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literature

Alpha Index:  A-B  C-F  G-K  L-Q  R-S  T-Z

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Redmann, J. M. (b. 1955)  
 
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The mystery of Micky's parentage may be solved, or at least seems to be, in Lost Daughters.

More often than not, the cases that Micky investigates intersect with her family heritage. This connection seems a bit contrived in her first novel, Death by the Riverside, but operates seamlessly in Lost Daughters. While the interaction of a detective's family life with the cases under investigation is not necessarily a prerequisite of the mystery genre, the relationship of family with the protagonist, for better or worse, is definitely a hallmark of Southern literature.

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The setting of the series in New Orleans is also intrinsic to its character and ambience. When asked why she set her series there, Redmann told an interviewer: "I lived in New York for a number of years, but I never considered setting my series anywhere other than New Orleans. This is a city where anything is possible (and sometimes all too probable) . . . . From voodoo to drag queen prostitutes to uptown opulence to snakes in your car, it's all here. Also, I grew up down here and everything from the smell of flowers to the slant of the light in the evening to the taste of crawfish or raw oysters lives in a very deep place in my memory."

Redmann's series made a critical leap in 1995 with the publication of The Intersection of Law and Desire, which won a Lambda Literary Award. Her first two novels are more than workmanlike, but seem sloppily edited and somewhat indulgent. In her most recent novels, the writing is sharper, the pacing more suspenseful, and the characters deeper.

Redmann has acknowledged the help of her editor at Norton--which published her most recent novels--in improving her books, but also feels that she has simply grown as a writer over the course of the series.

Some fans of Micky may decry what they might see as a loss of toughness in Redmann's latter books. Certainly Micky is more physical in the earlier novels and more vulnerable in the latter ones. But in becoming more vulnerable, she also evolves into a more realistic, three-dimensional character. Even in the more recent works, however, Redmann does not skimp on action.

Redmann bridles at the idea that she should be pigeonholed as a genre writer. To her literature is literature, be it murder mysteries, science fiction, romance, or drama.

As a writer of lesbian mystery novels, however, Redmann is to some degree marginalized even within genre fiction. As Ellen McGarrahan complained in a review of Lost Daughters, which she characterized as "a sophisticated, funny, plot-driven, character-laden murder mystery," Redmann "is not anywhere near as well-known as she deserves to be, particularly for a very readable mystery writer published by a major publishing house, and perhaps that's because her detective, Micky Knight, is a lesbian. The genre and its readers still have traditional notions of who and what fictional detectives should be and, by and large, that means lesbians need not apply."

Redmann is also the author of lesbian erotic stories, which have appeared in various anthologies. Eroticism is also prominent in the first three Micky Knight novels. In Lost Daughters, there are no erotic passages because Redmann thought that eroticism would be incompatible with the theme and tone of the novel.

Redmann was working on her latest novel, Death of a Dying Man (2009), when Mother Nature in the form of Hurricane Katrina forced its author back to the drawing boards after she had completed ten chapters of her book. In the acknowledgments she writes: "The book I had been writing was no longer possible . . . ."

In Death of a Dying Man, Micky Knight's client is one Damon LaChance, whose name seems better suited to a Barbara Cartland romance than hard boiled detective fiction. Be that as it may, in his prime her client was an A-list gay man but too much partying has left him with six months to live. He has gotten a one-two punch in the form of AIDS and hepatitis C.

Seven years earlier, before he became ill, LaChance fathered a child by a carefree woman who was visiting New Orleans. The mother of his child let him know he had a child, but he made no effort to contact her, and both mother and daughter have now fallen off the radar screen.

In the last months of his life, LaChance wants to make amends for his neglect. He hires Knight to find his child so the child can inherit the money to which she is entitled.

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