Ms. Paretsky’s talk is entitled “Looking for Heroes in All the Right Places.” She’ll discuss the heroic in literature, a bit about her own history and how that shaped the kind of heroes she needs, and where her own detective, V.I. Warshawski, fits in the pantheon of heroes—mostly by virtue of a strong voice rather than street-fighting skills.
Sara Paretsky transformed the genre of mystery fiction in her 1982 novel, Indemnity Only, with the introduction of private investigator V.I. Warshawski. Challenging the conventions of a genre in which women were assigned the roles of vamps or victims, the character of V.I. Warshawski debuted a tough-minded and intelligent female detective who drinks Johnny Walker Black Label, carries a semiautomatic pistol, and loves classical music. Eleven other Warshawski novels followed, all of which were national bestsellers. Paretsky established herself as an author who breaks down barriers for both women crime-writers and their heroines. She has written a memoir, Writing in an Age of Silence, two novels, Ghost Country and Bleeding Kansas, and edited three collections of short stories. Her books have been published in twenty-four languages.
While a student at the University of Kansas, Sara Paretsky went to Chicago to work as a community organizer on the South Side (under the direction of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.) when the race riots of 1966 occurred. This experience sparked Paretsky’s life-long commitment to social justice, freedom of speech, and civil rights. She is a frequent contributor to The New York Times’ op-ed page, and a speaker at the Library of Congress, Oxford University, and the University of Chicago. In Writing in an Age of Silence, Paretsky tells the story of her life. She traces her development as an artist and advocate in the civil rights and feminist movements in the 1960s, as well as her social responsibility as a writer, exploring the meaning of this responsibility in contrast with what she saw as unparalleled repression of thought and free speech in the U.S. during the last decade.
Besides transcending boundaries in her work, Paretsky has helped open doors for other women writers in the field. Her role in founding Sisters in Crime, an organization that supports women mystery writers, led Ms. magazine to name her Woman of the Year in 1988. The British Crime Writers Association awarded her the Cartier Diamond Dagger for lifetime achievement. Paretsky has been a visiting scholar at Oxford University and a visiting professor at Northwestern University, as well as the recipient of three honorary doctorates.
Born in Ames, Iowa, and raised in Kansas, Paretsky attended a two-room country school in Douglas County and went on to study at the University of Kansas, graduating with a degree in political science. She received both a doctorate in history and an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago. She currently lives with her husband on Chicago’s South Side.
Women On the Case: 26 Original Stories From the Best Women Writers of Our Time (1996)
Ghost Country (1998)
Sisters On the Case: Celebrating Twenty Years of Sisters in Crime (2007)
Bleeding Kansas (2008)
Writing in an Age of Silence (2009)
V.I. Warshawski Novels
Indemnity Only (1982)
Blood Shot (1988)
Burn Marks (1991)
Guardian Angel (1993)
Tunnel Vision (1995)
Hard Time (2000)
Total Recall (2002)
Killing Orders (2005)
Fire Sale (2006)
Sara Paretsky’s Website
Interview with Linda Richards (January Magazine, November 2001)
Notable Crime Books of 2009, Sara Paretsky’s Hardball reviewed (New York Times, December 2006)
Truth, Lies, and Duct Tape: Essay by Sara Paretsky