Back in the early eighties, while everyone was huffing and puffing Stateside about Sharon, Kinsey and V.I., across the pond British writer Liza Cody was writing an amazing story arc about a young female P.I.'s journey from innocence to a hard-fought world-weariness.
A great British PI and one of the very best of the female investigators, Liza Cody's ANNA LEE is a former cop turned operative for a small detective agency, Brierly Security, in London. Anna's a pretty shrewd investigator, thoroughly dedicated, quietly thorough, who seems to live for her job. She prides herself on her pragmatism and competence, and seems to have a deep-rooted wish to fix things, be they people's shattered lives or a leaky faucet in her neighbour's flat. She has a sense of humour, but it's so dry it's almost air. Mind you, with the cast of people that surround her, Anna needs whatever sense of humour works for her. She lives upstairs from the a constantly-bickering couple, the ever-sensible Bea, and the ne'er-do-well sometime poet/Andy Capp clone Selwyn. The big cheese at work, Commander Brierly himself, is a straight-laced, tight-ass who doesn't particularly think Anna's all that suitable for the job. Sitting on the Commander's side, as though he was God Almighty, is Beryl, office manager/Nazi, who has even less use for Anna, and delights in putting her in a bad light.
Anna Lee's debut, Dupe, won the John Creasey Award in 1980 for Best First Novel.
Liza Cody has started a second series, about lady wrestler, Eva Wylie, who made her debut in "Bucketnut", a novel in which Anna makes a cameo.
A series of British made-for-television movies (at least six were made) tries to give Anna Lee a slightly breezy, saucy approach. Actress Imogen Stubbs looks the part, but her take on the character is completely different from the way I picture her. And that's the least of the changes. Bernie is a slightly goofy older op, hardly the experienced seen-it-all pro who takes Anna Lee under his wing. And Bea is gone, leaving only Selwyn, who a former professional wrestler intent on making a comeback. And Quex is now a poet, and while he's still a big guy, he's hardly the physically-imposing giant he is in the books. The claptrap Renault has been replaced by a classic Sunbeam Alpine Mk III, albeit only semi-restored. And a bit of American-style lady shamus cliche pops up-Anna jogging! And she has a cat! And do we really need yet another P.I. flick starting with our hero waking up fumbling for a Marlboro (Headcase). Get back to the chip shop, Anna, and all will be forgiven.
RUMOUR: Supposedly Liza Cody stopped writing Anna Lee mysteries because of the television movies. The rights had already been purchased for any future novels. Unsatisfied with how previous books had been adapted, she said she wouldn't supply any more and decided to focus on other projects.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.
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