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J(ames) "Jim" Madison Davis

Question: Why crime mystery?

J.M. Davis: I enjoyed crime stories and television as a child, especially the Perry Mason television series and books, Charlie Chan, The Saint, Sherlock Holmes, the Hardy Boys. Later I became too "sophisticated" and thought of these things as childish. Fortunately, I came to my senses. I think I enjoy most the game of figuring out what is really behind people's behavior. It's not the puzzle of the crime that interests me; it is the puzzle of the heart. Crime exposes the heart because it subjects us to stress.

Q: Do you know German crime fiction?

J.M. Davis: I do not know German crime fiction well. Although I studied German in school, I cannot read it fluently and must read it in translation. Most of the German crime fiction I have read is of the more hard-edged, more recent variety.

Q: If so, what do German crime mysteries mean to you?

J.M. Davis: German crime fiction has a distinctive national quality, I think, which is not unique to Germany and not characteristic of all German crime writers, but seems to me a consistent background theme. I think it is more honest about the cruelty and ambiguity of crime. The line between good and evil is not drawn as clearly as in much American crime writing. It is darker to me than most American crime fiction and therefore more realistic. For me, it says more about the nature of the human condition. This is the feeling I get from most of the German crime fiction I have read.

Q: Do you think, German crime fiction can compete with international crime fiction?

J.M. Davis: The poet W. H. Auden once commented that poetry is not a horse race. Crime writing is not a competition. Putting that aside, however: Oh, yes, the crime fiction of Germany is as good as any nation's. The question of competing is more about individuals than national origin. It may be more difficult, for reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of writing, for German writers to enter the American market. And some writers may be so distinctly German that it is hard for other cultures to appreciate them, but there are American writers who are so American in culture that they are hard to understand elsewhere. When an individual writer, however, reveals the universal qualities of humanity, there are only technical and commercial impediments to their competing.

Q: Which author is overrated?

J.M. Davis: I won't win many friends by saying I think Agatha Christie is overrated, but I do. Even if her books are entertaining (they do make good films), they are as shallow as the sweat on my forehead in winter. Most best sellers are overrated as to the quality of the writing, but it is other qualities than the writing itself which are important for best sellers. Unfortunately many of the literary writers in the United States are horribly overrated, boring and pompous and not very clever tricksters. I could make a long list of overrated authors and books, but why give them publicity?

Q: Which author is underrated?

J.M. Davis: Michael Dibden is brilliant. I read him at every chance. Although I am not interested in the supernatural, Stephen King is very skilled at emotional expression, much better than he is given credit for. I hate questions like these. There are many underrated writers and I always forget someone I should have mentioned.

Q: Crime mystery – is it literature?

J.M. Davis: When we say "literature" we mean one of two things: all literary works, or we mean only quality literary works. Crime and mystery writing can be low quality or high quality. It constitutes literature, and the small part of it that is high quality is part of "literature" when we mean high quality writing. Genres are arbitrary designations, based on fluid definitions.

Q: How did you get into crime mysteries?

J.M. Davis: I was trying hard to be a "literary" writer, but I got an idea for a crime novel, "The Murder of Frau Schütz". It was accepted and published and I read more crime fiction. I recognized that there was as much quality in crime writing as in any other type of writing. Maybe more! I was no longer arrogant about "literary" writing.

Q: What is your favourite murder weapon?

J.M. Davis: Hate. The weapon in a story is a detail. It is the heart of the murderer that matters.

Q: Murder – is it necessary?

J.M. Davis: No, but murder is the greatest crime, so it naturally is the primary subject of crime writing. Perhaps it takes a more skilled writer to make crimes other than murder as compelling.

Q: Why do you write?

J.M. Davis: It is more fun than watching television. To tell the truth, I don't know. I enjoy giving pleasure to others with my books. I feel I know something about what I am doing when I am writing. But writing is mainly who I am and what I do.

Q: Are your crime books set in the present?

J.M. Davis: They vary, but I enjoy writing historical settings and trying to make them closer to the reality as I envisage it. Many historical novels are far too stagy and unreal.

Q: Where would you choose the setting?

J.M. Davis: I vary this, too. I have used many places. It makes it more interesting for me.

Q: What do food and drink mean to you?

J.M. Davis: An appreciation of good food and drink is essential to a good life.

Q: Sex in crime?

J.M. Davis: Sex is a part of life and almost always a part of crime and therefore should be part of crime writing. On the other hand, unnecessary sex can damage a book the same way that unnecessary violence or wordiness can.

Q: If so, why?

J.M. Davis: – – –

Q: If not, why?

J.M. Davis: – – –

Q: Is there "female"crime?

J.M. Davis: There are as many varieties of crime as there are individuals. There is much more variation within groups than there is between groups.

Q: For whom do you write?

J.M. Davis: I like to think about my father, an intelligent but largely uneducated man who appreciated good books and was open to ideas. He also had a good nose for the pompous and the phony. Although he died before my first novel came out, I am still writing for him.

Q: Plot development – your first thoughts?

J.M. Davis: I am with Aristotle on this. A good plot is the most necessary element of a play, novel, or film. Good plotting is related to characterization, of course, but the lack of a good plot makes everything else boring. A plot can develop psychologically, not just with action, but it must be there.

Q: Do you make any notes and where do you get your ideas from?

J.M. Davis: I make many notes and do a sketchy outline. I need the comfort of knowing where a journey ends and create a map for the trip.
Ideas for stories are everywhere. If you know how to look, you will see them.

Q: Where do you write?

J.M. Davis: In an office in my home.

Q: Does the PC hinder your writing?

J.M. Davis: I am a very poor typist. I use only two fingers. Without the PC I would have had great difficulty becoming a writer. I bought a PC almost as soon as they were available.

Q: Your favourite book as a child?

J.M. Davis: I liked the Tom Swift books-Swift was a boy scientist---, later "Ivanhoe" by Walter Scott was a favourite.

Q: Your favourite book today?

J.M. Davis: So many! Robert Fagles' translation of "The Iliad". "One Hundred Years of Solitude" by Garcia Marquez. And always Shakespeare.

Q: Your favourite male/female crime writer?

J.M. Davis: Living: Michael Dibden, Walter Mosley. Dead: Raymond Chandler.
The women authors I most enjoy are Patricia Highsmith, Val McDermid, and J. Wallis Martin, but, as with the men, there are many others. Susan Moody, Barbara Gregorich, Laurie King. I know I'm forgetting many.

Q: Your favourite movie?

J.M. Davis: Absolutely, "Casablanca". The best recent crime movie I've seen is "Mystic River".

Q: Your favourite drink?

J.M. Davis: Good red wine.

Q: Do you cook?

J.M. Davis: Too well, I'm afraid. It doesn't help my waist size and I get far too many guests showing up at dinner time.

Q: Do you go out to eat, if so where?

J.M. Davis: Lately, the restaurants I like best have been closing! But I like particular Thai, Indian, and Italian restaurants in the area, as well as a French bakery (run by Lebanese immigrants) in Norman (Oklahoma, Anm. TP). We also have a restaurant called Royal Bavaria which is in a chalet in the country, serves German food and brews its own beer. I go there often, as well.

Q: What is your favourite item of clothing?

J.M. Davis: An expensive shirt. I used to reward myself for a book publication by buying an expensive shirt. That should tell you how much money I'm making by writing!

Q: Soccer – is this a topic for you?

J.M. Davis: In Oklahoma, soccer is the sport for children who can't play American football because they are not big or stupid enough. But I enjoy soccer very much. I love the moment just when you can see something important is about to happen. Not the goal itself, but the second before.

Q: Women/men – is it important to you?

J.M. Davis: Am I dead? I adore women, especially intelligent or talented women.

Q: What is your favourite city in your country?

J.M. Davis: New York City. I love its variety, toughness, straightforwardness. If a New Yorker doesn't like something, he will tell you!

Q: Your favourite country?

J.M. Davis: This is a difficult question. It is like trying to choose among former lovers. I've enjoyed my time in every place I've been. England I have particularly fond memories of. But Italy, Spain, Germany, Canada, Mexico, even the old Yugoslavia have all been a pleasure, each in its own way. Paris, the only part of France I have been in, was more wonderful than its reputation.

I suppose I should say my own country, but lately it seems to me to have lost the sense of its true values. It's like a brother who has been drinking too much in a bar and is staggering and saying obnoxious things and falling against other tables. You still love him, but he's nonetheless embarrassing when he's not himself.

Q: What do you love?

J.M. Davis: Beethoven, old songs. Discovering a great book. Seeing things in a new way.

Q: What do you detest?

J.M.: Davis: Bad writing. Cruelty. Prideful stupidity. People who think they've got it all figured out.

Q: Best school result – in what?

J.M. Davis: World history. Science. I won an award for acting and was a very good runner.

Q: Worst school result – in what and why?

J.M. Davis: Wood shop. Metal shop. Mechanical drawing. I was too much of a bookworm to do well at these kinds of things.

Q: Your dream job?

J.M. Davis: Writing full time.

Q: Do you have any idea why you answered this list of questions?

J.M. Davis: How often does someone get to natter on about himself?

J(ames) "Jim" Madison Davis
Geboren in Charlottesville, Virginia, aufgewachsen in Washington, D.C. Nach verschiedenen Universitätsabschlüssen (B.A. in Anthropologie, University of Maryland; M.A. in The Writing Seminars, Johns Hopkins University / Ph.D. in Englisch, University of Southern Mississippi), arbeitet J. Madison Davis jetzt als verantwortlicher Professor des "Professional Writing Program" am Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication der University of Oklahoma.

Neben zahlreichen Kriminalromanen und Kurzkrimis kann Jim Madison Davis eine umfangreiche Publikationsliste u.a. auch im Bereich der Sekundärliteratur zur Kriminalliteratur vorweisen. Einige seiner Kriminalromane und Kurzkrimis liegen als Übersetzungen in Deutschland, Italien, Japan, und den Niederlanden vor.

1988 erhielt er den Edgar Allan Poe Award in der Kategorie "Best First – Scroll Award". 1992 und 1996 wurde er mit dem Oklahoma Book Award, Kategorie Roman, ausgezeichnet.


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Die Kriminalromane:

1988, The Murder of Frau Schütz. Walker
1990, White Rook. Walker
1991, Bloody Marko. Walker
1992, Red Knight. Walker
1996, And the Angels Sing. Permanent Press
2000, Alfred Hitchcock in The Vertigo Murders. Ibooks (Simon and Schuster)
2004, Law and Order: Dead Line. Ibooks (Simon and Schuster)
2005, The Van Gogh Conspiracy. Ibooks

Die Krimikurzgeschichten:
1975, L'Education d'un jeune homme
1978, Zero Degrees Latitude
1979, Misty Blue
1980, Comrade Doh
1981, Fortress
1983, Mystery
1984, Nicholson's Aunt
1990, The Baron and the Priest
1994, The Measure of His Guilt
1994, There's Something Wrong Out There
1996, Hazardous Waste
1996, The Place Where Bad People Go
1999, Sixty-Four Squares

Die Sekundärliteratur:
1990, Criminal Politics. Mystery Readers Journal, Vol. 6, No. 3
1990, Women in Dick Francis. Clues – A Journal of Detection, Vol. 11, No. 1
1991, Mysteries for the Holidays. Drod Review, No. 11
1995, Strange Coincidences. Border Patrol, Fall/Winter
1995, The Third Degree. Reflections in a Private Eye. Red Herrings
1996, Grand Master Dick Francis, 1996 Edgar Allan Poe Award. New York Times v. 21.4.1996
1996, Just Plain New Orleans. Mystery Readers Journal, Vol. 12, No. 2
1999, Dick Francis. Never Forgetting the Falls.
2001, The Sopranos, Season II, or the Tragedy of Richie, Duke of Aprile, and His Contention with the House of Soprano, The New York Times on The Sopranos, 2nd edition.
2003, Tony Soprano, American Hero. The New York Times on The Sopranos, 3rd edition.
2004, Tough Guys with Long Legs. The Global Popularity of the Hard-Boiled Style. World Literature Today, January/April
2004, Tough Guys with Long Legs. The Global Popularity of the Hard-Boiled Style. BoKAS Serie No. 1

Stand: 30.7.2003

© Gisela Lehmer-Kerkloh & Thomas Przybilka

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Die Befragenden:

Gisela Lehmer-Kerkloh rezensiert Kriminalliteratur. Sie ist Mitglied bei den Sisters in Crime, bei der GVM (Genootschap van Vlaamse Misdaadauteurs), sowie Amiga im Syndikat.
Bei den Alligatorpapieren veröffentlicht sie regelmäßig ihren "Krimi-Kurier" Letzte Buchveröffentlichung:
Siggi Baumeister oder: Eine Verfolgung quer durch die Eifel. Die Eifelkrimis des Jacques Berndorf.
84 S., 2001; EUR 10,50
NordPark Verlag

Thomas Przybilka verdient seinen Lebensunterhalt als Buchhändler. Er ist langjähriges Mitglied der "Autorengruppe Deutschsprachige Kriminalliteratur Das Syndikat". 1989 baute er das international bekannte "Bonner Krimi Archiv (Sekundärliteratur)" [BOKAS] auf. Bei den Alligatorpapieren veröffentlicht er regelmäßig seine "Krimi-Tipps zur Sekundärliteratur zum Krimi." Zahlreiche Publikationen zur Kriminalliteratur in Fachanthologien und -magazinen im In- und Ausland. Kriminalgeschichten in Deutschland, Bulgarien und Spanien. Letzte Buchveröffentlichung:
Siggi Baumeister oder: Eine Verfolgung quer durch die Eifel. Die Eifelkrimis des Jacques Berndorf.
84 S., 2001; EUR 10,50
NordPark Verlag

Die Befragungen von Gisela Lehmer-Kerkloh und Thomas Przybilka
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