Friday, September 5, 2014

Janice Steinberg

Janice Steinberg is an award-winning arts journalist who has published more than four hundred articles in The San Diego Union-Tribune, Dance Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and elsewhere. She is also the author of five mystery novels, including the Shamus Award–nominated Death in a City of Mystics. She has taught novel writing at the University of California, San Diego extension, and dance criticism at San Diego State University.

Her latest novel is The Tin Horse.

From Steinberg's Q & A at writing for the web:

Q. What drove you to write Tin Horse?

My inspiration was a nameless character in the Raymond Chandler novel The Big Sleep, a woman working in a bookstore who’s described as having “the fine-drawn face of an intelligent Jewess.” I was struck by that phrase with its sense of otherness and by the fact that, among Chandler’s tough guys and fast women, the Jewess in the bookstore was the one character with whom I identified. So—in the spirit of novels like Mrs. Ahab, which take marginal female characters from other books and put them center-stage—I set out to tell the Jewess’s story.

Q. Obviously place has had a big influence on writing TH. Can you talk about that?

I got insanely lucky! I had a feeling the Jewess in the bookstore occupied a very different Los Angeles than Chandler’s mean streets. And I started researching the history of Jews in Los Angeles, to find out where, in the 1930s, she would have lived. I found a goldmine, a setting so rich that it could become a character in its own right: Boyle Heights.

I say a lot about Boyle Heights on my website, The Tin Horse, but to give a few basics: It’s directly east of downtown L.A. and is now completely Hispanic, but in the 1920s and 30s, Boyle Heights had a large Jewish neighborhood on the West Coast and was a center of Jewish culture, with delis, Yiddish and socialist societies, synagogues, and more.

I got even luckier in that...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Janice Steinberg's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Tin Horse.

Writers Read: Janice Steinberg.

--Marshal Zeringue