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Find Your Wings: Taking a short break from fighting crime, the Angels (Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, and Lucy Liu) get jiggy.

High Heeling

Butt-kicking crime writer Cara Black on fistfights, really good shoes, and 'Charlie's Angels'

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Writer David Templeton takes interesting people to interesting movies in his ongoing quest for the ultimate postfilm conversation. This is not a review; rather, it's a freewheeling, tangential discussion of life, alternative ideas, and popular culture.

Ten minutes into the new film Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle (or has it been longer? Who can say? It's rushing by so fast!), Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, and Lucy Liu steal a bad guy's helicopter and, having brazenly cheated death for the 20th time since the movie started, gloriously soar off into the sky, leaving behind a pile of dead and disappointed men. As the sequence ends, author Cara Black, sitting to my immediate right in the movie theater, turns to me with wide eyes, mouth hanging open in adrenalized shock and obvious delight, and silently mouths three, short words.

"I like it!" she says.

And what's not to like? Following up on the successful 2000 release of Charlie's Angels, itself a spinoff of the popular '70s TV show, the new Angels has everything the first film did, with the happy exception of Tom Green and those disturbing rape-threat scenes. It piles on a few extras too, notably the big-screen return of Demi Moore as a former Angel turned very, very bad--but in a bikini.

"It was fun!" Black shouts as we leave the theater after the last kick has been thrown and the last plot thread tied up. "It was a good escapism," my guest asserts, "and escapism is good!"

She would know. Black, based in San Francisco, is the author of the increasingly popular Aimée Leduc Investigation series by Soho Press. An absorbing set of tightly plotted, freshly conceived mysteries, the Aimée Leduc books debuted in 1999 with Murder in the Marais, continued in 2000 and 2001 with Murder in Belleville and Murder in the Sentier, and is finally back with Murder in the Bastille.

While each book features a grisly homicide taking place in one of Paris's 20 distinct districts, the star is Aimée, a refreshingly independent, endlessly resourceful heroine who is hip, funny, smart, and saddled with a tragic past but possessed of a keen fashion sense. When forced to, she can also kick a guy's ass.

"It's true, Aimée kicks butt in high-heeled shoes," says Black, as we sit down at a small cafe near the theater. "That's one of the things I like about the Angels. They kick butt, and they do it in great shoes. I like that. A lot."

"Aimée could be an Angel," I point out.

"She could be," agrees Black, "if they asked her, though she'd never leave Paris. But if they'd help her find her long-lost mother, the one who was involved with those terrorists in the '70s before disappearing from Aimée's life, she might agree to join the French branch of Charlie's Angels. She'd certainly raise the Angel intelligence level a notch, and she could teach them all a thing or two about tying a scarf."

As Black stabs a plastic fork into her poppy-seed cake, dissecting it cleanly, I ask if she's ever had to, you know, kick someone's butt.

"Have I hit anybody? Sure!" she nods. "I've been hit, too, and I can tell you, it's not like in the movies. It's not that glamorous or exciting, getting hurt. Given a choice, I'd rather be the one doing the hitting."

"So," I ask, making a mental note never to anger Cara Black, "did you used to watch the TV show of Charlie's Angels?"

"I did, but I always thought it was really stupid," she says. "I like the movies a lot more, because the Angels seem more real, and they're always making mistakes. They aren't trying to be superwomen; they're just doing their job."

Black smiles sweetly and continues. "Their biggest strength is their friendship--that's the message of the movie. They liked being together, they needed each other, so they were a powerful team. Demi Moore left the Angels, but she didn't have that friendship--so she didn't succeed."

"She didn't have a girlfriend."

"Right! And they were Girlfriends, with a capital G," she laughs. "I mean, were they having fun together or what?

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From the July 3-9, 2003 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.

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