Page 202 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 54

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Raphael
194
orado, who helps her son Dave clean-up the mess which threatens
to spin the universe out of our rational grasp.
Presented in this small segment of the world of popular detec­
tive fiction is a vast array of characters, plots, sub-plots and circum­
stances that give us ourselves—contemporary American Jews. As
Jews have felt increasingly secure and confident in American soci­
ety, so has the type ofJewish character changed. The Jewish char­
acter who is extremely confident in his or her Jewishness is now a
growing part of this genre of popular literature. This genre owes
much to the non-Jewish detectives popular in the larger arena of
this fiction. Schwartz, Lieberman, Blissberg, Decker, Samson,
Taylor and their
confreres
are primarily molded and owe their suc­
cess to the tough-guy image found in the novels of Dashell Ham­
mett, Raymond Chandler and Robert Parker. Fischman, Drake,
Lake and Schwartz owe an even greater debt to Sue Grafton’s al­
phabet-related investigator Kinsey Millhourne and Sara Paretsky’s
heroine V.I. Warshavsky.
Mystery readers believe they are not just reading junk but im­
proving their minds. If one wants to learn about the expectations
and the synagogue politics of the Jewish community, one can take
a walk with one of the detective rabbis. If one is interested in the
modern police departments, then one can squeeze into un-marked
cars with Lieutenant Lieberman. If one wants to glimpse the Or­
thodox world, then one can follow Rina Lazarus or Rochelle Krich.
If one is interested in Jews in contemporary music, then one can try
to keep up with Kinky Friedman. If one wants spend time with a
single Jewish female attorney who anguishes over her career, her
love-life, her search for decent Chinese food, her relationship with
her mother and what the Upper West Side of Manhattan has be­
come, then one can tag along with Nina Fischman as she tracks
down murderers. If, on the other hand, one is fascinated by the se­
ductive pull ofJewish crime bosses, one can curl up with a copy of
Inherit the Mob
by Zeev Chafetz.
In the final analysis, the motto of the composer Kurt Weill may
be applied. Weill said, “I have never acknowledged the difference
between ‘serious’ music and ‘light’ music. There is only good mu­