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Micky, You So Fine 

After a 10-year absence, J.M. Redmann is back with a fifth novel featuring P.I. Micky Knight

7th annual saints & sinners literary Festival

thu.-Sun., may 14-17

French Quarter; VARIOUS LOCATIONS; WWW.SASFEST.ORG

click to enlarge "I started writing the kind of books I wanted to read," J.M. Redmann - says, "and it's just taken off from there." - PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
  • Photo by Cheryl Gerber
  • "I started writing the kind of books I wanted to read," J.M. Redmann says, "and it's just taken off from there."
The last time private eye Michele 'Micky' Knight walked the streets of New Orleans, Marc Morial was mayor and Mike Ditka was the Saints' coach. Her creator, J.M. Redmann, published four popular Knight mysteries in the 1990s, but now, after a 10-year absence during which the author attempted to launch a new mystery series (two completed novels, still unpublished), the tough-talking, sardonic and troubled Micky is back in a new French Quarter adventure, Death of a Dying Man.

  "I had always intended to go back to Micky," Redmann says, "and I had 10 chapters done before Katrina hit ... which changed everything. This was no longer the city I was writing about."

  The storm comes midway through Dying Man, as the P.I. is trying to unravel a mystery involving a wealthy, well-known and terminally ill bar owner someone is trying to kill. As Katrina approaches in the Gulf, Micky joins the exodus out the city, but can't let the case drop. She solves the case, of course, but Dying Man ends just after the storm on several notes of uncertainty — for Micky, for her longtime relationship with her partner Cordelia, and for the future of the city.

  "It had to be a dark book — there was so much lost [after Katrina]," says Redmann, who will be signing books and appearing on at least one panel (time and place TBA) at the gay- and lesbian-themed Saints & Sinners Literary Festival May 14-17.

  A Marigny resident, Redmann (known to friends and coworkers simply as Jean) grew up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and studied at Vassar before settling in New Orleans, where she began writing about the city through the lens of a smart-mouthed, half-Cajun private eye who just happened to be a woman.

  When Micky first appeared in Death By the Riverside, it was 1990, and female P.I.s — Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone, Sara Paretsky's V.I. Warshawski — were still a new phenomenon on the bestseller lists. Good reviews and strong sales led to a major publishing deal for Redmann's third and fourth books, The Intersection of Law and Desire and Lost Daughters, as well as several foreign editions (Redmann proved particularly popular in Germany and Holland). At the time, the San Francisco Chronicle called Micky "one of the most hardboiled and complex female detectives in print today"; Booklist compared Redmann to Raymond Chandler.

  With Dying Man, she's returning to small-house publishing. At Saints & Sinners, she'll be on a panel with a publisher and editor, discussing how to navigate the new world of bookselling. Redmann now has a Web page (www.jmredmann.com), and her four previous books are all back in print and have even been digitized as downloadable e-books. And she's still popular overseas.   

  "The other day, I got an email from someone in one of the Something-stans," Redmann says, laughing. "It's a great thing for writers and readers — being able to download a book with the touch of a button."

  For years, Redmann has been the director of prevention at the NO/AIDS Task Force, a job she says she loves. With her schedule, will it be another 10 years before Micky Knight returns? "No. I'm already 10,000 words into the next one," Redmann says. "It takes place in the months right after Katrina, and it should be out in a year or so."

click to enlarge PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
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