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Redmann, J. M. (b. 1955)  
 
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J. M. Redmann is the Lambda Literary Award-winning creator of the New Orleans private detective, Michele "Micky" Knight. Author of six novels featuring her protagonist, Redmann presents a richly textured series focused on issues of power and family set against the backdrop of a compellingly evoked, colorful but utterly unromanticized city.

The daughter of two college-educated journalists, Jean Redmann was born on June 9, 1955 in Mississippi. Reading was part of her growing-up process, and writing followed shortly thereafter. She began writing short stories in third grade.

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That Redmann was reared by college-educated parents may startle readers of her novels who identify her with her protagonist. While Micky Knight is wedded to her working-class consciousness and her "bayou trash" ethos, the author grew up in a middle-class family on the Mississippi Gulf coast in Ocean Springs.

What Redmann does have in common with her creation is a similar educational background and a love of books. Whereas Redmann graduated from Vassar with a degree in theater, Knight graduated from Barnard with a degree in philosophy. Redmann has acknowledged that she is an admirer of Hannah Arendt, and Knight refers to Arendt's famous description of Nazi atrocities as the "banality of evil" in The Intersection of Law and Desire (1995).

A self-described "reading slut," Redmann has read widely. Her favorite novel is Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Among mystery writers she particularly admires Dorothy Sayers, Amanda Cross, Barbara Wilson, Katherine Forrest, Greg Herren, Sue Grafton, Sara Paretsky, Patricia Cornwall, P. D. James, and Val McDiarmid, among others.

She strongly identifies with her fellow gay and lesbian mystery writers, commenting to Ellen Hart: "I'm writing to change the world, not in a great flash, but like water wearing away stone. I think we all are. By we, I mean all the writers who are telling our stories, especially those of us only now being allowed a voice, women, gays, blacks--all those 'others' who have so long been silent."

Redmann created Micky Knight because she wanted to read hard-boiled lesbian detective fiction. Prior to Knight's debut in Death by the Riverside in 1990, lesbian mystery fiction was primarily limited to the police procedurals of Katherine Forrest and what Redmann refers to as "cozy murder room mysteries." Knight may not have been the first hard-boiled lesbian detective but she was among the pioneers.

What elevates good mystery fiction above the norms of the genre is that something more goes on in the story than the solution to the case. Redmann's novels are made compelling because she regularly tackles difficult topics, such as abortion rights in Deaths of Jocasta (1992) and child prostitution and pornography in The Intersection of Law and Desire.

Two significant themes recur in Redmann's novels and unify her work. The first is the empowerment of the once powerless. In Redmann's oeuvre she has created a matriarchal society peopled by lesbian physicians, psychiatrists, police officers, assistant district attorneys, and philanthropists. While they all have a certain level of professional success, they have to deal with the problems of , misogyny, alcoholism, racism, sexual abuse, and physical handicaps.

Ironically, one of the least powerful characters in her novels is the straight woman who reared Micky, her Aunt Greta. She lives in a loveless marriage, cannot cook (she makes an especially bad potato salad), and has been less than adept at rearing her children. While she embraces the tenets of Roman Catholicism, she demonstrates no Christian charity for Micky and seems to exude patronizing contempt when dealing with her niece. Her only power is the negative emotional impact she wields against Micky. In Lost Daughters (1999), however, she emerges as a complex character when her negativity is given a fuller explanation.

The other (and related) theme that runs through Redmann's novels is the intrinsic mystery of familial relationships. This theme is fully embodied in Micky Knight herself. Her mother abandoned her when she was a small child, and she was reared by the man who had agreed to marry her mother. He was killed and she was then adopted by her Aunt Greta and Uncle Claude.

Throughout the series Micky is haunted by questions about her abandonment by her mother and the true identity of her father. While she loves the man who married her mother, she knows he is not her biological father.

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