Watch Out! Crime fiction is catching! by Matt Rees

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I thought it was a harmless pastime––writing crime fiction, bringing crime novels into the house. My wife was a devotee of Jane Austen and of the more intelligent end of chick lit. I figured she was immune.

But, no. Crime fiction is catching. (And there’s a lot of it about.) Now my dearest has published her own ventures into the world of crime fiction. Naturally they’re fabulous because (as her email address describes her) she’s Fabulous Jasmine Schwartz.

I don’t feel guilty about infecting her. It isn’t like passing on a cold or herpes or worthless mortgages at a Triple-A rating.

Still I’ve shown her the path toward authordom. No doubt she figured if I could do it, then the Fabulous Jasmine Schwartz certainly could. And she could. And has.

To her additional advantage, she has seen some of the drawbacks of the author’s world through my experiences. The two days of travel to speak before seven people in Sevilla (but then I got to see Sevilla on someone else’s dime). The occasional publisher who turns out to be an idiot. The occasional publisher who turns out to be a nasty bastard. The acquaintances who, meaning well, say they look forward to when I quit crime fiction and write a “real novel.” The food at the Limmud conference in Chesterfield, Derbyshire. The neglect, oh, the neglect and loneliness of life at the computer keyboard figuring out how to kill someone and wondering whether enough people will read it to pay you to live on and kill yet more characters.

But I’ve seen Jasmine relish the same things I love about crime fiction too. The puzzling out of plot. The crafting of characters and sentences and descriptions. Telling people who think crime fiction isn’t “real” fiction that they can keep their Ian McEwan and their Philip Roth––give me Ellroy and Camilleri any day over those wet drones.

Jasmine has created “Bridget Jones with guns and dead bodies.” Her novels are the hilariously titled “Farbissen” and “Fakakt.” So that I don’t send you rushing for the Yiddish dictionary, Farbissen means bitter and Fakakt means …screwed. (I’m being polite. Actually the Yiddish sense of both these titles is much more Farbissen and Fakakt than they sound in English.) They’re wonderful crime novels and hilarious, pointed evocations of the neuroses of a fashion-obsessed Jewish lady. And I recommend them highly.

The wait for a successor to Amadeusis over.


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