Sara Paretsky is a contemporary detective fiction writer whose main character, V. I. Warshawski is a P.I. Paretsky is also the former head of the Murder Mystery Writers of America. In an article in The New York Times on 9/25/00, entitled "A Storyteller Stands Where Justice Confronts Basic Human Needs," she talked about writing. The following are QUOTES from that article
Some months ago I had a letter from a reader who was so furious she covered four pages by hand, demanding to know why my books were "infested" with political issues. "When I buy a mystery, I expect to be entertained," she wrote, "and when you bring in all that stuff about homeless people, you aren't entertaining me." ...
... Mysteries, like cops, are right up against the place where people's basest and basic needs intersect with law and justice. They are by definition political. That's one reason I like to write them as well as read them.
In the end, though, it seemed too hard to explain this in a letter, so I did what I usually do with such an angry reader: sent the woman the price of a book and got on with my work, which is as a storyteller, a writer whose stories take place in the world of law, justice and society.
I thought of my correspondent again later, when I was giving a reading at the Newberry Library in Chicago. A group of nine women stayed until everyone else had left. They told me then that they were married to steelworkers, to men who had not been able to find work for more than a decade as the global economy sent their jobs out of the country. They themselves were working two jobs to keep roofs over their families and food on the tables. These weren't great jobs; a neighborhood with 50 percent unemployment doesn't run to great jobs. They were cashiers at convenience stores or waitresses in diners. They told me they hadn't read a book since they graduated from high school, until one of them heard on the radio that the heroine of my detective novels, V. I. Warshawski, came from their own neighborhood, South Chicago.
V. I. grew up under the shadow of the steel mills. She went to the University of Chicago on scholarship, but she's a blue-collar gal. The women at my reading said they had never thought that a book could tell them something about their lives until they read one of mine.
"We buy them in hardcover," one of them said. "V. I. helps us face the terrible things that have happened to our lives."
My first impulse was to say, no, don't put your hard-earned money into a hardcover book. But fortunately I had the grace not to blurt that out, to see that buying the books was an important physical touchstone ... .
... I don't like social-political novels, books written only to make a point to show that four legs are better than two, or all males are testosterone- crazed villains, or that women invariably use their bodies to subvert male morality. There's a reason that the writers we know from Stalin's Soviet Union are Pasternak and Akhmatova, not Gribachev, who wrote "Spring in the Victory Collective Farm." Pasternak may have wanted to make a point, a most ardently felt point, about human freedom, about the confusion that one feels in the midst of social upheavals and how hard it is to know how to act. But he wanted to write about human beings caught up in events, not idealized political types.
I don't sit down to write books of social or political commentary. Both as a reader and a writer, I'm pulled by stories, not by ideas; I see the world in the stories of the people around me....