by Ann Aptaker
In the world of Lesfic, I could make a lot more money if I wrote romances. But I wouldn’t have as much fun. In real life, we can fall in love, we can fall out of love, and though love can be a high-wire thrill, and a broken heart can feel like death by murder, you won’t be arrested for telling your wife or lover goodbye, or even wishing that no-good, lyin’, cheatin’, two-faced woman dead.
In real life, you will be hunted and arrested for killing someone, or for stealing, or punished in some other fashion (ostracized, shamed, etc.) for a number of naughty things the Law, or our religious teachings, or our parents, tell us we’re not allowed to do. Adultery? Shame on her! Stealing? Lock her up and throw away the key! Prostitution? Take her kids away along with her liberty. Though it’s true that the reasons people commit these crimes are sometimes brought out in court, and some defendants may even be exonerated due to “mitigating circumstances,” many defendants, particularly those without lots of money or even basic bail, are frequently in jail for quite some time until trial, guilty or not. And those jails are notorious for their brutality. Rikers Island here in New York is a choice example. Brutalized people often come out more criminalized than when they went in, if they were even criminals at all when they were jailed.
Now, I’m not here to argue that killers, muggers, and other miscreants shouldn’t be in jail. I’m here as an author who writes fiction. Though fiction might mirror real life, it doesn’t have to be faithful to real life. Or, as in the case of my Cantor Gold crime series, it can turn real life inside out. Fiction writers can do whatever the hell we want. The story doesn’t have to be a literal truth. It has to have it’s own truth, lived by characters in situations the author must make believable…which is where the fun comes in.
As an author of crime fiction featuring a protagonist who is herself a criminal (art thief and smuggler in 1950s New York City), I have lots of fun devising crimes she —and her associates— get away with, or grieve over. That last bit is important. My protagonist, Cantor Gold, and her associates Rosie Bliss and Judson Zane, are outlaws, not monsters. And though Cantor must do morally questionable things in order to survive, or to maintain her freedom, she can’t escape the pain of her choices, or their consequences. It’s that soulfulness which makes her human, makes her believable. That soulfulness endows her with a heroic streak. And who doesn’t love a hero?
Don’t get me wrong; Cantor doesn’t agonize and rend her garments over the choices she must make: Pull the trigger? Not pull the trigger? Dump a body in the ocean? Have a one-night stand with a pretty woman and say toodle-oo before it’s even morning? Cantor won’t kvetch over any of it. That kind of self-involved brooding would be no fun to write at all! Cantor does what she needs to do, and by accepting the consequences, or just the risk of consequences, she is free of the fear of them. In real life, the rest of us aren’t so lucky. We worry about getting caught for every little thing: do I have the change for the parking meter or will I get a ticket? Did I report every nickel and dime to the tax people or will I be audited? I’m running late, I’m minding the kids/caught in traffic/the subway or bus is off schedule; will I be docked any desperately needed pay? Fired? Will I be stopped and frisked by the police for having the wrong skin color? Or for wearing the “wrongly” gendered clothes? In other words, in our real lives, daily existence is sometimes an annoying series of “don’ts” and “not alloweds,” with consequences ranging from the merely irritating to the tragic —fines, dismissals, incarcerations— for transgression. It’s exhausting.
Crime fiction, at least the kind I write in the Cantor Gold crime series, blurs the line between good and evil, moral and immoral. I tell the story of people who do what they need to do to survive, which, to one degree or another, is all of us. Because let’s face it: right and wrong, moral and immoral, have very different meanings if poverty takes food from your table and the roof over your head, or you’re faced with rotten circumstances not of your own making and the “system,” or those in authority at your job, your school, your neighborhood, only make things worse. And though —or even because— Cantor Gold exists only in fiction, as the author I can reference these familiar injustices without being preachy. I can let Cantor just take you to the other side of the equation, while giving you the exciting, page-turning adventure you shelled out your hard earned money for.
So, as Cantor Gold says, she likes to “stick a finger in the Law’s eye.” It’s fun for me to let her do it. I hope it’s fun for you to read it. And if you still want romance, well, fall in love a little with Cantor Gold. She’s dapper, she’s daring, and she’s one hell of an exciting date.
TARNISHED GOLD 2016 Lammy Award Finalist,Book Two in the Cantor Gold Crime Series
CRIMINAL GOLD Goldie Award 2015 Finalist, Debut Author
GENUINE GOLD Releasing January 2017
Bold Strokes Books
Facebook: Ann Aptaker, Author