I am sad to find out this morning that Jakob Arjouni, a German writer of both hard-boiled detective novels and literary fiction, passed away last month at the age of 48. Despite his relative youth, Arjourni leaves behind nine novels, four of which have been translated into English and are available from the Calgary Public Library.
A year ago I read his book Kismet and thought it was one of the best examples of hard-boiled detective fiction I have ever read. Arjouni's detective, Kemal Kayankaya, is of Turkish descent – so in addition to having to deal with Croatian mobsters and various other thugs he also endures prejudice and stereotyping. The result is that the reader is treated to top notch noir with a side order of humorous social commentary from the wisecracking Kayankaya. As great as the Kayankaya character is, what i really enjoyed about the book was how tightly plotted it was. It reminded me a great deal of the work of Raymond Chandler, but without the holes in the plot big enough to drive a truck through. The ending of Kismet still strikes me as one of the best in all of detective fiction.
So today, feeling hungry for some good noir, I hopped on the internet to find out a little more about Arjouni and maybe place a hold on another Kemel Kayankaya story. That is how I discovered that Jacob Arjouni passed away on January 17 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. I have just read that when he discovered his terminal condition, Arjouni decided to race the clock and write another Kemel Kayankaya book even though he had not written detective fiction in twenty years. I look forward to that book but until then I'm glad there are other Kayankaya stories I can enjoy.
So farewell and thank you, Jacob Arjouni. We could use more like you.