A Possibility of Violence, my second novel, was born from a conversation I had with my four-year-old son Benjamin. We were having dinner one day when he suddenly asked me, ‘Do you know I had a father before you?’ I looked at him, shocked, and then he added, ‘But he’s already dead.’
In the following days I tried to understand what he meant, but he didn’t have anything to add and just repeated the same sentences about the previous dead father. Did he have a strange dream? Or perhaps heard a story at nursery? Or on TV? I had no solutions to this mystery but our conversation haunted me – and finally inspired a similar scene in the novel I started writing. It doesn’t take place during dinner but rather at bedtime and the son is seven; but other than that it echoes the uncanny moments I had with Benjamin.
Is this the reason I insist on writing crime? I think it is at least one of the main reasons.
When my first novel, The Missing File (Quercus, 2013, shortlisted for the CWA International Dagger) was published, I was often asked why I chose to write a crime novel of all things. After all, the genre isn’t very well developed or popular in Israel, and I myself, being a literary editor, scholar and translator, was linked until then with different types of writing.
I said then that one of the reasons for writing a detective series is the fact that it allowed me to hide myself, in my novels; or in other words, to hide from myself, while writing, the most personal elements that were there at stake.
As in this scene that inspired A Possibility of Violence, I wrote about the most intimate moments of my life, but who would imagine that, if my protagonist is a police inspector called Avraham Avraham, and this uncanny familial scene is interwoven into a criminal investigation – which starts with a threatening suitcase placed near a nursery, continues with an anonymous phone call warning that ‘the suitcase is only the beginning’, and ends with murder?
But now I realize it’s not the only reason. For me, a good detective novel is always about knowing, about the ways we understand and interpret ourselves and our loved ones and the world around us. A good detective always asks: How do I really know?
This is probably why, like me, my protagonist Avraham Avraham is a detective obsessed with the limitations of our knowledge. With what we know but even more with what we are not able to understand. Being a police detective, he never stops trying. And I think this is a good reason to write crime: I could not and probably will never be able to solve the mystery of the uncanny conversation with my son; perhaps when he grows up he will solve it himself. Instead, I took on writing a mystery that starts the same way but ends in a way I could solve. Or rather, that Avraham could solve for me. After all, he is a literary detective and they, unlike most of us, almost always know . . .
A Possibility of Violence by DA Mishani is published by Quercus Books on 4th September. ISBN 978-1-78087-652-8