Tart Noir

What is Tart Noir? And who the hell are we?

Tart. It's a potent four-letter word. Sweet, sour, sharp, sexy, bad, with a touch of cheesecake. It seemed to sum up the detectives in our segment of the crime fiction genre, the 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 four-inch heels.

Ten years ago, there weren't any heroines like this in crime fiction. Really. Apart from the divine Modesty Blaise. And so, in the mid-90s, several women writers started creating the kind of heroines they could identify with, in books they would actually want to read. None of us met each other until we had written several books of our own, but in retrospect it was clearly one of those big ol' Zeitgeist moments that one only spots many years later. It was a new genre of writing, which Lauren Henderson, under the influence of several margaritas and the t-shirt she was wearing which read Barbie is a Slut, named Slut Noir -- later altered by Sparkle Hayter to Tart Noir because she felt Americans wouldn't respond positively to the word "slut"...

This site was founded by Lauren and Sparkle at a rather nice French restaurant called Le Singe Vert around the corner from the Chelsea Hotel, over menthol cigarettes (Sparkle) and rose wine and chips with mayonnaise (Lauren). We wanted to create a website where writers like us would feel normal, rather than being the token girl on a panel with 4 boys, or the two or three token girls in an anthology with 15 boys. We wanted a website where it would be normal that our heroines were Modesty Blaise, Emma Peel, Roseanne and Darlene Connor, and Patsy and Edina from AbFab, where everyone who visited would take for granted that our morals were questionable and our attitude always needed adjustment, where Tarts of all ages, all genders and all sexual persuasions would feel comfortable. And that's how Tart City turned out.

Sparkle, having designed the website and hung around for a year or so, has gone off to fresh fields and pastures new. Katy Munger, another crime writer who was an integral part of Tart City for years, has left to run her own website. Having edited an anthology of crime-based short stories -- Tart Noir -- by our favourite women crime writers, Tart City is now run by Lauren Henderson and Stella Duffy. And our lives and careers have changed too in the years that the site has been going. Both of us, who started off as crime writers, have moved onto different kinds of books; Lauren is writing romantic comedies and a dating guide, while Stella is doing her damnedest to find a common ground between literary and commercial fiction without sacrificing great covers. But everything we write, we are happy to say, is pervaded by the Tart ethos -- the naughtiness, the irreverence, and the constant attempts to reinvent how women write, and what they're supposed to be writing about.

Tart City will be updated whenever we manage to find time between our writing projects (Lauren), our multimedia madness (Stella), and our frequent holidays -- sorry, that should, of course, have read "research trips". We will be sending out regular emails for the online mailing list with events we are doing and new books as they are published. As always on Tart City, each update will have new short stories, reviews, lustful odes to our Man or Woman Of The Moment, tributes to Tarts we love in the Hall of Fame, diaries of our wilder road- and reading trips, and of course ritual spankings of current hate targets in the Tart City dungeon. At Tart City we welcome banter, and discussion -- post on our fabulous message board and tell us what you think of our small but perfectly-formed Utopia. And do sign up for the online mailing list! It's the best way to keep informed about what we're up to, get your books signed, and give us the pleasure of meeting our readers!

Who We Are
Lauren . . Stella . . Beth . .


Lauren Henderson
Co-Founder and Co-Editor

Lauren Henderson has written seven crime novels featuring her extremely badly behaved anti-heroine, Sam Jones: 'Dead White Female', 'Too Many Blondes', The Black Rubber Dress', 'Freeze My Margarita', 'The Strawberry Tattoo', 'Chained!' and 'Pretty Boy', all published in the UK by Hutchinson. The last five have also been published in the US by Crown.

After having killed off huge amounts of deserving and undeserving victims in the Sam Jones novels, Lauren decided that she needed for a change to write a book where absolutely no one died. The result was a jolly romp called "My Lurid Past" (published in the UK by Time Warner) about a girl who realizes, much to her distress, that her happy girl-about-town life of light-hearted flings is being sabotaged by her inability to follow through with any of the cute young men she finds herself on sofas with late at night. Meanwhile, her two best friends, a dominatrix and a married cook, are also struggling with latent commitment issues.

Lauren followed this with another romantic comedy of manners, "Don't Even Think About It", based on the love life of a friend of hers who keeps dating girls who look pretty much exactly like his first-ever girlfriend. Her third romantic comedy, "Exes Anonymous", sees the heroine having such a hard time recovering from a bad breakup that she even starts a self-help group in an attempt to get over her ex-boyfriend. "My Lurid Past", "Don't Even Think About It" and "Exes Anonymous" are published in the UK by Time Warner and the first two are published in the US by Pocket Books (Downtown Press).

In a reaction to the weird dating rules which prevail in the US (she currently lives in New York), Lauren has also written "Jane Austen's Guide to Dating", a non-fiction guide to successful relationships based on the books of Jane Austen, taking 10 rules from Austen about how to behave while dating and settling down with someone, and adapting them for the modern world. It is published by Hyperion in the US and by Headline, in hardback, in the UK, where it came out in paperback in June 2006.

Lauren has also written numerous short stories, one of which was nominated for a Dagger award in the UK. She has been widely anthologized and is a regular contributor to the Erotic Review. Together with Stella Duffy, she has also edited an anthology of women-behaving-badly short stories called Tart Noir, published in the UK by Macmillan and in the US by Berkely; and with Chris Manby and Sarah Mlynowski, she has co-edited Girls' Night In for the US, a charity anthology of chick-lit stories to benefit War Child. Her latest short story, "Jan 5 2004" was published in Stirring Up A Storm, an erotic anthology edited by Marilyn Jaye Lewis.

Lauren has just had her first Young Adult mystery novel, KISS ME KILL ME, published in the US with Delacorte, to great reviews -- more info and an excerpt here. It's the first in a series starring her heroine, Scarlett Wakefield, and Lauren is currently working on edits for the second book, KISSES AND LIES, to be published by Delacorte in spring 2009. She is also working on a proposal for a blockbuster novel called DIVAS.

Lauren's books are translated into roughly 20 languages. Madame Figaro (a French magazine) once called her the "Dorothy Parker of the crime novel", a quote she is longing to have someone repeat in English so she can put it on a book cover. She has also been called the "Betty Boop of crime fiction", "the dominatrix of the British crime scene", and many, many other things which she is certainly not going to repeat here.
Back to Top

  Stella Duffy

Stella has written eleven novels, most recently The Room of Lost Things (Virago) (read an excerpt here). Her novel State of Happiness was longlisted for the 2004 Orange Prize for Fiction and has been optioned by Fiesta Productions and Zentropa, for whom she is also writing the screenplay. Her novels have been published in the USA, Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Brazil, Japan, Russia and Czechoslovakia. With Lauren Henderson, she is co-editor of the anthology Tart Noir from which her story Martha Grace won the CWA Short Story Dagger Award 2002. Stella has published over thirty short stories, and many feature articles for Elle, Marie Claire, Red, The Independent, The Guardian and The Times.

Her play Crocodiles and Bears was produced by Steam Industry at BAC in 1999. With the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain she adapted the stage version of her novel Immaculate Conceit for the Lyric Hammersmith in 2003, devised and directed Cell Sell for the Soho Theatre in 2005, and wrote Prime Resident for the NYT's 50th anniversary season in 2006. She has written three solo shows - Breaststrokes and The Tedious Predictability of Falling in Love for herself, Close to You for Sarah Davison. She also writes for radio.

As a performer Stella is an associate artist with Improbable, has worked with comedy and impro company Spontaneous Combustion since 1988, and is an occasional guest with the Comedy Store Players. She has directed several plays, most recently Matthew Saville's Kikia te Poa for Shaky Isles Theatre. She has appeared in a variety of BBC Radio 4 sitcoms, plays and quiz shows.

She has taught improvisation, theatre and writing techniques to actors and writers at BAC, the Arvon Foundation, the National Youth Theatre, Rose Bruford Drama School, Wandsworth Prison, Hunstanton Young Offenders Institution, Exeter University, Falmouth College of Arts, and many schools (primary and secondary). She'll teach most people for money. Or martinis. Ideally both.

Stella was born in London, grew up in Tokoroa, New Zealand, and has lived back in London since 1986. She is married to the writer Shelley Silas.

Her best ever review was in the Guardian which described her as "Superbly sluttish." (It was an acting review. Though the same could be said for her writing, and her wardrobe, on occasion.)

Back to Top

Beth Tindall

Beth Tindall is a reader with no aspirations of being a writer. She does, however, like to hang out with the cool people so she can be cool by osmosis. Besides, someone has to carry the breath mints, condoms and bail money.

A life-long pinko-liberal-commie-treehugger-feminist (having survived her conservative upbringing in Nowheresville-Farmtown, Illinois) she worked for 20+ years in social services. Beth began building websites as a way to get free books. Now a fulltime webmaster, she has an-ever growing to-be-read bookshelf, and less time to read than ever. Beth also watches every reality TV show ever made, thanks to the miracle of TIV0.

Back to Top

Type your e-mail address to
subscribe to our newsletter!
Powered by YourMailinglistProvider.com
Tart City is a trademark of 21st Century Tarts
Neon Graphics, Original zine concept, design & website construction by S.V. Hayter
Maintenance and new design work by Beth Tindall

Tarts . . Stories . . Mom's . . Man/Woman We Love . . Route 66 . . Studio . .
Dungeon . . Hall of Fame . . Message Board
Search    Home