As a founder member of Mystery Women in 1997, promoting Crime Fiction has always been my passion.
Following the closure of Mystery Women, a new group was formed on 30th January 2012 promoting crime fiction.
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by Turnaround, 30 October 2014. ISBN: 978-1-6177-5239-1
an anthology of short stories focused on the experience of prisoners in U.S.
jails. With an introduction by the editor, I learned for the first time the
scale of the U.S. justice system - the U.S. locks up nearly 25% of the world’s
prison population, despite accounting for just 5% of the world population. That
means 2.2 million individuals in American prisons at any one time.
Against that background it's no wonder
that the underlying themes threaded through many of the short stories in the
anthology are of despair, loneliness and the challenges of living in an
overcrowded, heavily controlled environment. In all the narratives, the
day-to-day reality of life behind bars is described in a casual, normalised
way. There is no emphasis on the lack of privacy or prevalence of violence, for
example. These are presented by every author without exception as unremarkable,
a given, a part of prison life. Far from being glossed over, it is more that
they are simply part of the background fabric of life in prison.
A few of the authors are worth
particular mention. In Shuffle,
Christopher M Stephen subtly and sensitively explores the impact of solitary
confinement on mental health, while Foxhole
by BM Dolarman navigates the relationships between prisoners in an honest,
unstylised manner that rings all the truer for it and makes his tragic
conclusion that someday he'll end up on death row, all the more upsetting. In A Message in the Breath of Allah, there
is a sense of poetic justice as the juxtaposition of Ali F Sareini's
protagonist, Ali's faith in Allah and his contrary behaviour, seems to bring
about his own demise. The strength of his faith also creates a sense of lack of
choice, another theme that is woven throughout the anthology, perhaps particularly
true of Milk and Tea by Linda
Michelle Marquardt, whose unnamed heroine, a woman abused by her husband who
finds herself in jail for a crime passionel.
To say I enjoyed this anthology would be
misrepresenting the experience. Better would be to say that I couldn't put it
down. Some characters were naturally more sympathetic than others, but the
desolation of their experiences, equal in the eyes of the law, was moving. For
an eye-opening read that will have you questioning the role incarceration plays
in the justice system, through the words of those who have experienced it
first-hand, you couldn't do better than this.
Joyce Carol Oatesis a
recipient of the National Medal of Humanities, the National Book Critics Circle
Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, and the National Book Award. She has
written some of the most enduring fiction of our time, including the national
best sellers We Were the Mulvaneys, Blonde, and The Falls. She is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the
Humanities at Princeton University, and is the editor of New Jersey Noir.
Joanna Kennedy studied French and German at university. She works in
the aerospace industry and is a chartered marketer in the UK. She describes herself as a
voracious reader, enjoying genres as varied as crime thrillers, historical
fiction and autobiographies. Joanna lives in London. She is the daughter of crime thriller
writer Leigh Russell.