Sara Paretsky revolutionized the mystery world in 1982 when she introduced V.I. Warshawski in Indemnity Only. By creating a detective with the grit and smarts to take on the mean streets, Paretsky challenged a genre in which women historically were vamps or victims. V.I. struck a chord with readers and critics; Indemnity Only was followed by twenty more V.I. novels. Her voice and her world remain vital to readers; the New York Times calls V.I., “a proper hero for these times,” adding, “to us, V.I. is perfect.”
While Paretsky’s fiction changed the narrative about women, her work also opened doors for other writers. In 1986 she created Sisters in Crime, a worldwide organization to advocate for women crime writers, which earned her Ms. Magazine’s 1987 Woman of the Year award. More accolades followed: the British Crime Writers awarded her the Cartier Diamond Dagger for lifetime achievement; Blacklist won the Gold Dagger from the British Crime Writers for best novel of 2004, and she has received the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from a number of universities.
Called “passionate” and “electrifying,” V.I. reflects her creator’s own passion for social justice. After chairing the school’s first Commission on the Status of Women as a Kansas University undergraduate, Paretsky worked as a community organizer on Chicago’s South Side during the turbulent race riots of 1966. Since then, Paretsky’s volunteer work has included advocating for healthcare for the mentally ill homeless; mentoring teens in Chicago’s most troubled schools, and working for reproductive rights. Through her Sara & Two C-Dogs foundation, she also helps build STEM and arts programs for young people.
The actress Kathleen Turner played V.I. Warshawski in the movie of that name. Paretsky’s work is celebrated in Pamela Beere Briggs’s documentary, Women of Mystery. Today Sara Paretsky’s books are published in 30 countries.
Paretsky detailed her journey from Kansas farm-girl to New York Times bestseller in her 2007 memoir, Writing in an Age of Silence, which was a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist. In addition, Paretsky has written two stand-alone novels, Ghost Country, and Bleeding Kansas, set in the part of rural Kansas where Paretsky grew up. She has published several short story collections, most recently Love & Other Crimes, and has edited numerous other anthologies.
Like her fictional detective, Paretsky has an adored Golden Retriever. Like alto Warshawski, soprano Paretsky doesn’t work hard enough at her vocal exercises, but the two women share a love for espresso and rich Italian reds.