Femme fatale Gloria Denton is smart, tough, crooked, ruthless, glamorous and unlike traditional Femme Fatales (Vera Caspary’s Bedelia and Dorothy B. Hughes’ Laurel Gray) Denton is approaching middle-age.
In the casinos, she could pass for thirty. The low lighting, her glossy auburn hair, legs swinging, tapping the bottom rim of the tall bettor stools. At the track, though, she looked her age. Even swatted in oversized sunglasses, a wide brimmed hat, bright gloves, she couldn’t outflank the merciless sunshine, the glare off the grandstand. Not that it mattered. She was legend.
The unnamed first person narrator of Queenpin is a book-keeper, some twenty years younger than Denton and whom Denton takes on as her protégé. In the seedy world of gangsters and racketeers Denton teaches her young apprentice how to prosper :
I gave him my best walk, half class, half pay broad. If you can twist those two tightly, fellas don’t know what hit ‘em. They can’t peg you. It gets them — the smart — ones — going. Spinning hard trying to fix you. You’re like the best parts of their grammar school sweetheart and their first whore all in one sizzling package.
Although Queenpin was published in 2007, the author, Megan Abbott, sets her novel in the 40’s but with a feminist twist.
Traditionally, a femme fatale is completely male-defined: the fatale becomes what they desire because it grants her power over them. Gloria does no such thing. She embodies power, respect, and the promise of violence. She does not mince her words or flaunt her body, and she ALWAYS does her own wet-work… “If you can control yourself, you can control everyone else”. SOURCE
Megan Abbott has won awards the length of my arm starting with the Edgar Award for best paperback original novel for Queenpin from the Mystery Writers of America. She’s picked up such prizes as The Barry Award, Booksense Notable Pick and was nominated for the Hammett Prize, The Shirley Jackson Prize, The Los Angeles Times Book Prize and The Folio Prize. Her novel The Fever (2014) was listed by Amazon as one of the best books of the year while The New York Times, People and Entertainment Weekly named it one of the best books of the summer. The list of accolades for Meagan Abbott goes on and on.
Here’s more on Queenpin and Megan Abbott: