The Uncanny Case of Gilles/Jennette a queer horror novella, reviewed by Kirkus
(The Shortish Project/June 2023)
JAZZED, A NOVEL BY JILL DEARMAN
(VINE LEAVES PRESS, JULY 2022)
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Academic geniuses, Wilhelmina “Will” Reinhardt and Dorothy “Dolly” Raab, become roommates at Barnard in the early 1920s, a time when college for women was a rarity. Socially awkward Will, grieving her mother’s death, is fascinated by Dolly, a beautiful, charming rebel with an insatiable taste for adrenaline. Both musicians, they come alive at Harlem jazz clubs, and Prohibition-era speakeasies. Dazzled by the world they are discovering together, their romance ignites. But while Will is obsessed with Dolly, Dolly is obsessed with crime. The power dynamics keep shifting as Will agrees to commit petty crimes with Dolly in exchange for sexual favors. When the University and their rich families unite to split them up, passions escalate. To strike back at those who deny them the right to be together, they plot another crime: murder. A gender-swapped take on the infamous “Leopold and Loeb” case, JAZZED is part historical fiction, part true crime. Juxtaposing the thrilling scientific breakthroughs in quantum physics and artistic explosion of the Harlem Renaissance with the pseudoscience of eugenics and anti-immigration fervor that also defined the era, the novel mirrors today’s polarized world and moves with the fast-paced rhythm of jazz itself.
JAZZED audiobook receives EARPHONES AWARD from Audiofile Magazine. Read Review Here.
KIRKUS BEST HISTORICAL INDIE FICTION 2022
KIRKUS REVIEWS MAGAZINE: INDIE CRIME NOVEL WITH UNFORGETTABLE CHARACTERS: JAZZED
Interviews with Jill about JAZZED
The Venetian Vase (UK) with crime fiction scholar Steven Powell
Brooklyn Rail Jill Dearman with Gene Seymour
Recommended as a must-read by:
“In the early 1920s, Wilhelmina “Will” Reinhardt and Dorothy “Dolly” Raab are freshman roommates at Columbia University’s Barnard College for women, both daughters of wealthy New York Jewish families. They’re temperamental opposites who attract; Will is a bookish misfit who speaks 11 languages and is an expert ornithologist, and Dolly’s a flapper who flirts up a storm. Will, a lesbian, likes traditionally male clothes and is getting over a lifetime of shyness, while Dolly revels in the attentions of either sex and teasingly receives Will’s adoration. Their relationship deepens during giddy outings to Harlem speak-easies and intensifying make-out sessions, but it’s especially stoked by classroom discussions of the Nietzschean superman—or superwoman—whose superiority allows any crime in pursuit of a supposedly higher morality. This creed fires up Dolly’s sociopathic streak, and she ropes Will into a series of thrill-seeking transgressions, starting with arson and burglary. After the two are paired off with different roommates by Barnard officials, Dolly decides that they must defy the ultimate taboo by kidnapping and murdering a child. Dearman’s tale tweaks the real-life story of child-killers Leopold and Loeb into a love story of two women set in a richly atmospheric panorama of New York in the Roaring ’20s, awhirl in high society, hothouse dorms, and uptown gin mills. It’s also a crackerjack procedural, as Dolly and Will plot out a crime that’s almost perfect—except for a few slip-ups that put dogged detectives on their trail. At its center are indelible portraits of the doomed lovers: Will, who’s incurably awkward and ardently besotted, and Dolly, whose glittering, teasing surface belies a hollow core. Dearman perfectly renders the noir mood in evocative, punchy prose: Dolly, reacting to a pregnancy scare, ‘couldn’t imagine being strapped with a tot. It made her feel dead inside….Daddy had a few prize pistols in his office. She would sneak one out and practice firing it out in the woods, then once she had a feel for it she’d eat the barrel.’
A wildly entertaining and energetic period thriller.”
— Kirkus Starred Review
Jul 15, 2022 Aimee rated it *****
It was amazing.
This book is brilliantly written. Historically accurate slang and terminology, the author’s knowledge of the time period, and the true crime the story is based on were woven together to create a stunning tale of two queer women who should have never made the acquaintance of one another. “And yet, everything could have been different if Will hadn’t fallen for Dolly,” indeed. The psychology of the MCs is written in a way that serves as a portal into their minds which creates a disturbing, immersive experience and left me breathless and panicking on more than one occasion. It’s not often the queer community is gifted with a book with a well-fleshed-out historical plot involving true crime and fantastically developed characters; this one did not disappoint. Kudos to Jill Dearman. I can’t wait to read more from this author.
I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.
I’m grateful to BookSirens for the opportunity to review this fascinating work of historical fiction. The twist on the Leopold and Loeb case was an interesting premise and I enjoyed how their personalities remained close to their counterparts despite their characters being portrayed as gay women. The LGBT relationship was spectacularly and heartbreakingly represented. I found myself wishing Will had a different life, one where she didn’t meet Dolly. Will was easy to empathize with and I felt myself falling for her as the story progressed. Dolly was ethereal, charismatic, vulnerable yet terrifying. I could see why she was loved and why she was a monster. She reminded me of a girl I was once in love with, though fortunately no murders resulted.
The way women were treated was hard to read in that way. Especially the way gay black women were treated. It’s one thing to know a thing happened, it’s quite another to experience it with them via writing. I was angry for them, with them, and for the very real women they represent. It was eye-opening in a way I wasn’t expecting given my existing knowledge on that time period. I can’t recommend this enough …
This book took me on a wild ride. It was a trip back into the Jazz age of Harlem and the days of same-sex women’s colleges and all of the incredibly odd, sad, misguided, and misogynistic ideas and beliefs about women and most especially the homosexuality. It wasn’t always easy to read and a bit hard to realize that these beliefs and practices existed back then, but, it also highlighted how far we still need to go in understanding differences/diversity and the underlying fears of the misinformed/uneducated. Two women, brilliant, in-love but also incredibly, psychologically co-dependent, while, at the same time, amazingly advanced in their ideas and beliefs regarding life, love and humanity.
I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.
“Jazzed suffuses the eroticism of Highsmith and the intensity of Ellroy in an ingenious gender-swapping take on the Leopold & Loeb case. In her lover/killers, Will Reinhardt and Dolly Raab, Jill Dearman creates an unforgettable duo brimming with murderous passion and lusting for revenge on the society which won’t accept them.”
–Steven Powell, author of Love Me Fierce In Danger: The Life of James Ellroy
“Like some brilliant amalgamation of Patricia Highsmith’s best work, Mary McCarthy’s The Group and the Jazz Age tabloid-crime musical Chicago, Jazzed is a frenetic, scary, erotic, funny and darkly moving thrill ride with two mismatched anti-heroines who completely break the mold of their time and place-the elite Jewish intelligentsia of Roaring Twenties New York City. I thrilled to the twisted love affair and power struggle between Dolly and Wilhelmina and how their unambiguous evildoing intersected with the intense sexism, homophobia and anti-Semitism of the world they were born into. Rife with authentic period detail and sizzling with complex and obsessive psychological realism, Jazzed will rivet you right through to its haunting final pages.”
–Tim Murphy, author of Christadora and Correspondents
“I galloped through this dazzling, incandescent, thrill ride of a novel. Dearman deftly creates a wild, sexy, and poignant world of Jazz Age Sapphic love, sisterhood, prohibition, booze, freedom, Harlem rent parties, Barnard classrooms, and wealthy Jewish homes. When awkward Wilhelmina meets up with a former Brearley classmate, the vivacious Dolly, they improvise on clarinet and piano and spark one of the greatest love stories I’ve ever read, and what begins as a passionate flirtation turns into a dangerous obsession. Dolly is obsessed with danger, crime stories, and the thrill of becoming a criminal herself; Will is obsessed with Dolly and will do anything for her. As their love deepens and they try to carve out a public life for themselves, their mistakes multiply, and they become reckless. What will happen to our complicated, riveting lovers? Equal parts thriller, lesbian pulp sex romp, and literary queer history, Dearman’s novel will leave you panting for more.”
—Carley Moore, author of The Not Wives and Panpocalypse
Compulsion (Background Essay on Jazzed)
The Great Bravura interview with Robert Polito
The Great Bravura novel review
Jill’s Author Interviews for The Brooklyn Rail:
Jill Dearman interviews author John McCaffrey
Jill Dearman interviews author Tim Murphy