Saturday, July 12, 2008

Denise Hamilton

From a Q & A with Denise Hamilton, about her new novel, The Last Embrace:

There is an underlying feminist message in The Last Embrace. What do you hope some female readers will gain from "meeting" Lily Kessler?

I think Lily was emblematic of her time, as are many of the other female characters in this book. They've tasted freedom and independence during the war, it's given them self-confidence, and now they're trying to navigate through an increasingly conservative post-war era that would like them to give up much of the freedoms they've learned to enjoy. I wanted to dramatize that conflict. I also love the dramatic possibilities inherent in a group of young women all living under one roof and trying to make it as Hollywood actresses. They're vying for stardom, for boyfriends, they're 'silky and competitive as cats yet they also take the time to help each other. It's a very conflicted kind of friendship, but it seems very real to me, not sugar-coated.

Noir has traditionally been an overwhelmingly male genre where female characters are portrayed as sexpots and femme fatales. In The Last Embrace, I've tried to reimagine that macho male noir territory with a variety of female characters - starting with Lily Kessler - who are every bit as capable as the men, but without the swagger. Even though they're plunged into a very dark swirl of intrigue, there's a basic life-affirming optimism that prevails, a ray of light that pierces the cynicism and fatality that would triumph in traditional noir.
Read the complete Q & A.

--Marshal Zeringue