Megan Casey reviews Butch Fatale: Dyke Dick by Christa Faust

Butch is the quintessential hand-to-mouth PI in LA. Her first client in a while is a butch lesbian like herself who hires her to find out why her girlfriend has left her and gone back into the prostitution trade. Murders ensue and characters are introduced, described, questioned, and usually fucked until Butch finds herself pointed in the right direction to solve the case.

Faust, who seems to have done it all, is a professional writer who rarely makes mistakes. She has a curiously masculine style of writing. Either that or she is successful in masculinizing Butch’s first-person point of view without in any way making her seem like a man. The mystery is a good one, going from one clue to another logically and building up suspense along the way.

Despite these good things, I can’t shake the idea that Faust wrote the novel primarily because she came up with the name Butch Fatale. The fact that—unlike most of her other books—Butch Fatale is available as an e-book only (despite the fact that releasing it as a paperback would cost her virtually nothing) makes me think that Faust is tossing the book off as something insignificant. Or as a kind of joke. More disturbing still is the possibility that she intended it as a parody of a hard-boiled detective novel using a butch lesbian as the detective to give it more humor.

This is unfortunate because Butch is a winning and likeable character. In fact, she’s someone I wouldn’t mind hanging out with as long as bullets weren’t flying around our heads the whole time. The novel could have been a top-notch lesbian mystery and probably one of the best of these featuring a PI. Trouble is, we never really know whether the book is meant to be in any way serious. Maybe I’m not the best person so judge this because I have notoriously little sense of humor but this book goes from a nail biter to a Keystone Cops routine at the drop of a hat. In the climactic last scene, Faust goes completely over the top, creating a chase scene that would probably have a TV audience chuckling, but leaving this serious reader scratching her head.

Another problem is that Faust seems obsessed with showing Butch having sex with virtually everyone she meets except her secretary (see Mannix, James Bond, Cormoran Strike, etc.), who is really the only one who loves her. This randiness would almost pass muster, at least for the first half of the book, but when she continues to undress woman after woman—even under threat of death, even after she takes a bullet—it gets old and occupies too much of the narrative. Is this overuse of sex a spoof of something? Maybe, but there are very few lesbian mystery characters who act in a similar manner.

I suspect—and this is of course my opinion only—Faust decided to make Butch Fatale a humorous , almost ridiculous Phillip Marlowe instead of a PI that would stand tall in the pantheon of lesbian literature. Either that, or she changed her mind about what the book was supposed to be a couple of times as she was writing it. There is a great danger that some readers will consider Butch to be the butt of a novel-long joke, which is disrespectful to both the character and to lesbian mysteries in general. Humor is fine, but not ridicule. Too bad. Give it a 3 for the professional writing and hope that a second novel in the series gives Butch the respect she deserves and maybe a little more backstory. I will be waiting, and at a reasonable price, I will be a willing reader.

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Mfred Reviews Double-D Double Cross by Christa Faust

Butch Fatale is a Los Angeles-based private dick just barely scrapping by on whatever cases come her way.  While having sex with an old friend, a new case walks in the door– another butch is looking for her missing ex-girlfriend, Angie.  Butch suspects Angie is just another fallen ex-junkie, but decides to follow the leads where they may take her.  As it turns out, straight into trouble– Armenian gangsters, high-priced escort services, murder, mayhem, etc.  And a lot more sex.

Faust has written an odd book that reads as both a tribute and a farcical take on the classic mystery pulps of yore.  I can’t say it worked for me, but I think there is definitely a niche out there for interested readers.   As a devoted fan of romance novels, I was surprised to find myself thinking the sex gratuitous and overly-explict.  The first third of the book read like the filler plot in a porno and I was frustrated by the lack of a concrete story.   The sex scenes were not there to develop characters or plot and so I found them more distracting then titillating.

Once the mystery started to unravel, however, the story picked up and I enjoyed it.  When Faust lets Butch do her mystery-solving thing, both the writing and the character shine.  I also liked Faust’s command of setting– modern day LA became a seedy, rich setting for a classic noir tale.

Except that as the story continued into the final third,  Butch got lucky one too many times for me.  A common trope in pulp fiction is the literally down-trodden hero– so beat upon as to almost not function, yet also somehow able to save the day with his wits and his luck.  Butch got so lucky, so often, that I stopped believing she was good at her job.  A couple of promising scenes were utterly wasted when Butch took so long telling me about all of the mental connections she was making and clues she was putting together to beat the bad guy instead of just throwing the right punch at the right moment.

I also wasn’t really sure who this book was written for– a queer reader?  Pulp afficionados?  Straight men?  There were a few inside jokes I adored, like the character named Brink Bannon (Ann Bannon wrote the classic Beebo Brinker lesbian pulp novels).  But other times, Butch’s narrative voice veered into a preachy tone that rang false for a book written for queer audiences.  And the way Butch sexualizes every single woman she comes across made me rather uncomfortable– I wasn’t participating in it and it never hooked me, as a queer reader.