Jayne, meet Angela

Book signing 1At the 2012 Crime and Justice Festival in Melbourne, Rochelle Jackson asked Scottish crime writer Ian Rankin what his detective character Inspector John Rebus would think of him. ‘I don’t think he’d like me,’ Rankin said. ‘He’d think I was too much of a liberal.’

This got me thinking about the rapport between crime writers and their lead characters and, specifically, whether the central character in my crime novels, Bangkok-based P.I. Jayne Keeney, and I would get along if we met.

Our shared love for Southeast Asia would get us off to a good start. Jayne and I are both intrigued by Thai culture, while being expatriate–or farang as we’re known in Thailand–has taught us just how much we are shaped by our own culture as Australians. We’ve both experienced the tension, humour and precious moments of shared humanity that occur when cultures collide.

Both of us are grateful for the way Thai people make allowances for us. As Jayne puts it in The Dying Beach,

as a farang, the usual rules didn’t apply. So long as she was also polite, Jayne was more or less left to her own devices. Certainly there was no pressure to fit in. She was allowed to be an outsider in Thailand in a way she never was in Australia.

But while work (in HIV prevention) took me to Southeast Asia in the early-1990s, Jayne chose self-imposed exile in Thailand as an alternative to the ‘marriage-mortgage-multiply treadmill’ as she calls it. I’m not sure if she’d pity or envy me for having been in a loving relationship for over 20 years. Perhaps both. She’d have limited tolerance for my parenting responsibilities, as they’d put in a dint in my ability to join her for long nights in Bangkok’s pool halls. And I suspect my magniloquence on the joys of motherhood would fall on deaf ears.

She’d probably also think I was a wanker for using a word like ‘magniloquence’.

I know I’d enjoy Jayne’s dry sense of humour, having modelled this aspect of her character on a woman I worked with for many years in Southeast Asia. And we’d be amused by some of the things we had in common. Shared stints working in Melbourne’s juvenile justice system in the late-1980s, for example, Jayne on teaching placement, me doing research for my criminology studies. We both like reading crime fiction, too, though Jayne’s tastes are more hard-boiled than mine. We both speak French, but Jayne speaks much better Thai than I do.

Politically speaking, I would remind Jayne of her friend Didier, a Canadian HIV/AIDS activist whose death she investigates in my first novel Behind the Night Bazaar. Didier wanted to change the world as I do, to eradicate poverty and solve the world’s problems. Jayne is content for the most part to just get by — that is, unless her sense of justice is offended. She has a strong moral compass, as exemplified in my second novel, The Half-Child, when she refuses to stand back and let Mayuree, a Thai bar worker whose child has been stolen, resign herself to fate. As Jayne says to Mayuree,

‘…if you’re going to call it fate, make sure you’ve read it correctly that it’s your fate to let someone steal Kob away rather than stand up and fight for him.’

In this review by Jeff Glorfeld, Jayne Keeney is described as ‘an appealing character, emotional and yet capable of cold-eyed action. She smokes too much, speaks Thai fluently and likes a drink and a shag.’

That’s another reason Jayne and I would get along: shared hobbies.

I’ll be talking more about Jayne Keeney PI in Geelong on Wed 10 July 2013, with a writers workshop at the Newcomb Library from 1.00-4.00pm and a Readers’ Rendezvous at the Belmont Library from 6.30-8.00 pm. Events are free; click on the links to register.

This post first appeared on the Text Publishing blog Number 3 Chiller.

About Angela Savage

Angela Savage is a Melbourne writer, who has lived and travelled extensively in Asia. She won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript, and the Scarlet Stiletto Award short story award. Her latest novel is, Mother of Pearl, published by Transit Lounge. Angela holds a PhD in Creative Writing, is former CEO of Writers Victoria, and currently works as CEO of Public Libraries Victoria.
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17 Responses to Jayne, meet Angela

  1. Margot Kinberg says:

    Angela – What an inventive and interesting post! And what a terrific way to get insight into your own protagonist as well as introduce her to people who’ve not been lucky enough to meet her yet. I really like the way you’ve developed her character, too. You have a solid balance between tapping your own experience and at the same time allowing her to be who she is – different to you and separate from you. Thanks for sharing her with us.


  2. haydn savage says:

    Knowing both angela savage and Jayne keeney I agree with the accuracy of the statements which also are erudite and cute!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. kathy d. says:

    Very good and original post. Both Jayne and her creator are unique individuals, with personalities, interests and skills of their own, even if some hobbies are shared. Hope you both keep on keeping on for many years to come with adventures, principles and great blog posts.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Khim says:

    Mon cher Angela, I think Jayne will say “Wank and shag away, ma pote ! “


  5. kathy d. says:

    Let us know how your writers’ workshop goes. It’s always interesting. And have you done any more radio reviews of other authors’ books?


    • angelasavage says:

      Kathy, you’ll find all the podcasts of all my radio reviews on the About Angela page on this blog. I’ll be on radio (in Australia) talking about The Dying Beach on Wed 17 July — which will be something different. I’ll be sure to post a link to the podcast afterwards so you can listen in on your side of the world.


  6. Khim says:

    Oops! Should have been Ma chère Angela…..was distracted by some farangs jogging past on a beach…


  7. Charlie Aarons says:

    I stopped reading Patricial Cornwell and Sarah Paretsky when I realised their characters were people I didn’t like and wouldn’t want to meet.


    • angelasavage says:

      Interesting point, Charlie. I think it takes genius to make a reader want to stay with unlikeable characters. Gillian Flynn pulled it off for me in Gone Girl, but it’s a rare skill.


  8. kathy d. says:

    Wow; there are videos posted, too, in addition to more podcasts. I have only heard the book reviews of The Brotherhood and In Her Blood. I read the former and concurred and I have not read the latter. It’s not in our library, and costly book purchases aren’t in the cards, now anyway.


  9. I really loved this post and it set me off on all kinds of tracks. How about you start a series on your blog where writers consider what their characters would think of them? It’s intriguing and clever.


  10. Pingback: Crime, Place and Politics | Angela Savage

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