Friday, August 26, 2022

Q&A with Jonathan Dunsky




Jonathan Dunsky is the author of the Adam Lapid mystery series, the most recent of which is A Death in Jerusalem. He lives in Israel. 


Q: How did you create your character Adam Lapid, and do you think he's changed over the course of the series? 


A: I first started writing about Adam Lapid when I got the idea for what became book 1 in the series, Ten Years Gone. The idea was this: a Jewish-German woman, living in Berlin in 1939, gives her baby boy to an acquaintance who is fleeing Germany to the Land of Israel. The mother is unable to leave with them.


The mother gets stuck in Europe due to the war and only arrives in Israel in 1949, 10 years after parting with her son. She has had no word of him in the meantime. 


In desperation, she hires Adam Lapid to discover what happened to him.


I envisioned Adam as a loner, a man who lost everything in the Holocaust, and who is tenacious, driven, and has an unyielding sense of justice.


Adam has changed during the series. He is slowly coming to terms with the loss of his family in the Holocaust, his ordeal in Auschwitz, and his survivor’s guilt. He is gradually allowing himself to build a new life in Israel.


Q: How did you research the novels, and did you learn anything that particularly surprised you? 


A: I use a variety of resources. I read memoirs. I talk to people who lived in Israel at the time. I read old newspapers, study photographs, browse historical websites. My parents grew up in Tel Aviv so they provide me with a lot of information.


I was surprised to discover how poor Israel was in those days and with how little people made do. It’s also hard to imagine walking the streets of Tel Aviv and hearing people speak over a dozen languages, when today Hebrew is dominant.

Q: What inspired the plot of the most recent novel in the series, A Death in Jerusalem?


A: In January 1952 happened what I call “Israel’s January 6 Moment.” At that time, the Israeli government sought the Knesset’s approval to commence negotiations with Germany for Holocaust reparations. This was viewed as an abomination by many Israelis. On January 7, 1952, when the Knesset was to begin deliberating the issue, a massive demonstration took place in Jerusalem.


Menachem Begin, then the leader of the opposition party Herut, gave a fiery speech, denouncing the government and promising to fight against reparations. And then he exhorted the demonstrators to march on the Knesset.


A street battle ensued outside the Knesset. Protestors threw rocks at the building, shattering windows and injuring one member of Knesset. The police used tear gas. Any use of gas carried symbolic meaning on that day.


Hundreds were injured. Hundreds were arrested. No one was killed because David Ben-Gurion, Israeli prime minister, gave strict orders to the police to not use their firearms. None of the demonstrators got into the Knesset.


I knew for several years that I wanted to write an Adam Lapid novel with this demonstration at the background. I knew that Adam Lapid, being a Holocaust survivor, would feel deeply about the issue of reparations.


Imagine my shock when January 6 happened in Washington. I was watching history repeat itself.


Naturally, the mystery story in A Death in Jerusalem is not connected to the reparations issue, but the historical background made the entire book richer and more pertinent to contemporary readers.


Q: Do you usually know how your novels will end before you start writing them, or do you make many changes along the way?


A: I usually just start and let the story take me wherever it will. I often don’t know who the culprit is until late in the book. It’s a nerve-wrecking way to write, but it keeps things interesting and unpredictable to me and the readers as well.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m currently writing book 8 in the Adam Lapid series. This one is set in Israel in 1952. After that, I may write a prequel that takes place in Europe after World War II ended and before Adam emigrated to Israel.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Contrary to what many readers initially think, the Adam Lapid books are not translated. I write in English. All the Adam Lapid novels are available in ebook, paperback, large print, and hardcover on nearly all online book retailers. I am currently producing audiobooks for them all. The audiobook of book 1, Ten Years Gone, is already available, and it’s a terrific way to experience the Adam Lapid series in a different, immersive way.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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