tart noir
(tart NWAHR) n. Mystery or crime novels in which the main character is a woman who is tough, independent, and sexy.

Example Citation:
Henderson is best known for her acclaimed female-detective series, the saucy, sexy, go-girl chronicles of Sam Jones, the leading exponent of what Henderson and the publishing industry are trumpeting as "tart noir."
—Deborah Hornblow, "Lauren Henderson is the godmother of 'tart noir'," The Hartford Courant, April 7, 2002

Earliest Citation:
After the reading, the authors got up from their chairs and draped themselves over the table to answer questions.

"Why tart noir?" someone yelled from the back.

Ms. Hayter said the women had originally considered calling their genre Slut Noir.

"Slut is such a powerless word, though," she said.

Ms. Munger agreed. "Slut is far too subtle for me," she said.

Ms. Hayter offered this explanation as she opened a copy of her book "Revenge of the Cootie Girls" to sign for a fan:

"We basically all decided 'tart' sounded like a lot more fun."
—Kimberly Stevens, "Mystery Writers Spice Up a Genre With Tart Noir," The New York Times, April 9, 2000

Notes:
The slang term tart (1887) originally referred to a prostitute or a woman of immoral character and eventually came to mean any promiscuous young woman who dresses provocatively. However, the authors who created the term tart noir — Sparkle Hayter, Lauren Henderson, Laura Lippman, and Katy Munger — have a broader and more positive view of today's modern tart. Here's how their Web site (www.tartcity.com) describes this genre's heroines:

Independent-minded female sleuths who are tough enough to take on thugs and corrupt cops, tender enough to be moved by tough, tender men (or women, as the case may be). These are neofeminist women, half Philip Marlowe, half femme-fatale, who make their own rules, who think it's entirely possible to save the world while wearing a drop-dead dress and stiletto heels. Our heroines are Modesty Blaise and Emma Peel, our morals are questionable and our attitude always needs adjustment.

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