Pole Positions: Stripper Detectives!

Aubrey Lyle
Created by Jenny Scholten

Live! Naked! Detecting!

Okay, she's not a private eye. She's not a cop. She's not even a reporter or an insurance investigator, a bodyguard or a bounty hunter. In fact, truth be told, all she is is a measly amateur sleuth. But Miss Marple never peeled off her drawers for money.

AUBREY LYLE is a dancer at the Naughtyland strip joint in San Francisco's Tenderloin district who seems to get mixed up in more than her fair share of murder investigations. There's even a precedent of sorts -- Cornell Woolrich's Jerry Wheeler was a stripper who turned gumshoe to save her kid brother from a frame-up in "Face Work," a short story that appeared in the October 1937 issue of Black Mask, and was later filmed as Convicted, starring Rita Hayworth.

Not that Scholten offers us some romanticized, glowy-eyed view of stripping, the way the film Pretty Woman sanitized prostitution. Nope, the world of erotic dancing here is depicted as a rather a grim and often seedy one, but at least it's leavened at times by some black humour and some truly off-kilter characters. And Scholten's unflinching honesty, as she plows through the various political, social, and economic ramifications of women working in the sex industry is downright refreshing. She's not preachy or heavy-handed, sentimental or apologetic. She just gets right down to it. At one point, she even refers to herself as a "testosterone mop." Now that's calling a spade a spade.

In the debut, Day Stripper (2000), Aubrey finds herself tracking down a murderer after a co-worker is found strangled in a pink leather bra barrowed from Aubrey. In the follow-up, Slay Me Tender (2001), the featured artist at the Naughtyland strip club, Plushious Velvet, disappears, and Aubrey follows a trail of breast implants (literally, at one point) to uncover a drug ring that uses Asian prostitutes as mules.

Author Scholten worked her way through graduate school, ultimately earning an MA in Psychology, as a stripper in one of the first clubs to unionize in San Francisco. That insider knowledge comes to the fore here, and Scholten has a real knack for language and plot. Even better, her character, Aubrey Lyle, endearingly flawed and not always sympathetic exactly, is nonetheless likeable and real. This is a series to watch....


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