Stephanie Plum

Created by Janet Evanovich

“That shooting gave me an appetite, somebody pass me the potatoes.”
Grandma Mazur in One for the Money

Katherine Heigl as Stephanie Plum. Run! She’s got a gun!

Working-class Jersey girl and former lingerie buyer STEPHANIE PLUM is a bond bailsma-er-bailsperson, working out of the blue collar “burg” in Trenton, New Jersey, where “houses and minds are proud to be narrow”. And, it should be noted, family ties tend to strangle.

Rather than move in with her parents (and trigger-happy, thrill-seeking loose cannon Gramma Mazur), she goes to work for her cousin Vinnie, a bail bondsman. But let’s get it straight — Stephanie isn’t exactly the toughest thing on Earth — or even New Jersey. As she puts it, “I don’t look at all like George Foreman. I’m more like Wonder Woman with a B-cup.”

She’s also a bit of a klutz, and prone to impulsive decisions. And just to complicate things, poor Stephanie has a bad case of the hots for hunky vice cop Joe Morelli, also from the “burg.” As Stephanie puts it, “There are some men who enter a woman’s life and screw it up forever. Joseph Morelli did this to me — not forever, but periodically.”

And somehow, Morelli always seems to be involved in Stephanie’s cases. He may be all wrong for her, but what’s a girl to do? As she puts it, she hasn’t had “a good social orgasm since Reagan was in the White House.”

Aiding and abetting Stephanie in her quest to track down and bring back those who have jumped the bond so generously put up by her cousin Vinnie is smokin’ hot Ranger, the know-it-all, done-it-all hardcore, hardcase Cuban-American bounty hunter, dangerous dude and designated romantic complication #2.

Yeah. Romance. Evanovich used to write romances, and it shows. But she takes neither romance — or the equally ridiculous tropes of hard-boiled — too seriously, playing it all for big, entertaining slapstick laughs, very much in the anything-goes tradition of Jonathan Latimer’s Bill Crane, with a bit Robert Leslie Bellem’s Dan Turner lickety-split plotting mixed in, and a dollop of Hammett’s Nick and Nora banter on top.

Not that it’s all screwball humour — Stephanie regularly goes up against some pretty nasty types, and violence is as much a part of her life as any hard-boiled anti-hero around. Margaret Cannon praises the series for its “smart and witty dialogue and dead-on characterization” and most readers will be similarly enchanted. A worthy addition to the Hard-boiled Hall of Humour.

One of the most unapologetically entertaining P.I.’s of the nineties, the series has proven to possess some remarkably long legs (certainly longer legs than their heroine’s), closing in on twenty-five years — and counting. Recommended! Damn skippy!

TELEVISION & FILM

At one point, rumours (or perhaps just wishful thinking) abounded about a possible movie adaptation of One For the Money (1994), starring Sandra Bullock as our gal Steph, while Estelle Getty (from TV’s The Golden Girls) seemed to be the people’s choice to play Grandma. It never came to pass.

But there actually was a pilot done for the 2002 TV season, starring Lynn Collins as Stephanie. It wasn’t picked up, however. According to a reliable source who saw it when the network she worked for tested it, it was “abysmal.”

But the books just keep on selling like hot cakes, one a year, each one skittering up the bestsellers’ lists, and in 2011, One for the Money, a big-budget Hollywood feature film based on the first novel, produced by and starring Katherine Heigl as Stephanie, was released. It also starred John Leguizamo, Daniel Sunjata and Debbie Reynolds as Grandma Mazur.

Although it was no huge hit, it did capture much of the charm and cleverness of the book, as notable for its easy going vibe and for its commendable restraint — it never descended into the abyss of cheap shots and slack-jawed overkill so many rom com/action flicks sink into, while avoiding some of the book’s nastier elements, which was a wise decision, I think, given the type of movie they were trying to make. The Girl Detective and I liked it, but almost everyone else on the planet hated it, especially Evanovich’s fans.

UNDER OATH

  • “It’s Get Shorty meets Cathy.”
    Bill Maher tries to summarize Stephanie’s appeal (2006) on Amazon’s Fishbowl
  • “Listen, if you are one of the last six people on the planet who don’t read the Stephanie Plum novels, read (One for the Money). Evanovich is really that good. Really.”
    –Robert Crais
  • “If (One for the Money) were a meal, it would be Macca’s (McDonald’s, for the non-Australian readers) nuggets and fries, with apple pie for dessert. I recognise that this isn’t a particularly fancy or ‘good’ meal, but I love it all the same.”
    — Jen Sherman (August 2019, CrimeReads)

NOVELS

“BETWEEN THE NUMBERS” NOVELLAS

SHORT STORIES

  • “The Last Peep” (1997, The Plot Thickens; also 1999, First Cases 3)

TELEVISION

  • ONE FOR THE MONEY
    (2002, Columbia TriStar)
    Unaired pilot
    Based on the novel by Janet Evanovich
    Screenplay by ??
    Directed by David Grossman
    Starring Lynn Collins as Stephanie Plum
    Also starring Kristi Angus, Tyler Christopher, Tim Burd

FILM

  • ONE FOR THE MONEY| Buy on DVD Buy on Blu-Ray
    (2011, Lakeshore Entertainment/Sidney Kimmel Entertainment/Lionsgate)
    Based on the novel by Janet Evanovich
    Screenplay by Liz Brixius, Karen McCullah Lutz, Kirsten Smith
    Directed by Julie Anne Robinson
    Starring Katherine Heigl as Stephanie Plum
    Also starring John Leguizamo, Daniel Sunjata, Debbie Reynolds, Jason O’Mara, Patrick Fischler, Sherri Shepherd, Leonardo Nam, Nate Mooney, Gavin-Keith Umeh, Ana Reeder, Brenna Roth, Adam Paul, Danny Mastrogiorgio, Lisa Ann Goldsmith
    Nobody will mistake it for Chinatown, but on it’s own terms it’s a solid piece of work, unapologetically satisfying., and the rare screwball action flick that rarely overplays its hand or resorts to cheap shots to entertain fourteen year olds. It’s one of the few films I’ve seen lately that makes me hope there will be a sequel. But almost everyone else — including many Evanovich fans — gave it a pass. Debbie Reynolds in particular was great as Gramma Mazur — nicely underplaying the character instead of milking it.

ALSO WORTH INVESTIGATING

  • Wilson, Leah, editor,
    Perfectly Plum: Unauthorized Essays On the Life, Loves And Other Disasters of Stephanie Plum, Trenton Bounty Hunter | Buy this book
    (Smart Pop series, 2007)
    Now woefully out-of-date, but still a fun read for those who take their Plums seriously, this “completely unauthorized” collection of fan essays sifts through the cultural metaphors that abound in the first eleven novels, including such headspinners as “Bounty Hunting as a Metaphor for Dating,” “Why Stephanie Should Quit Her Job . . . but Never Will,” “Nothing Better than a Bad Boy Gone Good” and “Luck of the Italian? Skill Versus Chance.”

RELATED LINKS

  • The Janet Evanovich Page
    If you’re plum crazy about Stephanie, and want to keep up to date on her and her creator, check out this page, created by Janet’s daughter, Alex. You can also subscribe to Janet’s newsletter, Plum News.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. Thanks to Eryn R. who proudly boasts that “Stephanie is my hero,” for some of the info included on this page, and to Nathalie, for the scoop.

 

 

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