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Hoodwinked by the Bad Women of Noir

I've always had a thing for detectives...
Rhonda Roberts

Freud would probably say it was because my father had a thing for them too. The story goes that, despite all of my mother's best stratagems, my father steadfastly wore the same tattered trench coat throughout the fifties, sixties and yes…even into the seventies. When everyone else was growing their hair and wearing bell-bottoms, Dad was wandering around looking like a seedy character from a Humphrey Bogart movie. The coat disappeared under suspicious circumstances just as the eighties was about to give us all fashion amnesia.

But, despite the loss of the family heirloom, the eighties gave me a new kind of detective figure to watch and wonder about. One hot, sweaty summer – when I was bored and desperate for something new – I ended up in the crime section of the local bookshop where I discovered the V.I. Warshawski series by Sara Paretsky. V.I. is not only a smart, tough detective in the old school, noir tradition, but also a compassionate modern woman. What a combination!

I was hooked!

And that was the start of my love affair with noir fiction and film. Black, ebony, midnight, darkness; the shadow always injected the delight into any tale. Show me a trench coat and I’ll follow you down any dark alley; Joan Crawford in shoulder-pads holding a smoking gun. What’s not to love?

Most of all I loved the Bad Women in noir – they're so abandoned, wild, beyond the pale. You never quite know what noir women are going to do next but you can be damned sure you want to stick around and watch. So, much later down the track, when I was planning my own series, I knew without a doubt that it was going to be about a female detective.

My heroine, Kannon Dupree (named after Kannon the Japanese Bodhisattva of Compassion aka 'she who hears all cries for help') is a PI in the classic tradition. I also knew that she'd walk the mean streets wherever – and whenever – they led her.

You see my Timestalker series is about a time-travelling detective. The first book, Gladiatrix (2009) was set partly in ancient Rome; and the second, Hoodwink is set in Hollywood in 1939. In each book in the series my intrepid heroine will solve a mystery set in a different time and place.

Human history is chin deep full of secrets and most of them involve unsolved crimes, so following a time travelling detective opens up adventures in any conceivable time or place. When you throw a slightly alternate past and present into the mix, then the adventure gets really exciting, because anything can happen. And frequently does.

Gladiatrix is all about how Kannon Dupree gets the chance to become a time travelling detective – from Australia to Ancient Rome; and Hoodwink, is specifically set in Hollywood in 1939 because this is her first real case as a private investigator.

Hoodwinkstarts with the discovery of a body covered in a Mayan occult tattoo andcemented into the floor of a film set. It’s the body ofa famous film director who went missing in 1939. Kannon is hired to return to 1939 to find out who killed him. While on the set of Gone With The Wind, mixing with the big stars of Hollywood, she stumbles onto a mystery that stretches even further back to the Civil War.

So, as you can guess, Kannon spends a lot of time slinking around old Hollywood in her dark glasses with the collar on her black trench coat turned firmly up.

I mean, how could I resist sending Kannon back to the era of The Maltese Falcon and the original hard-boiled private eye?