[LAUREN 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." This small but growing literary genre was created by Henderson and fellow authors Laura Lippman, Katy Munger and Sparkle Hayter.
At the center of each page-turning romp is Sam Jones, a lemon Bavarian cream in the field of tarts. Acid-tongued, self-reliant and clever, Sam suggests equal parts Nancy Drew, Camille Paglia and sex columnist Isadora Altman. She is as irreverent a protagonist as you would expect from Henderson, a Cambridge University graduate in English literature who has this to say about her education: "It was crap, absolutely ridiculous. All of these decrepit old professors teaching the same old crap because they can see no reason why they should change now." The curriculum was crowded with books by dead white men, Henderson says, and there was little room given books by authors of the non-white, non-male and non-British persuasions.
Sam Jones was conceived in what Henderson acknowledges is a most creative atmosphere: "My best ideas usually come to me when I'm getting drunk at parties," she confides, sounding very much like Sam herself. "One night, a friend said, `You know, there are no crime novels that have women as heroines.'"