Cracking the Case with Ann Aptaker

This week is a little different. The game is afoot, and Tara’s guide through the dark alleys and crime scenes is author Ann Aptaker (Flesh and Gold).

Listen to this episode here.

Writing about lesbians is a radical, political act, but it’s an act we primarily associate with romance. Ann makes the compelling pitch that different genres present different opportunities to see ourselves in and explore issues specific to us. Writing about crime, just like writing about love, through a lesbian lens is a way of staking claim in a world that often sees lesbians as illegitimate. And at the very least, Ann promises a world of adventure to any who answers the alluring siren’s song of crime fiction.

Ann’s Recommendations:

Find Ann Aptaker online:

Transcript for Today’s Show

Please note this transcript has not been edited and is automatically generated meaning certain words will be incorrect.

hi I’m Tara and welcome to Les Do Books this week I’m excited because I’m joined by an app taker author of the cantered world mystery series the latest is called flashing gold and it’s available everywhere from bold strokes books welcome man hello good morning here in New York thank you Sarah for inviting me on to your podcast so you are here with some recommendations for people because there’s a lot of pretty wonderful lesbian crime and mystery fiction out there that we just think people may not actually know about can you share a little bit about why this genre is so dear to your heart sure for me crime and mystery fiction for that matter all genre fiction but staying with crime and mystery fiction they’re folktales you know they deal in archetypes not stereotypes which are a very different thing and sort of a literary no no but they deal in archetypes the audience the reading audience can plug into the various characters very quickly because they’re recognizable as personalities that we know in life they embody different attributes that we either love or hate or feel one way or another about and crime and mystery fiction really embodies that very directly and for me as a crime fiction writer and friend I know for a number of crime fiction writers what lesbian or otherwise crime fiction allows us to talk about social issues about life’s issues because crime of course is part of our society and it doesn’t spring from nowhere it doesn’t exist in a vacuum it comes out of society’s structure so when you write about crime fiction you’re writing about society and how various people fit into it or don’t fit into it or are subjugated by it or are greedy within it but it always talks about what’s going on in a societal structure so it allows crime and mystery fiction writers to talk about social justice issues without being preachy you know without carrying around sort of a political billboard and yet we can talk about them because in most crime books there’s there very often murder mysteries not always but often murder mysteries and what could be more basic than life and death what can be more human than confronting life and death and so crime fiction gives voice to that element of life and it does so in ways that treats the English language which of course is what I grade in in in the most direct ways you can’t beat about the bush when you’re talking about life and death so this is in many ways why I’m attracted to both reading it and writing mm-hmm and obviously we we can’t give like 10 or 20 recommendations so you’ve narrowed it down is there anything about the ones that you chose specifically today well the four that I’ve chosen three specific books by three different writers and one author just generally speaking they all have different voices and of course nothing is more important than an author’s voice so they all have different voices and they were all talking about something different in their approach to crime and mystery fiction but what they all talk about in their way is finding a truth and being willing to put their own lives in great peril to get to that truth and they do it from all sides of the law for instance both Jean Redmon’s Mickey Knight series and Stephanie deals why a mystery series the Sid Reuben series they’re working within the law to find the perpetrator of you know some horror where as Ali Valley in hurricane you know ken casey series i suppose she’s you know the girl after my own heart literally since her character cane Casey and my character candor gold operate outside the law but in all cases all of our characters are trying to get to a truth about something and it’s a very definite truth within the gray areas of the criminal life and so I suppose all the authors I’ve chosen have that in common that they’re trying to find a truth and I think that’s really indicative of most crime in mystery fiction even though they operate in a world that’s very murky as far as morals and so on the you know the crime world is a very murky world but the truth has to be found in order to confront those issues of life and death and I started talking about so what is the first book that you’d like to talk about well it’s Jean Redmond JM Redmond she rights under the name JM Redmond and she writes the Mickey Knight series and there’s a number of them I think there’s at this point six or eight or nine or something like that but my favorite actually is the most recent a girl on the edge of summer and Mickey Knight is a private investigator in New Orleans always an interesting place to be I mean right right there and then you have this fascinating miliar of New Orleans this big city that’s southern and atmospheric and has a lot of texture and very romantic and you know all of those wonderful luscious things about New Orleans palm trees and all of that sort of thing jazz and what happened I’m not to mention sticky hot weather you know all of this adds to them to the environment that Nikki night finds herself operating in and over the course of her adult life through the book she’s had a severe drinking problem and you know this this adds to her own inner turmoil of her life and her friends have tried to you know rally her and so on in it plays havoc with her love life with her finances and with a career in girl on the edge of summer I like the dual track that Jean has set up of the trying to figure out a hundred-year-old murder and a contemporary track of trying to understand the suicide of a young girl and these two tracks together just you know they they parallel each other they interweave they play havoc with Mickey Knight’s soul and as always with Jean Redman you get this great writing this crisp edgy with great rhythm all of it set in New Orleans in this very rich and textured milieu yeah you know she really sets it up beautifully you can really get lost in the atmosphere and I and I really enjoy how she treats Miki and all of her issues that need that haunt her and so she brings this haunted sense of self into her own searches for the truth of the cases that she’s working on and the the the sensitivity that Jean Redmond has towards her towards her private investigator and the humanity of the of the people involved in the crime of the victims of the pursuers there’s a lot of humanity in in jeans books and that she really just pulls it off brilliantly so for the moment my favorite one is girl on the edge of summer though I have to admit I’m a big fan of the whole Mickey Knight series but but this one the most recent one she somehow reached another plateau of writing she’s kicked up her own talents in a way which is you know really remarkable so that’s what I that’s family feel about Jean Ravens girl on the edge of summer and I just urge everybody to brush right out and buy it and read it given that it’s at the tail end of the series or it’s or it’s the current latest and I assume is an ongoing series can it be read as a standalone novel or do you have to have read the others no it can absolutely be read as a standalone most most good writers whether they’re crime writers or anything else most good series writers will catch you up I mean you know we love it if you buy all of our books but we understand that you know you may come in in the middle or the most recent or whatnot and most really good crime writers at which Jean Redmond is you know one of the premier crime fiction writers we will catch you up you know we will not leave you hanging so yes any one of these books that I’m recommend and they’re all serious books but any one of them including mine can be read as a standalone and you won’t feel as if you’re floundering around in the characters backstory you will be right along with he or she you know right there going along with it so yes please read girl on the edge of summer and then you can go back and start reading the first of jeans books absolutely so wonderful so what is the next book that you want to talk about the next book is Stephanie – eul’s Sid Rubin series she only has two out right now with the third coming very soon I think in January something like that but shortly or maybe even soon in the January but very shortly but I particularly liked her second one zero-sum game where she has her her main character what what what what Stephanie calls her her you know lesbionic Brainiac the Sidonie Reuben you know off on her second adventure and I like the second books somewhat better than the first even though the first was highly successful in it you know prompted me to to read the second she you know in the first gene produces Sid and her posse of nerd computer nerd house cyber nerd house but in the second one I think Stephanie got deeper into SIDS world and Sid soul and and we and we the the posse that she has I think she sort of put it all together slightly more cohesively than she did in the first and that’s to be expected you know she knew her characters better and you know the writer knows their characters better after they finish their first book so I really like zero-sum game a lot and Sidonie Rubin I mean she’s really one in a million she’s brilliant she’s gutsy in many ways she’s the teenager I wished I was instead of the you know sort of imbecilic sort of quad that I was Sid Rubin really is sort of the teenage girl I wish I was and together with her high school pals in in this new one in in zero sum game she’s not afraid to risk the dangers the dark web in this book they they get involved in the underbelly of the internet the dark web and the crime that’s on the dark web and she gets involved in that to save another teenager’s life and also save the reputation and the hard work of one of her friends who is a gamer and one of the dark web crowd has stolen all of this fellows as young man’s gaming points and you know something he’s worked very hard to achieve in which he’s you know trying to win things and a goal and and so on and through this gaming culture that of course is completely foreign to me since I’m a you know a cyber imbecile Sidonie and her crowd has really brought me into the excitement that the younger people feel in the sniper world and Stephanie’s really don’t here homework she has immersed herself into the cyber world and become quite expert and at translating this world for those of us who are not part of that world who you know are happy we can write an email he steps really steps really brought it clarity for me as a reader through Sid and I just adore Sid as a character the idea of this brilliant teenager and her friends fighting crime in a modern method through the internet other than the more traditional ways of you know hitting the streets and police procedurals and shooting people and all of that you know interviewing people Sid and her friends get involved in the modern world because they are modern teenagers and that’s really refreshing I mean you know how super is that I learned a lot about how do you computer positions from reading zero-sum game so I highly recommend it and you know I read it I am hardly a teenager anymore and yet I found myself turning pages but if you have access to teenagers put this book in their hands absolutely it will give a lot of uplift to a lot of kids especially you know young kids who are trying to come out and so on it will give them a lot of confidence that they’re not alone and that their world that they are part of the world of Sid and her compatriots so I highly recommend zero sum game by Stephanie – you’ll absolutely mm-hmm I agree with you I read both of these books and I thought they were wonderful and some people might be tempted not to read it just because it’s also why a but yeah I would also say it’s very different from a lot of other why and I think it is because it is that like it’s a it’s a mystery and it’s you know they’re they’re researching crimes right and it delves into all these other things that it’s not about you know two 16 year olds falling in love right it’s very yes it is very confident she’s already out and her friends accept it and anybody who doesn’t accept it well that’s too bad and I like that attitude in her in that she is confident in herself her struggles are you know she also has the typical teenage struggles of what to do in life and Who am I and what am I going to do and what am I going to be but as far as her sexuality the person she is she makes no apologies for it and I think more young people especially young questioning LGBTQ youngsters will find a lot of comfort in Sid Rubin because she’s so confident in herself and she does have a love interest and it may or may not work out and all of that you know but as far as who she is and being pride of proud of that in the world she’s there and she can give that confidence to other young readers who may be struggling with that identity so Bravo for Reuben and her creators Stephanie to you all thank you for being an awesome listen and supporting to the channel that brings you all the podcasts you want to hear analyst need to talk find more podcasts on the Lisbon talk-show calm so what is your next book the next book is by Ali Valley and she is the author of the king KC series and I love Kane Kane Kane KC is not your average crime solver unlike most crime solvers Kane was brought up in a criminal family in a mom tuck family and she was groomed from a very young age to take the reins of the family you know when she became an adult so she is now the leader of a crime family in New Orleans again we’re back in New Orleans good old place for anyone you know there’s something about New Orleans and crime I guess between Jean Redman in La Valle so here’s Kane Casey who you know was the head of a crime family and she is not afraid to mix it up you know she she’s not afraid of little violence she grew up with it and so on she’s also charming but she’s absolutely wonderful she you know she’s she’s very much in love and so on with Emma Verde and who was a farm girl a girl from a Wisconsin Wisconsin farm very different background and so I love the whole Kane KC series but what really set it up for me was her first book The Devil Inside where it just hit me in the face this wonderful criminal who’s being groomed you know to to to take care of a crime family and you know she’s being groomed to be tough to be violent and it just it just really spoke to me because of the way that I ride I suppose you know we’re with Cantor gold she’s a thief and a smuggler and she solves crimes by living outside the law so came Casey for me is sort of cantor gold’s new orleans modern sister and i just love it there’s crime and there’s danger there’s you know there’s the love of family there’s trying to balance the idea of family and crime and her great and deep love for Emma who’s from an entirely different world you know a more passive world and Kali really knows how to navigate those strains and to bring us inside Kane’s great spirit okay in case he has a wonderful spirit she can be funny she can be charming she can be dangerous do not cross her or any of her family and you know and yet she takes us on this wonderful tour this wonderful adventure of New Orleans again like like Jean Redman but a different side of New Orleans you know darker side of of New Orleans a very juicy side of New Orleans I just love reading a low valleys stuff I mean Ally also writes romances and so on but to me her crime stories hurricane Casey work are gems they really contribute to the genre in highly dynamic ways I mean Jean Redman as I said you know is a brilliant writer but they’re more traditional and that you know their traditional private investigation stories the ice stories alleys cane Casey is a unique character and I just love ally for for creating her absolutely adore this character so everybody should rush right out and start reading the cane Casey series and start with book one The Devil Inside believe me you won’t be sorry you’ll be going on a real adventure and what else is reading but an adventure so that’s how I feel about Ally Valley is that series still ongoing or has she finished it I believe it’s still ongoing I’m pretty sure that it’s still ongoing I know she said she sort of takes time out to write other genres to write you know romance and some military things and so on I believe it’s still ongoing she did have one that was published I believe in not terribly long ago I don’t really know exactly the date yeah what’s in the last couple of years yeah so I believe that it’s still ongoing but you know how far along she wants to take it I don’t know yes she had something that came out last year in 2018 heart of the devil that’s her most recent and which I haven’t read yet sorry to say but I said I’m most absolutely certainly will because I’m crazy about this character absolutely crazy about Kane Kasich but for the moment the first one the devil inside just really left out at me so I urge everybody to rush right out and start the Kane KC adventure with the devil inside and then read the rest of them as well so you imagine that you had three books which you just got and that you have one author so who is that oh yeah when you’re talking about lesbian crime fiction or a lesbian who writes crime fiction you can’t not talk about Patricia Highsmith even though she didn’t her only lesbian book of course was the price of salt which we know it’s almost Carole which is a romance she did write crime fiction the most famous of them of course being you know the mr. Ripley series and but in her books the LGBTQ crew thread that runs through them is unmistakable and so you know I have to honor Patricia Highsmith even though she did not write specifically lesbian crime fiction but you know there’s no ignoring her she was a brilliant writer that mr. Ripley books the talented mr. Ripley which was the first one of course and the others that followed Ripley underground and whatnot you know they’re just they’re homoerotic to say the least so she did deal with queer issues and some people tend to think that even though she she made it home Radek dealing with you know male passion in in a subliminal way that it was actually a cover for her own female passion as a lesbian well that can be debated neither here nor there but as as crime fiction with an LGBT to undertone it’s brilliant and then of course strangers on a train is highly homoerotic and again there’s question about whether she was sort of hiding behind the male persona to discuss to discuss to her own lesbian feelings and lesbian affairs and of course it was made into a brilliant motion picture by Alfred Hitchcock and when reading Patricia Highsmith there’s you know every author writes from their voice from their world from their life experience so Patricia Highsmith being a lesbian there’s no way that you can dismiss that she wrote from a lesbian perspective or a lesbian experience even though other than the price of salt or Carole she didn’t write specifically lesbian books but that lesbian voice comes through I believe Plus just as writing I mean the woman was brilliant the poetry of her language of her rhythms is just magnificent I mean I can only aspire and to think that strangers on a train was her first novel just blows me away to think that somebody could be that complete in her voice in her vision in her ability to use language so magnificently as an as a first effort it just is astounding so in any discussion of lesbian crime writers I have to include Patricia Highsmith and I hope people will rush right out and read everything the woman has ever written whether it’s about lesbians or not in fact I think Carole or the price of salt believe it or not now boy you know please do not get the lesbian police after me to tell you the truth I think that’s her weakest it’s long it’s talky it’s redundant to me in many ways it doesn’t have the confidence the punch the excitement the rhythm of her other books I don’t think she felt as confident exposing herself as a lesbian as she did in hiding as a lesbian which is really unfortunate but her voice was stronger in her other books the best thing I can say about the price of salt you know in Carroll was that for the time it was a breakthrough in that it didn’t end with lesbian death you know boys they had to do we’re giving up the lesbian life and all of that she ended it on a happier note so that was the great breakthrough for the moment but it’s not her strongest book her other books her crime books are far stronger and you can hear the lesbian longing in them at least I do and of course I just have to include her in any discussion of lesbian authors so thank you for letting me include her in this discussion who has me in crime fiction and the thing about lesbian crime fiction from me one of the reasons I write it if I can be so bald and by having my character be outside the law you know she’s an art faith and smuggler is because for many many years to be gay to be lesbian was to be outside the law and it’s only you know within it’s only very recently that we’ve gotten here in America you know arms our rights and even now they’re still they’re threatened you know and we don’t have rights completely and we don’t have rights worldwide and we still have subject to gay bashing and so on and so forth being fired and what-have-you so writing about crime for me allows a lesbian voice to say no I’m not living that way and to take control of her own as be in life in the face of a law that dams her and I think a lot of other lesbian authors Ally for sure and even Jean Redman writing more traditional books and so on and certainly Stephanie who you know his character since it real been just as confident in her lesbianism I think a lot of crime writers use crime or the fighting of crime you know use the criminal world as a way of taking back control of our lives of our lesbian life in a world that makes us illegitimate to start with so what better place to talk about controlling our own lives then in in a realm of fiction and realm of crime where we’re dealing with illegitimate see to start with and so for me writing crime fiction is is is is a very honest lesbian voice and you know you know if you don’t mind me saying so you know you know in a market that is overwhelmingly prefer you know overwhelmingly flooded with with with romance novels I hope that your listeners hear Mike Lee its crime writers to expand their reading horizons and please give lesbian crime fiction a read my book certainly you know baby need new shoes baby being me my books but also the books that I that I mentioned have the authors that I mentioned Stephanie do you oh la vallee Jeanne Redmond and of course the same thing Patricia Highsmith I Smith give us a read you the adventures that await you will enrich your life I don’t know what they won’t change your life it might good if it does but it certainly will enrich your life you’ll go on an adventure and what what can you ask of a book then to go on an adventure yeah that’s a great point the reason why I love doing episodes like these or I’ve had a few authors that operate mainly in the sci-fi area right is to challenge the notion that all less Vic is romance because I do think we have something kind of almost bizarre happening where let’s pick is it’s kind of like a little indie publishing industry that’s the larger publishing industry in miniature right exactly I think I agree yeah so much like the larger publishing industry where romance drives the bulk of the sales which isn’t to say that you know other authors aren’t doing well because there are many who are it happens here but because the because it’s smaller it ends up looking like romance is everything and I think that’s really a shame because we have so many talented authors and so many amazing books coming out and all the other subgenres whether it is crime or sci-fi or even just like literary fiction or general fiction and historical and they’re not necessarily getting their due so that even if they are being read I sometimes see negative reviews on Goodreads where they say well this wasn’t a satisfying romance right exactly happened to me and to every crime writer I know absolutely mm-hmm yeah and it’s it’s a shame yeah it’s absolutely a shame and I if I can pick up on a point you mentioned when you you mentioned literary fiction I have a real problem with the title literary fiction if there’s something sniffy about it and that it tends to sound like it denigrates the genre writers when in fact just as much art and craft goes into crime writing as it does go into so-called literary fiction the other thing is as and as I mentioned in conversation the classic American crime writers Raymond Chandler James Cain Dashiell Hammett these folks are now being taught in literature classes in English literature classes their contribution to English speaking letters is finally being recognized for the brilliant writers that they were the other thing is for you know if I can stick up for crime writing when you write you know general fiction you know I prefer to call it general fiction as opposed to literary fiction because I consider myself a writer of literature thank you very much but in any event when you write crime fiction as opposed to general fiction in general fiction you can wander around in all kinds of places which you can do in crime writing too but when you get to the end of the book you can be obscure you know you can be you can leave people hanging you can make people wonder you can leave people to figure out something for themselves and that’s fine but you don’t have to tie it all together in crime writing unless you have a satisfying ending unless you you tell the people who done it in a believable way or tie up all those threads that you’ve explored in your book all those dark streets you’ve gone down all those mysteries you’ve bumped into if you don’t tie it all up you’re sunk so that you’ve needed you know you need an additional skill there that’s so-called literary fiction general fiction people don’t have to do now don’t get me wrong it’s not like I’m putting down authors who write general fiction they’re you know they’re brilliant authors out there but they don’t have to do what I have to do in order for my story to succeed and yet we both both the general fiction writers and crime fiction writers and for that matter romance writers have to write good literature or it’s all going to fall apart if that’s an author you’re not interested in in whatever genre you write if you’re not interested in writing good literature boy the lesbian community is going to come after me if you’re not interested in writing good literature please don’t mmm-hmm most of us work very hard to to give poetry to our words whether we’re writing sci-fi or crime or romance or you know erotica whatever it is a good literature matters it enriches people’s experience it enriches people’s lives and you know I just can’t wish enough for the strength of good crime writing to be on the radar of your readers and so on well there you go folks you’ve got some recommendations and I I can’t agree more with any of what you just said thank you and thank you for this opportunity to sound off on my favorite subject Chris I’m writing where can people find you online if they’d like to connect with you I am on Facebook in two places as an app taker or an app taker author I am on WordPress I write the occasional blog just an app tagger and of course on Twitter you know and I’ve taker and you can find me on Instagram just use my name you know Google me and there I am that is all for this episode thank you so much for joining me thank you very much and everybody out there more crime fiction the better thanks Tara I’m Tara and you’ve been listening to Les Deux books you can email me at Tara at the lesbian or you calm with your questions or comments if you’re an author who’s interested in joining me on the show to talk about the last week you love are the trends that have you interested please let me know if you’ve enjoyed this episode please check out the show notes where you’ll find a patreon link for tilt or visit patreon.com slash the lesbian talk show where patrons get exclusive content with bonus podcasts that no one else gets access to to find this and many other great shows all you need to do is search for till tip spelled TLT on iTunes Parveen stitcher or Spotify