Sara Paretsky revolutionized the mystery world in 1982 when she introduced V.I. Warshawski in Indemnity Only. By creating a believable investigator with the grit and the smarts to tackle problems on the mean streets, Paretsky challenged a genre in which women typically were portrayed as either vamps or victims. Hailed by critics and readers, Indemnity Only was followed by fifteen more best-selling V.I. Warshawski novels. The New York Times writes that Paretsky “always makes the top of the list when people talk about female operatives,” while Publishers Weekly says, “Among today’s P.I.s, nobody comes close to Warshawski.”
This recording captures Paretsky’s John Hersey Memorial Address, which launched the 32nd annual Key West Literary Seminar on January 9, 2014. Entitled “My Quest for Heroes: Voice and Voicelessness,” the forty-five minute talk weaves together contemporary social and political issues as they relate to mystery and crime fiction. She poses the question “What is the role of the writer?” and warns of the linked dangers of self-censorship and government surveillance. She makes a plea for strengthening our collective ability to sort truth—“that slippery, unknowable trickster,” in Paretsky’s words—from lies, and reminds us that fiction can tell us essential truths—“emotional lodestars that help develop your own moral compass”—about what we fear, what we want, and what we need.
From KWLS 2014: The Dark Side: Mystery, Crime, and the Literary Thriller.