Ann Aptaker

Hello all! This week, I am happy to welcome award winning author Ann Aptaker as guest this week. I have had the pleasure of meeting and spending time with Ann during the GCLS events in Arlington and more recently in Pittsburgh. She has some interesting views writing crime/mystery stories and on the impact of the reviews she receives.

I don’t write mystery and crime, but have also experienced similar reactions to reviews, similar to what Ann has. As an author, sometimes there are reviews that make me laugh or feel pleased, and there are others that make me feel bad. Once an angry reviewer found fault with one of my books. The review marked the book down not for the quality of the story, or the writing, but rather found fault with a decision one of the characters had made in the story. This reviewer was really ticked off at the main character. Although I’d much prefer accolades, I took solace that the reviewer was so involved in the story that s/he actually became incensed enough with one of my characters that it colored the entire review. Thankfully, unlike one of Ann’s reviewers, no one has insinuated I’m depraved! Thank you, Ann, for giving us insight into the power words have.

                                                             AJ Adaire

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by Ann Aptaker

Aptaker Hi Res photo

 Crime and mystery fiction, by its very nature, wanders around in the dark side of human experience. Writers of crime and mystery fiction find this dark side fascinating, not because we are perverse, but—speaking for myself, at any rate—because it offers the opportunity to examine moral ambiguities. These are my chief interests in writing crime fiction: what does someone do when faced with evil, or a life and death decision, or an unavoidable moral conundrum? Why does someone commit crime in the first place? Why do some people thrive as criminals and some do not? What is crime? What is evil? Who is evil? How far would someone go to survive?

Sometimes crime and mystery writers take heat for our narrative choices. I’ve heard everything from “Why did you have to kill off (favored character)?” to “Why did you make (favored character) the killer?” to my all time favorite “I don’t like violence in what I read,” to which I can only answer, “Then you’d better not read any Grimm’s fairytales, either.”

On the whole, I’ve been very lucky in the reception given my Cantor Gold crime series. The books have been honored with Lambda Literary and Goldie awards, and reviews have been mostly positive, either because the reviewers liked the books generally, or they enjoy Cantor as a character, or they appreciate the quality of the writing. I’m grateful for those reviews, grateful, too, that people take the time to post such encouraging words on Goodreads and Amazon and in blogs and websites. Now and then, of course, a reviewer hasn’t liked one or any of the books and have said so in their reviews. Fair enough. Cantor Gold, my dapper dyke art thief and smuggler, is not everyone’s cuppa tea. As an author, you take your lumps and accept that you can’t please everybody. After all, I don’t like every book I read, either, so I can’t expect everyone to always like mine.

But I have to admit, every so often a review pops up on Amazon or Goodreads which irritates. I have to wonder what the hell they were expecting when reading a work of crime fiction; tea and sympathy? One of these reviews dealt with a single scene in the latest book, a scene the reviewer didn’t like and objected to in rather strong terms, and then made it clear that I had a helluva nerve to write it. They came close to insinuating that as an author I am depraved.

Frankly, depravity is not one of my personal pleasures. I don’t have the stomach for it or the moral lapse to pursue it. But as a writer of crime fiction I can’t turn away from the fact that there is depravity in the world. It is one of humanity’s more despicable attributes. Nor am I afraid, as an author, to look depravity in the eye and expose the evil it can do. For that matter, exposing evil isn’t limited to crime fiction authors. The evils of depravity, violence, and cruelty can be found in works by such diverse and respected authors as Alice Walker, Margaret Atwood, Charles Dickens, Patricia Highsmith, James M. Cain, and let’s not forget Shakespeare.

On a more positive note, writing crime fiction also allows an opportunity to write characters who survive in the face of danger, characters who find their core of strength, characters who find their honor. In the case of my protagonist, Cantor Gold, she must claim all of these attributes in order to survive her milieu of the New York criminal underworld of the 1950s. But her most alluring trait, for me, is her decision to take control of her own life. At a time when being a Lesbian, a gay male or anyone on the LGBTQ+ spectrum was illegal, with jail, prison or the psycho ward looming daily, Cantor refuses to be hobbled by societal oppression. She risks all to live fully, openly, even brazenly, but authentically. I love writing this strong woman. I love having her claim her place in Lesbian fiction.

Best of all, she’s damn sexy.

Aptaker-4 book covers

Here is Ann’s contact information:

Bold Strokes Books 



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© JEN 2014