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OCT. 20

Hard-boiled fundamentalists can be terribly literal in their reading of the gospel of St. Raymond Chandler: “Down these mean streets a man must go…” V.I. Warshawski, Kinsey Milhone, and their sistren are cavalierly dismissed as so many private dicklesses. After all, they turn to friends and relationships for support; some even cook while solving murders. Of course, so does Spenser, Robert B. Parker’s knight. Parker certainly knows Chandler’s traditions; he wrote his doctoral dissertation on the hard-boiled holy trinity of Hammett, Chandler, and Macdonald (Ross, not John), and he’s created a few traditions of his own. Now, Parker brings back his female detective, ex-cop Sunny Randall, in the new book Perish Twice. Complications and murder result when “professional feminist” and “practicing lesbian” Mary Lou Goddard covers up the fact that there are some ways in which only a man can satisfy her. All of the women in this book struggle to figure out what role men should play in their lives. Randall, herself, must decide if she can bring herself to admit she might need, much less ask for, a man’s help. OK, so the question isn’t very enlightened in a real-world sense, but as questions go, this one’s pretty radical in this macho milieu. Who knows what the Hammerheads will think? Ask Parker when the author reads and signs copies of Perish This at 12:30 p.m. at Olsson’s Books & Records, 1200 F St. NW. Free. (202) 347-3686. (Mark W. Sullivan)