Page 195 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 54

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Lawrence W
Rabbis, Private Eyes,
Police Lieutenants,
Female Sleuths,
Lovers &Moms:
Contemporary Jewish
Identity As Portrayed
in Detective Fiction
“A few minutes ago you were appealing to our
being brothers beneath the missingforeskin.”
Len Schwartz in
VirgiVs Ghost
Among the shelves
selling popular fic­
tion, detective fiction, whether at the large chain or smaller speci­
ality bookstores, at airport magazine stands, or discount
department stores is prominent. This is the world of the private in­
vestigator, the police procedural, the armchair detective or ama­
teur sleuth. Within this ever-growing category of fiction, with over
10,000 titles in print1, there is the sub-genre of the “Jewish” mys­
tery novel. As a theme-within-a-genre, Jewish men and women
star in these fictional stories. Such literature represents only one
more example of howJews now celebrate and appreciate their eth­
nic differences in America.
These Jewish characters correspond to a cross-section of Amer­
ican Jews one can read about elsewhere. Though very difficult ac­
tually to count, there appear to be more Jewish heroes and
heroines in detective fiction than the 2.5% of the American popu­
Amy Clyde, “Cult of the Mystery: Rituals and Byways,”New
York Times,
January 3, 1992, C : l .
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