Laura Lippman always says that one of the most worn-out, tired cliches/tropes of crime fiction is a beautiful woman dies, and a man feels bad.
On our panel at Bouchercon last week, the subject of cultural appropriation came up, and unfortunately, I didn’t get to answer it–which is unfortunate, because my response was going to be, “I appropriate from straight culture all the time. In fact, I used the trope of a beautiful woman dies and a man feels bad in my first novel, only switched it into a beautiful man dies and a man feels bad.”
Because really, you can sum up the plot of Murder in the Rue Dauphine that way.
The funny thing is, I didn’t realize I was subverting, or appropriating, a trope at the time I wrote the book–but I was also trying to write a gay-themed mystery with a gay main character, and so I wound up using one of the tried-and-true crime tropes without even realizing I was doing it.
When I was a senior editor, one of the things I wanted to see was gay novels that flipped the script on straight tropes–where is the gay James Bond? Indiana Jones? Gay romantic suspense? I honestly believed–and still do–that if the books were well-written and the characters well developed, a gay or lesbian writer could take a trope/cliche from mainstream publishing and breathe fresh life into it. I tried to do this very thing with both Timothy and The Orion Mask, and once I get through these next books I have to write, I am going to try subverting some more writing tropes–like a gay hard-boiled noir, for example; wouldn’t that be fun? I have an idea for two that have been simmering in my head on the back burner for a while: Muscles and Spontaneous Combustion.
We shall see, I suppose.
And now, I need to get back to the spice mines, otherwise I will never get any of these things done.