Joffe Books has picked up two books in 94-year-old Maori author Renée Taylor’s “darkly witty” detective series.
Editorial director Emma Grundy Haigh has acquired worldwide English-language rights, excluding New Zealand, from Nadine Rubin Nathan of High Spot Literary for The Joker and Blood Matters. They will publish in e-book and paperback in fall 2022.
The Joker tells the story of Ruby who spent 20 years trying to shake off her suspicions that her childhood best friend was murdered. “But now is the time to find out the truth,” the synopsis reads. “Ruby’s only lead is a notebook that uses playing card symbols as code. But what do they mean? As soon as Ruby begins to investigate, strange things begin to happen. A man in a balaclava attacks her, someone tears her apart, there’s a series of burglaries at the local theater where she plays Lady Bracknell in The importance of being serious. The deeper Ruby delves into the mystery of Betty’s death, the more questions emerge about herself – questions she had never dared to ask before. If Ruby wants to find out the truth, she’ll have to find the joker – fast.”
Taylor, known as Renée, wrote memoirs, poetry and plays in her native New Zealand. Describing herself as “a lesbian feminist with working-class socialist ideals”, she places women’s experiences and working-class and Maori concerns at the center of all her work.
She published The Joker with Cuba Press in New Zealand as his first foray into detective fiction at the age of 90, and received the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement the same year.
“It’s wonderful to know the rights of The Joker and blood matters to be published in English around the world have been purchased by the incredible Joffe Books,” she said. “Thank you Mary McCallum and Sarah Bolland (The Cuba Press) and Nadine Rubin Nathan of High Spot Literary for making this possible. I am totally shocked.
MacCallum, Co-Director of Press, said: “Joffe is an advocate for crime perpetrators from diverse communities, and Renée is a takatāpui Maori (LGBTQIA+ writer), who has always written with women, Maori characters and takatāpui at center stage. . It’s exciting to see his work come out of New Zealand and into the rest of the world.
“Renée is one of New Zealand’s most esteemed writers and a latecomer to detective fiction, writing her first detective novel in the 1990s, after four decades of writing plays, other fiction and poetry. It was worth the wait – The Joker was shortlisted for the Ngaio Marsh Awards, and blood matters, which will be released later this year in New Zealand, returns to the same fictional town with another crime to solve.
Haigh said: “I am absolutely thrilled to be posting The Joker by Renee. I think I fell in love with the novel as much as the author: one of New Zealand’s literary legends, Renée’s boundless energy, compassion and sagacity are contagious. And its first foray into detective fiction is a brilliantly twisted, dark, and thoroughly addictive page-turner that I just couldn’t put down. I can’t wait to introduce it to a world of new readers! »