About two-thirds of the way through Helen Zahavi's new novel Donna and the Fatman, the central female character questions a violent, bestial act committed by the central male character. 'But that's the point, my love,' he replies. 'It was what we call gratuitous.'
It is the point, too. Zahavi's third and best book extends this writer's controlled rage against wanton abuse of power that began in 1990 with Dirty Weekend and continued in 1994 with True Romance. Now, on cue a further four years on, showing more control, more rage, she has produced a story that manages simultaneously to be both funny and frightening . . .
The Worm Turns - Gerald Jacobs, Independent on Sunday
kaliber .38: You don't seem to believe in classical relationships. What's wrong with love-life in the modern world?
Helen Zahavi: The relationships I describe are rooted in fear, passion, rage and lust. To that extent, I think they are "classical" relationships.
"Donna and the Fatman" - Interview with Helen Zahavi - Thomas Wörtche, kaliber .38
Noir crime fiction is surfeited with the image of a fatal woman, an iconic figure that reflects male angst and insecurity. This image is rooted in the genre's historical and political development . . .
Whose Fantasy Is This Anyway: The Female Serial Killer in Dirty Weekend and The Eye of the Beholder - Jamalludin Bin Aziz, Lancaster University - Crimeculture.com
On the publication of Helen Zahavi's Dirty Weekend, the Sunday Tribune suggested that it be read 'among women only, and highly feminised women at that' while She magazine said not to let men read it because 'they'll probably die of guilt.' These comments acknowledge the potential political impact of the text but also fear that impact . . .
Dead Bodies, Dead Words: Stereotype and Cliché in Jim Thompson's The Killer Inside Me and Helen Zahavi's Dirty Weekend - Owen Clayton, Lancaster University - Crimeculture.com
Actually, it was a gradual awareness, because one is always prepared to give the benefit of the doubt. One doesn't want to be paranoid, jump to false conclusions.
You notice someone at a window, at odd times of the day, and you realise they have been looking at you, and it does build up a sense of threat and vulnerability . . .
I Wasn't Paranoid: This was Terrorism - Danny Danziger, The Independent
Since its origins in the early 40's, the noir genre, both in film and the novel, has changed considerably in its representation of characters and events, though its dominant feel and defining traits remain recognisable . . .
Noir Transformation: Gender, Place and Identity in The Talented Mr Ripley and Dirty Weekend - Andrew Jeffcoat, Lancaster University - Crimeculture.com
Issues of identity, sexuality and gender are all key themes associated with the genre of noir. In his book In A Lonely Street, Frank Krutnik describes noir films and fiction as pervaded with an 'excessive and obsessive' sexuality that deviates from and challenges social norms, exploring the darker areas of the psyche . . .
The Noir Thriller: Male Identity and the Threat of the Feminine - Naomi King, Lancaster University - Crimeculture.com
This study concerns the complete oeuvre by the British author Helen Zahavi: Dirty Weekend (1991), True Romance (1994) and Donna and the Fatman (1998). Her novels are here read as a trilogy dealing with the dialectics of gender and violence in 20th century discourse, drawing on theories of how the construction of subjects is produced by power, of the relation between power and sexuality . . .
"A HUGE, TENACIOUS LIE" - Framställningen av makt i Helen Zahavis forfättarskap - Johan Söderbäck, Södertörn University (Master's thesis, in Swedish)
Une caricature de drame psychologique "à l'anglaise" dévoile peu à peu ses facettes, sur un ton dépouillé, magistral, en un tourbillon de violence à fleur de peau . . .
Sauve Qui Peut Zahavi - François Rivière, Libération
En général, les romans érotiques ne brillent pas par leur humour. Mais True Romance dont le titre est déjà tout un programme affirme une ironie constante, désarçonnante, suggestive, par moment insoutenable . . .
Le Mâle Par Le Mal - François Rivière, Libération
The full versions of the following extracts are either not available online, or are only available from archives which are behind paywalls. They are therefore not linkable, and are presented for information only:
Helen Zahavi is small, wary, controlled, delicate. Bella, the heroine of her novel Dirty Weekend, is small, controlled, deadly. Meeting one and then reading about the other is like the scene in An American Werewolf in London in which the canines lengthen and the soft human skin splits to reveal the slavering muzzle of a wolf . . .
Bella Hammers the Message Home - Angela Lambert, The Independent
Helen Zahavi curls herself over coffee in a gilt and mirrors cafe in central Paris. Slight but not insubstantial, she has tender features and a trembly mouth. She applies a weak voice to strong words . . .
A Thumping Good Read - Libby Brooks, The Guardian
Helen Zahavi never expected her novel about a female serial killer of men to be published. Inspired by her own experience, it was violent and vengeful, and written for her eyes only. But last week she was in negotiations with a British film director over plans to make her first book, Dirty Weekend, into a $5m movie . . .
Woman Makes a Killing on 'Murder Men' Book - Geordie Greig, The Sunday Times
Perhaps it shouldn't have come as a surprise when Helen Zahavi took out her own tape recorder at the start of the interview. After all, one of the ideas of her debut novel, Dirty Weekend, is that women have the right to protect themselves against men and should use whatever tools are necessary. So when it comes to wandering the streets at night, it's nice to know you have a gun in your bag to blow away potential attackers. And when a man you don't know comes round to your flat to do an interview, it's nice to have your own tape of what was said - just in case . . .
The Right to Kill - Jim McClellan, i-D Magazine
Norman should have known better than to take a strange woman up to his hotel room on his own. He should have known it wasn't safe . . .
Revenge of the Lady Killer - Lorraine Butler, Daily Mirror
A door opened and a pair of black eyes appeared, furiously blinking as though roused from an unseasonal hibernation down a deep, dark hole. A teensy mouse's voice admitted to being Helen Zahavi. For one heady moment I thought I'd found where I was going. It was a fleeting illusion . . .
Sex and the Single Girl - Sally Vincent, The Sunday Times
Andrea Dworkin's recommendation of Dirty Weekend is emblazoned on the jacket of Helen Zahavi's first novel like a glaring red flag waving at the literary establishment. And its members, to a man, have risen to the challenge . . .
Helen Damnation - Maria Lexton, Time Out
When Helen Zahavi's first novel, Dirty Weekend, was published a couple of weeks ago, the furore that greeted it in the press drew comparisons to that surrounding Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho . . .
Justifiable Homicide? - Alex Kershaw, Tribune Magazine
Zahavi is currently living what she describes as a 'synthetic, artificial life'. Most of her friends in Paris are 'other foreigners - Aussies, Brits, Irish, Yanks' - a mix of people who have 'abandoned their previous lives and who are cultural, if not political, refugees . . .'
Guys and Dolls Go Out to Play - Helen Fox, The Big Issue
Sous le récit d'une relation sado-masochiste, Helen Zahavi dévoile un art maîtrisé de l'équivoque . S'il existe une joie secrète à être celle par qui le scandale arrive, Helen Zahavi doit en connaître les moindres saveurs. Des condamnations morales aux interrogations sur sa santé mentale, des articles indignés à l'anathème prononcé par un ministre britannique, cette jeune romancière anglaise a tout expérimenté . . .
Tabous Sans Garde-Fous - Raphaëlle Rérolle, Le Monde
Après le rodéo sanglant de "Dirty Weekend", le trio sadomasochiste de "True Romance", Helen Zahavi propose une course-poursuite où la cruauté se pare d'un langage précieux . Elle-même, à la parution d'un deuxième roman terriblement dérangeant, se disait quelquefois choquée par ce qu'elle écrivait. Nulle pose dans cette déclaration livrée d'une voix détachée, nulle fausse candeur non plus. Helen Zahavi, romancière britannique à la bibliographie déjà sulfureuse, constatait juste que le tapage engendré par ses livres n'avait rien pour la surprendre, voilà . . .
Atrocement Raffiné - Raphaëlle Rérolle, Le Monde
In the following article, we take the example of a novel about a female spree killer to explore some fundamental issues in contemporary feminist politics around the issue of violence as a textual or practical strategy for feminism. We consider what it means for a woman to commit acts of violence against a man from a number of theoretical perspectives. We conclude that the novel Dirty Weekend illustrates that access to the male order and transgression of it must go together for any effective feminist politics . . .
If I Had a Hammer: Violence as a Feminist Strategy in Helen Zahavi's Dirty Weekend - Anita Harris and Diana Baker, Department of Political Sciences, University of Melbourne