24 January 2008 0 Comments

Reviewingtheevidence.com: Omar finds best moral justification for crime fiction

The independent web-review of crime fiction, Reviewingtheevidence.com, takes note of something that I think is very important about the first of my Omar Yussef Mysteries, The Collaborator of Bethlehem, which is out now in paperback in the U.S. (In the UK, it’s title is The Bethlehem Murders.)

In her review, Yvonne Klein notes that my hero, Omar Yussef observes: “It was a mistake to believe that detection was a matter of figuring out what had happened in the past and then taking revenge for it. He understood now that it was about protecting the future from the people who committed evil and who would do so again.” Klein notes: “It’s difficult to imagine a better moral justification for crime fiction than that one.”

Crime fiction gets little respect from many reviewers and, indeed, from many of the people who read it. That’s because these books are sometimes looked upon as lacking the moral depth of so-called literary fiction, functioning merely as entertainments based around stereotypical characters. After more than a decade covering the Palestinians as a reporter, that’s how I felt about journalism — but not about crime fiction. I’ve always felt that my crime-writing heroes — from Chandler and Hammett to Greene and Camilleri — have much more to say about a society’s moral direction than any other literary genre, because their starting point is the biggest transgression of our moral code: murder.

In writing my novels, I want Omar to keep a clear moral purpose both as an amateur detective and a schoolteacher — to work for the improvement of a devastated Palestinian society and for the future of his beloved granddaughter, and all other Palestinian children. I’m happy that Reviewingtheevidence.com picked up on that.

Here’s what Klein writes: “Through all this, Omar Yussef, an ordinary man in many respects, retains an extraordinary decency and an unshakable belief, bolstered by neither religion nor political commitment, that what he does matters. In this way, the novel forms part of that small but valiant sub-genre of crime novels that, like Dan Fesperman’s Bosnian stories, insists that even when violent death is commonplace and almost unremarked, murder cannot be overlooked.”

For the full review: http://www.reviewingtheevidence.com/review.html?id=7220

Leave a Reply