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Friday, February 26, 2016


"Show me your friends, and I'll tell you who you are."

I remember my grandmother saying when I questioned why she always wanted me to tell her who sat with me at lunch in my high school cafeteria, what their parents' names were and who did they hang out with after school. I couldn't figure out why this information was so important to her. She would shrug and say, "Birds of a feather flock together." 

Now I understand. Offering a forum for folks to weigh in on the topic of strong women has attracted authors with a creative drive to explore and expand our knowledge of women who dare to be bold. I'm pleased to have M. Ruth Myers at my lunch table.

by M. Ruth Myers

I write about strong women for the simple reason that I enjoy reading about them – and I think readers do too.

Assertive. Determined. Brave. Those are some of the words that define them. They’re confident in most situations, and able to bluff it through when they’re not. They’re mostly unselfish. They look out for those who are weaker. And they don’t need a strong man to rescue them from a tight spot.

I was fortunate enough to grow up exposed to women with those characteristics, though they’d never have described themselves in those terms. In real life and in fiction, they come in many forms.

Maggie Sullivan, the private eye in my series which moves from the end of the Great Depression through the end of World War II, is clearly a strong woman.  She’s in an unconventional job for a woman of her time. She carries a .38 which she’ll use without hesitation. She gets beaten up at times, but throws a pretty good punch herself. She walks down dark alleys and into flop houses. She endures snide comments and blatant doubts of her abilities.

That’s the most obvious kind of strong.

But other tough and determined women populate the series as well:
  • Rachel runs a commercial construction firm even though it means elbowing her way through prejudice over both her gender and the fact she’s a Jew.
  • Jolene, the farm girl turned nightclub cigarette girl, is smart as they come and determined to chart her own course.
  • Sophia and Gilead, the two Negro cleaning women in Maggie’s run-down office building, have capabilities far beyond what their jobs require. They’ll finally get a chance to use them during World War II.

For all these women, there’s more to life than the roles society wants to assign them.

To me, women are strong when they take charge of their own destiny.  Instead of being victims of circumstances, they take them on. They grab Circumstances by the elbow and drag them along. They kick Circumstances in the backside.

No one represents them better than the first-wave career women of the Greatest Generation. They already were pushing through social norms before World War II brought a deluge of Rosie-the-Riveters, leaving farms and small towns in pursuit of dreams: College education, jobs in the city, and yes, a taste of the larger world.

These are the women who inspired the Maggie Sullivan series. One woman rode a mule to teach in a one-room school, saving her salary to attend eight years of summer school so she could get her teaching degree. Another, when her farm chores were done, cleaned houses and tended babies to earn her tuition to teachers college – only to lose it all when the bank with her savings failed, like thousands of others, in the Great Depression. Both women went on to lifelong careers as teachers and active roles in their communities. Another headed a child welfare agency. Another was an assistant U.S. Attorney. All in small towns.

Surely seeing these examples around me as I grew up shaped my world view. It certainly shaped my reading material, beginning with mystery series with protagonists like Beverly Gray, Judy Bolton and, of course, Nancy Drew – though I didn’t find her as interesting as the others. At school, when it came time for the yearly (or maybe semesterly) report on a biography, I managed to scout out less-known books on women journalists and war correspondents.

Today, it’s wonderful to know we can find strong women characters in the pages of books by Sara Paretsky and Marcia Muller and Sue Grafton; by my friend Debbi Mack with her Sam McRae series; and by you, Connie Hambley. But there aren’t enough! So I’m happy to add one more, Maggie Sullivan, to the mix.

No Game for a Dame, the first book in the series, is free for most ereaders. Slide into the passenger seat of Maggie’s DeSoto and take a ride. It’s 1938; there are no seat belts.


M. Ruth Myers received a Shamus Award from the Private Eye Writers of America for Don’t Dare a Dame, the third book in her Maggie Sullivan mysteries series. The series follows a gin-sipping, gam-flashing, gun-toting woman P.I. in Dayton, OH, from the end of the Great Depression through the end of WW2. Shamus in a Skirt is the latest novel in the series, which currently includes four novels and two short stories.
Myers has written more than a dozen books in several genres. One was condensed in Good Housekeeping magazine and several have been optioned for film. Her dubious skills include playing the Irish concertina and talking to herself without moving her lips, the latter a result of working five years as a ventriloquist.

Twitter: @MRuthMyers

When a man offers 1940s private investigator Maggie Sullivan twice her usual fee to look into a "possible" jewelry theft from his hotel safe, she’s skeptical — until a maid’s body tumbles out of a trash can and a jeweler known for high quality fakes is murdered.

Does a hotel guest who vanished without a trace hold a piece of the puzzle?  Or does it have to do with the Polish count and his family fleeing the start of WW2 in Europe?  Could the cops be right that it’s all a trick devised by her client?


FRIDAY FEATURES is a steady presence on Out of the Fog where I explore the concept of "strong women." Who are they? What makes them strong? How do we see them in writing and/or in business? If you're an author, what is their place in the world of thrillers of mysteries? If you're in business, how is the working environment impacted by the presence of a "strong woman" and how are they seen as leaders and team members? If you're an emerging strong woman, tell us about your journey. Have other questions you find compelling? Ask away and I'll post the answers here. 

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