Tag Archives: racism

Acts of Violence by Ryan David Jahn – a review

My latest read was Acts of Violence by Ryan David Jahn, and I can honestly say it was one of the best books I’ve read all challenge.

It is based around a street is 1960’s America where Kat is brutally stabbed and raped. This is witnessed by various people in the area. Pat with the dying mother, Thomas who is about to kill himself, Frank who is a black man who goes out looking for a push chair his wife thinks she has hit with their car, the policeman who tries to frame him for the beating of a man who is trying to blackmail him, David and John a pair of ambulance drivers, and two couples having their first attempt at swinging.

All these people see what happens to Kat but no one does anything about it, all assuming someone else will. The story starts with Kat and returns to her every few chapters whilst the other characters stories intermingle throughout.

I thought although this was violent and disturbing in equal measures, it was a fantastic read, with clever plot that made me not want to put it down (I had to have that extra glass of wine in the bar as I didn’t want to have to stop reading!) It covers a huge range of moral issues, paedophilia, war, rape, homosexuality, racism, euthanasia. Each character has something they deal with over the few hours this story is told as they intermingle with each other.

This book reminded me a little of the Armistead Maupin series Tales of the City I read many many years ago. It had a claustrophobic air to it that makes you want to scream ‘ring the police’ at the self absorbed characters letting a woman die on the street. Everyone is to blame in part, from the person who stabs her to the one who ignores her cries for help.

It wasn’t until after I’d finished reading that I realised this story is based on a true  murder that happened in the 60s. This may have slightly slanted my opinion of the book if I’d known before, however what makes this book even more outstanding to me, is that I imagine this could easily happen nowadays. No one is ever without a mobile phone yet how many people would actually stop and help someone? Would people even notice, or just be too self absorbed in their own small worlds to even look up from facebook?

This book was a great story, told at a good pace, that was cleverly written. It was also depressing and thought provoking. One completely random act and everyone in this street were changed in some way and nothing in their lives was ever the same again.

Everyone should be made to read this novel, and think how would they want to be seen to act in these circumstances? The challenge of course is to act that way!

On a lighter note, it now means I have completed two full sessions, America’s got talent which is where this sits, and Deadlier than the Male, which I am really looking forward to, so my own challenge continues!.

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Filed under book review, Crime writing, Theakstons Festival

J is for Judgement

This week I watched ‘The Help’. I’m not really a big film fan, in fact most of my favourite films I still have on video they are that old but I read this book last summer so thought I’d give it a try.

The film was good, it was 2 and half hours of gentle story and didn’t need a lot of concentration, but it just wasn’t as good as the book. I remember reading the novel over a couple of nights as I really couldn’t put it down, and I found the whole thing incredibly moving, The idea that people could be treated that way purely because of the colour of their skin has always both enraged and fascinated me at the same time. That this happened in the 1960s at the same time as flower power and over 40 years after women fought for equality still amazes me.

The book also gave me hope that there are people out there who care about things other than their own materialism and greed. It doesn’t take money or power, it just takes courage. Everyone knows who Rosa Parks was, but do many people also remember Paul Stephenson who led a boycott of the Bristol Bus Company around the same time and persuaded thousands of people to join him?

Books are something that I think cross all boundaries. Books are available free at libraries, or the wealthy can buy the hardback versions, the blind have access to audio books or brail. It doesn’t matter what you look like or what judgements people might make, books can be accessed and read by all.

People tend to jump to the wrong judgements of people, as seen today in my street. The Hilda’s were out in force this afternoon (whats the collective term for a group of Hilda’s, a herd?) Hildas 1 and 2 were joined by Hilda 3 from up the road. The herd were joined by Howard the elder and Howard the Junior – being about 120 and 70 respectively – all because of a group of youths spotted hanging around outside.

Normally I would avoid all such herds whether young or old but one of said youths knocked on my door (I should point out here that the youth was actually the son of a friend of a mine and not some random stranger) These boys were very polite, completely non scary and there for no longer than 5 minutes (something to do with water balloons and the wrong kind of tap) but the street instantly assumed they were up to something.

 There is something of a fear of groups on our street. When I moved in I was warned about the gangs of youths that hang around down the road causing trouble. This is a big issue, although from what I have witnessed the biggest argument amongst these ‘youths’ was over one of them hitting the other one with their Fireman Sam lunchbox. Luckily the Mums stepped in to stop the riot before Hilda1 could call the police.

We all make judgements about people based on what they look like, its human nature. But that is where I think books are powerful. How many people pick up the Help (or watch the film) and are horrified anew by the way black people were treated and are reminded that racism in any form is wrong. How many people read Anne Frank’s diary and want to help fight injustice? How many children read Changes in Latitudes by Will Hobbs and become obsessed with animals and the plight of the sea turtles? (Ok maybe the last one is just me, but it is a fantastic book!) Books not only entertain, they educate, and education is the key to making sure history doesn’t repeat itself (in my opinion of course!)

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Filed under crime fiction, Crime writing, Reading