J.M. Redmann’s Transitory – A Micky Knight Mystery

Please join me in welcoming J.M. Redmann who just published Transitory, the eleventh book in her long-running mystery series featuring New Orleans private detective Michele ‘Micky’ Knight. 

When Death by the Riverside, the first book in the series was published in 1990, Booklist called Knight, “a gutsy, fast-thinking PI in the Raymond Chandler tradition, but with a sardonic ruefulness and humor that are pure 1990’s.”

Were you influenced by authors like Chandler? 

The Booklist quote was for my third book, The Intersection of Law and Desire . My first two were published by one of the early small (tiny) lesbian presses and they did little publicity. I briefly broke into the so-called mainstream with my third and fourth, which were published by W.W. Norton. But didn’t sell enough and ended up back with smaller presses.

In truth it was less Chandler and more Sue Grafton, Sara Paretsky and Marcia Muller, the trio of women who broke open the mystery world with their assertion that woman could be hard-boiled and walk the mean streets. Also, the writers who were writing lesbians as mystery heroes—Katherine V. Forrest, Ellen Hart and Barbara Wilson and others.

Was Death by the Riverside the first fiction you wrote? 

It was the first novel I completed and published. I’ve been writing a good part of my life—won a contest in 3rd grade for a short (very short) story. Wrote several plays in college and even had one produced. I had started several novels, but life, my imagination, and time, got the better of me. 

What inspired you to write a book about a tough but vulnerable lesbian private investigator? 

I was reading both books by the early straight women taking on the PI story as well as lesbians writing mysteries with lesbian heroes. I wanted to read a book about a tough lesbian PI and there weren’t many of them. So, I felt if I wanted to read this book, maybe I’d have to write it. It started as what I thought would be a short story, but I got interested in the character and it grew to a novel. And then a series. 

Tell us a little about Micky Knight. How did you come up with her? Do you share any characteristics with her?

As I was writing Death by the Riverside, I had to consider what would make a woman, lesbian, decide to take on a career as a PI? Why would she push for justice instead of doing what she was paid and go home at five? Acting tough is often protection. I wanted her to start out as someone who had problems she hadn’t faced— an asshole even—so the cases she takes on help her change and grow. What interested me as a writer was how do messy, flawed people choose to do the right thing, to search for justice? As to shared characteristics, my immediate answer is that we’re not much alike—I don’t question random strangers, carry a gun or take on bad guys. But all authors have to make our characters from who we are. I like to think I’m willing to look at my flaws—not the same thing as fixing them, but at least aware. I obviously come up with her sense of humor—she has the advantage of saying it in book real time, unlike most of us who come up with it a day later.

How has Micky grown and changed over course of the series? Have your feelings about her changed?

The person who wrote the first book no longer exists—I was in my early thirties when I wrote it. As I’ve changed, she has. I’ve tried to have her grow, much as we all grow—or should. She had a rough childhood and has her demons to fight. I’ve tried to have her do as good a job as any flawed human can do, but life always has more lessons to teach us. In the first books, I deliberately made her a bit of a jerk, defensive, slow to trust, both because it’s more fun to write about someone who is messy and screwed up, but it also gave her space to change, to stumble over her flaws and struggle to right herself. 

How has Micky grown and changed over course of the series? Have your feelings about her changed?

I have deep connections to New Orleans. My father was a native and I grew up about 90 miles away on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. We often visited the city. As a child I saw it as a different world—intimidating and enticing. After college and a stint living in NYC, I ended up back in New Orleans and lived there for over thirty years. When I was considering writing the first book, most queer books were east coast or west coast, not much in the south. I knew she had to be in a big city and for me, that meant New Orleans. It’s a fascinating story city. Wind, water, fire, floods, plagues and corruption, a world port, dripping in history. Culture, food music, unlike any other part of America. So many possible stories that can be told in no other city. 

Best part about publishing this series?    

I had no expectations—or not many, maybe it would get published by one of the small lesbians presses and a few people would read it. It, did a little better than that. It’s been translated into German and Spanish and I’ve been able to visit those countries as an author. My first trip to Australia was because of the books—I was invited to the 6th International Feminist Bookfair in Melbourne. (Other trips to Australia because my wife is Australian.) I have met a tremendous community of writers and readers. I’ve been surprised and gratified at how many readers have liked Micky and her stories. It’s an enormous privilege to have people read words you’ve put on a page. 

Worst or hardest part about publishing this series?

One hard part was that I was half-way though Death of a Dying Man, when Katrina struck New Orleans. I was affected, was on a refugee road tour of over a month, but also lucky—my house didn’t flood and I could come back. As a writer, I had to either write about a city that no longer existed or come up with what happened to every one of my characters. Some were able to evacuate, some had to stay. How to change that book to show the reality, yet still make it work as a mystery. More general, it’s both easy to write a series; you know the characters and place, but you also have to work within what you’ve already created, have to keep the characters themselves (and remember or look up previous details to keep them straight) and still add something new and different.  

The series has won a number of awards – what are they?

Three Lambda Literary awards (The Intersection of Law and Desire, Death of a Dying Man, Water Mark, and Ill Will) and eight nominations. The Intersection of Law and Desire was an Editor’s Choice of the San Francisco Chronicle and a recommended book by Maureen Corrigan of NPR’s Fresh Air. Two books were selected for the American Library Association GLBT Roundtable’s Over the Rainbow list. Water Mark won a ForeWord Gold First Place mystery award and a Goldie. I’ve been awarded the Alice B medal and made a Literary Saint at Saints and Sinners Literary Festival. Death of a Dying Man, Water Mark, and Ill Will have all won Rainbow awards. An anthology I co-edited with Greg Herren, Night Shadows , was nominated for a Shirley Jackson award. 

Will there be more Mickey Knight books? What are you working on now.

I’m planning to write more Micky Knight books. Have a few ideas but nothing on the page yet. I’m working on several things now, but nothing far enough along that I feel comfortable talking about publicly yet. Like most writers, I’m a real person and have the vicissitudes of life—I’m having carpal tunnel surgery and until I’ve recovered, the writing is going slower than usual. But writing plans are afoot.   

Thank you, Jean. Micky is a great character and I love the series. I’ve just finished reading Transitory and I enjoyed it so much I’ve decided to reread the entire series.

And, no pressure, I’m looking forward to Micky’s next case.

J.M. Redmann has published ten novels featuring New Orleans PI Micky Knight. Her first book was published in 1990, one of the early hard-boiled lesbian detectives. Her books have won multiple awards and  have been translated into German, Spanish, Dutch, Hebrew and Norwegian. 

Catherine Maiorisi

Catherine Maiorisi is the author of the NYPD Detective Chiara Corelli Mystery series featuring Corelli and her partner Detective P.J. Parker–two tough women, fighting each other while solving high profile crimes. A Matter of BloodThe Blood Runs ColdA Message in Blood, and Legacy in the Blood are all available as ebooks, paperbacks, and audiobooks narrated by Abby Craden.  

In addition to publishing multiple mystery and romance short stories in various anthologies, Catherine has authored four romances novels. Her latest book, The Disappearance of Lindy James, was awarded a GOLDIE for Best General Fiction.


  1. Jean, I’m interested in how many of us write as youths and then Life intervened so becoming an author was a bit later. I’m thrilled for your success—and envious of your travel! Thanks for sharing your journey~

  2. Thank you for visiting! This series sounds fascinating. I visited New Orleans for the first time ever this year and loved it. I’m looking forward to digging into this series!

  3. “Messy, flawed people trying to do the right thing…” You nailed it. SO much more fun. My (fingers crossed) first cozy charts the sleuth as she tries to disentangle herself from her past and become more human-wise compassionate, nonjudgmental, and frankly, less hard. I am aiming to try and start coaxing a younger, more diverse (in every sense) audience for cozy’s. I fear that if we do not, our audience will start to fade. It reminds me of the time we were at Oregon Shakespeare Festival 5-6 years ago, and as I looked at the audience I would say 80% were over 60. The Festival is working hard to address this issue , and I feel as a writer I need to throw my hat into the ring for that fight. Thank you for–to me—-validating my drive forward.

  4. Great interview Catherine. I adore the Micky Knight books and feel I’ve ‘grown up’ with her. My life isn’t anywhere near as messy as hers – nor as exciting but her development through the series is excellent and makes her feel ‘real’. I’m also looking forward to Micky’s next case. Thank you for the insights

  5. I’ve loved your series since book #1, and I think you gave us an amazing first-hand picture of life in and after Katrina. Nothing else I heard or read made me feel what the residents went through nearly like you did. My public library does not always automatically order your newest book, but luckily they hop on it as soon as I put in a request! (It may be because every month or so I’m checking for a new one.) If you could only manage a couple every year…

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