07-14-18 Cassandra O’Leary

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Where Are the Women? A Military Mystery

WANTED: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller Needs Charismatic Heroine
Qualified applicants should be physically fit and battle tested with investigative- or intelligence-gathering experience and leadership abilities. Training in self-defense, survival skills, and weaponry a plus.

The muscled images of ex-military heroes—men trained as SEALS, Special Operatives, Rangers and Military Police—grace the covers of dozens of romantic suspense novels written by women. Male authors have been even busier penning novels with veteran heroes from Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer and John Macdonald’s Travis McGee to Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch and Lee Child’s Jack Reacher.

So where are the ex-military heroines?

Capable heroines populate many of today’s crime novels. They work as district attorneys, homicide detectives, medical examiners, and Secret Service and FBI agents. Yet only a handful of leading ladies list military experience on their resumes.

To be fair, if it weren’t for a lifelong friendship, I doubt I’d have been smart enough to cast a 52-year-old retired military intelligence officer as the star of my Marley Clark mystery series. Wanting a heroine with “thriller” qualifications, I immediately thought of Arlene, a friend since kindergarten and a retired military intelligence officer. Arlene graciously shared details to give Marley relevant career experiences and depth.

I’ve met a number of Arlene’s Army friends, and these ladies are smart, physically fit, witty, and often hold advanced college degrees. They also know how to use weapons and understand tactics. Excellent heroine material.

According to various sources, U.S. women military vets number between 1.8 and two million, with more than 214,000 women on active duty in all services—about 14 percent of the entire U.S. military. In 2011, West Point graduated 225 women. At the Naval Academy, female cadets make up about 17 percent of graduates. About 35,000 women serve as officers.

As a result of policy reforms, 91 percent of Army and 99 percent of Air Force occupations are open to women. Dozens of career paths provide women with the skill sets needed to unravel mysteries and combat deadly foes. A partial list might include military intelligence analysts, who assist in collecting information and then work to filter, assess and knit it together to identify enemy units, personnel and equipment; military intelligence officers specializing in operational, communications or physical security; lawyers with the Judge Advocate General; Military Police, members of the Criminal Investigative Division, who may even work undercover to investigate a variety of crimes such as dealers attempting to sell drugs to military personnel. 

Many are also battle-tested. Almost 41,000 women served in theater during the Persian Gulf War. More than 20,000 women served as peacekeepers in Bosnia and Kosovo, and about ten percent of U.S. Forces serving in Afghanistan and Iraq are women.
Given the nature of warfare today, front-line combat units need support units nearby. That means the driver of an Army supply truck or a communications specialist must always be alert to ambush and attack. In every arm of the service, a person’s first job must be soldiering—specialties come second.

My conclusion? Marley Clark may soon share mystery/suspense bookshelves with many more ex-military heroines. There are too many heroic possibilities out there to ignore.

Do you know a vet who’d make a great heroine?

My Marley Clark Mysteries, DEAR KILLER & NO WAKE ZONE, are available as e-books and trade paperbacks. Visit my website for buy links.


Rita said...

My heroine in Under Fire is a Coast Guard helicopter pilot. The heroine in my soon to be released as yet unnamed next book is a Coast Guard Admiral. The book after that features a Marine Intelligence Officer. These books are not about the military they focus on the strong women and how they use their abilities to get through unusual circumstances.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

I think you're right, Linda. Heroines with the courage to serve in the military make excellent sleuths for mystery fiction.

Paty Jager said...

Linda, Welcome to RTG! i've met a few ex-military women who would make wonderful heroines for mystery/suspense books. It makes you wonder why there are more of them.

Sarah Raplee said...

So nice to have you Guest with us, Linda!

Marley Clark is an engaging and admirable heroine in your books. I thoroughly enjoyed DEAR KILLER and look forward to NO WAKE ZONE's turn on my to-be-read shelf.

My older cousin Sandy was a WAC and one of my heroines as I grew up. She was smart, capable, and funny. She opened my eyes to all the possibilities out there for women.

I'll have to buy Rita's books, as my husband is an ex-Coastie who always felt women could excel in the Guard.

Linda Lovely said...

Rita, so glad to hear about your books. I'm looking forward to reading them. Jacqueline, you're right. The women vets I've met were all courageous--mentally as well as physically.

D. McCollum D. McCollum said...

It is an interesting question why there aren't more ex-Arm Force women as heroines. Maybe as women readers we relate better to the hero being the ex-military person in a story. I have a very good friend right now who is an ex marine. She would make a good heroine.

Christy Tillery French said...

Linda, I had never really considered that but you make a good point. Glad you're paving the way through your protagonist in your series.

Judith Ashley said...

Hi Linda,

I'm chiming in here a bit late. So glad you added guesting Saturday to your regular stint on RTG!

You've brought up a good point and have shown another place where women achieve in real life but not yet in fiction - or not as much as they easily could.