The He-Man Woman Haters’ Club?

Posted by Matt Kuhns on Mar 4, 2013

I’ve been thinking a bit this week on whether Brilliant Deduction might be considered a “guy” book.

There is something to the idea, based on traditional concepts of gender in our society at least. First and foremost, women play only limited roles; it isn’t The Hobbit or The Shawshank Redemption, but as I note in the book’s introduction, the phenomenon of real-life famous detectives that I examine was the product of a particular culture and era, i.e. Western society during the “Long Nineteenth Century.”

That culture and era generally did not regard police work—from which the detective profession grew—as an appropriate career for women. For that matter, it didn’t exactly regard the idea of having a career as appropriate for women. Thus most of the other people appearing in my book—politicians, financiers, industrialists—are also men. Even among criminal society, with little concern for social strictures in other areas, women were almost equally underrepresented (or, I suppose, so much more effective that they avoided notice far more often).

Meanwhile, the world that shows up in Brilliant Deduction is not only predominantly male per numbers, but per (traditional concepts of) style and emphasis. Heavyset, bearded men enjoying brandy and cigars with their comfortable boys’-club connections; train robberies, bomb plots and jailbreaks; classic “man cave” settings from smokey taverns to William Pinkerton’s office* to Ellis Parker’s Elk’s Lodge. Is this, then, a book simply made to adorn the modern man cave? What kind of audience do I really have in mind, here?

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