Friday, April 9, 2010

Thoroughly Modern Molly?

RHYS: Last month my 9th Molly Murphy book came out. In part of the story, Molly is making up her mind whether to marry Daniel Sullivan, a captain in the NY police.

Ever since the book came out I have received daily emails saying "don't let her marry him."

This is because he wants her to give up her career as an investigator, move into a better neighborhood and disance herself from her bohemian friends. I can see that this would upset many readers but I really want Molly's situation to echo that of real young women of the time. Do I want to give up my freedom for the safety of marriage, even though marriage means being subjugated to the will of my husband? Daniel is not a bad man--he is a typical man of his time. He won't beat her, which husbands could do then. He will give her more freedom than many men would, but he expects to be the lord and master--ruler of the housebhold.

This attitude was true until the 50s. Look at the old I love Lucys--Lucy, your job is to get my dinner, now where is it? Sorry Ricky, it's coming right up. Lucy scared to tell Ricky she has bought a new hat. And Father Knows Best and Leave it to Beaver. The theme of all is that the man of the house is the wise judge in charge of life.

I suppose in Molly's case one has to consider the alternatives. She has no private money. She can just about afford to rent a house and eat when she has enough work. Life is not kind to single women of the time.
My great aunt was a business woman in the 30s. She wanted to buy her own house and was turned down everywhere she applied for a mortgage. Although she had a good job the reason was that she might possibly marry and her husband would squander her money.

So we can't judge Molly and Daniel by our modern standards. If you look at it from Daniel's point of view, he'd not only be the laughing stock of the NYPD detectives if his wife was a detective, but it would compromise the integrity of his career. So does this really mean the end of Molly's career? Will she sneak behind his back, thus jeopardizing the trust of her husband? We'll just have to see, won't we?

I think there is always a problem in making characters true to their time and place. We want the romantic hero, but heroes were not always so nice back then.
comments please?

ROBERTA: That's a delightful series conundrum Rhys! It's real conflict, true to your historical period, that can be spread out over a number of books. I liked Daniel too so I'm hoping for the marriage:).

I had a funny email a couple of weeks ago from a new fan of the advice column series. This woman was begging me to allow Rebecca Butterman to fall for the very nice man she meets in PREACHING TO THE CORPSE. (Rebecca and her best friend call him GOB behind his back, Good Old Bob.) But what kind of story would that be???

RO: True to their time is an issue whether the time is the 19th century or the 1960's (think Mad Men.) I'm with Roberta - I think the single versus attached issue is even bigger. How can our heroines keep going out there to foil the bad guys if they're home with the husband and kiddies? Or arranging for sexy candlelight dinners with the men of their dreams? True - some writers may make that part of the story, but dang, if Paula Holliday had to do all the personal grooming that a single woman in her thirties really has to do, she'd never catch any criminals!

( I the only one who thinks that a man referred to as Good Old Bob is NEVER going to get any?)

RHYS: If he were in England he'd wear a stag on his hand-knitted sweater (with a couple of egg stains down the front)
So it's going to be interesting to see if Molly goes through with the wedding, if she can carry on with some kind of career after she's married, when she's pregnant, when she has babies to look after.

Ending with a small note of BSP.
Hank and I are both nominated for Best Novel at the upcoming Malice Domestic conference at the end of April. We're prepared to wrestle in mud for the teapot and are planning fiendishly clever ways of disposing of the other nominees.

I'm also toastmaster at this year's convention and Hank will be my interviewer (luckily after voting has ended or she could have asked me questions like "do you see your characters as Jungian archetypes?" and reduced me to silence!


  1. Oooh...never let a heroine make the safe choice. Where's the fun in that? Then again, the machinations of continuing her derring do with all the trappings of marriage could present quite a romp!

    Congratulations, Rhys and Hank! Two very deserving authors. Will someone please video that mud fight so we can all watch it on YouTube? Rhys, you are brave to subject to a Hank interview. She's tough!

    Roberta, when you mentioned GOB, all I could think of were those awful male enhancement commercials starring "Happy Bob." *gigglesnort*

  2. Ro, you're completely right. He was a goner as soon as they laid that nickname on him!

    Hysterical Sheila! I've never seen one of those commercials.

    I too am sorry to miss the mud-wrestling--will look for it on youtube.

    And meanwhile Rhys, DO you see your characters in Jungian archetypes??

    (I'd be reduced to silence too...)

  3. Of COURSE she's gotta dump him. Or more interesting still, get dumped. Happily Ever After is soooo boring.

    So exciting that we have TWO Agatha noms in JRW. Just glad I can't vote.

  4. My word now is ROVET
    This refers to the editor who censors our Rosemary's books for inappropriate behavior!

  5. I think a "battle of the sexes" between a strong[minded woman like Molly and a rather thick-headed man like Daniel could set up some very intense situations. Not only that, but mixing in Molly's friends and his could add to the fun.

    Just don't involve GOB :O)

    Oh, and my word is VIGAN: a very vigorous naturist.

  6. Now I'm really curious. Great way to make me want to read :)