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The Anna Lee series: Dupe, Head Case, Bad Company, Stalker, Under Contract and Backhand.

At the very beginning all I wanted to do was to avoid my freezing, uninsulated studio, and look busy by the fire.

I hadn't read a lot of detective fiction - just Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and Ross McDonald - but I'd enjoyed the pace and the writing. I did, however, have very serious doubts about their views of women. On top of that part of the attraction was the US itself, which seemed like an exotic location where gunplay and casual violence were plausible; not at all like England which breeds a different kind of nastiness altogether.

It made me wonder what would happen to an ordinary, competent English woman who happened to be a detective; someone who went unarmed, used the Yellow Pages a lot and got hurt when she was hit.

So I started small: I fitted an ex-police woman, Anna Lee, into a small detective agency on Kensington High Street and gave her an unimportant case. Then, sort of like a reader, I waited to see what happened.

I'm a feminist and I tend to believe that ordinary, competent women can change the world if they want to. But back in the late '70s, early '80s it was as if they had to wait for male permission.

Anna was a woman who was somewhat damaged by living and working in a man's world; she probably wouldn't have called herself a feminist - she would've just worked twice as hard and tried to be twice as good as the guys in order to be thought of as not quite equal.

So the book, Dupe, as it developed, was never intended as a polemic. But it was intended to be a feminist story: to show the slights, insults and restrictions that ordinary, competent, intelligent women faced every day, especially those who worked in what at the time was seen as a man's world - a detective agency.