take action and responsibility for their own lives is one I find just as compelling today, and in the Pacific Northwest, where I live, there are thousands of models for my own action hero, Lauren Maxwell. As she notes in Murder Most Grizzly, the first novel in the series, "Alaska doesn't choose you: you choose it." The kind of women who choose Alaska are often quite like Lauren - happy to live in a land ruled by the cycles of nature and ready to test themselves against a harsh landscape.
With nearly 600,000 square miles of land and a mere several thousand miles of road, to really see the Great Land - up close and personal - muscle power is required. A well-conditioned body and stout hiking boots can take an Alaskan woman farther than the strongest Dodge. For many, their idea of a gourmet meal is fresh-caught salmon grilled over a driftwood campfire, and their idea of a romantic getaway is a two-week fly-in backpacking trip in the Brooks Range. The basic tool of survival in the rugged backcountry of bush Alaska is brains; so while Lauren Maxwell is undoubtedly courageous, she is, first and foremost, competent. Today women raft whitewater, cross bear country and seek adventures by themselves and for themselves. Their counterpart in the world of mystery fiction is Lauren Maxwell, the thinking woman's action hero.
Copyright 1996 © by Beth Quinn Barnard --From the Author
Titel: Lamb to the Slaughter
Verlag: Pocket, US
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