Wednesday, September 14th, 2011...2:03 pm

Mystery writer draws on career as fraud investigator

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Marilyn Jax will teach writing workshops for five Twin Cities education programs throughout October

By ERIN ELLIOTT BRYAN / Community News Editor

Marilyn Jax, of Minnetonka, grew up reading Nancy Drew books, loved Agatha Christie’s creations and was “enthralled” by the mystery series she watched on television, such as Perry Mason, Matlock and Murder She Wrote.

“I always wanted to write mysteries at some point in my life,” Jax told the AJW in a recent e-mail interview.

Jax is the author of The Find and Road to Omalos, two novels that follow the lives of private investigators Claire Caswell and Gaston “Guy” Lombard. Both were published by Edina-based Beaver’s Pond Press.

Her upcoming third novel, Sapphire Trails, is set in Montana and features Caswell, Lombard and “a cast of colorful suspects.”

Jax’s writing career is actually her second career, since she retired after nearly 20 years as a senior government enforcement investigator for the state of Minnesota. She investigated fraud and other violations in the areas of real estate, franchising and environmental cleanup, and has used everything she learned to create interesting characters and compelling stories.

“I can make my characters as nefarious, multisided, captivating or amusing as I choose,” Jax said. “The sky is truly the limit in fiction writing. And, unlike real life so much of the time, I can always make the bad guys pay for their crimes.”

Marilyn Jax: The sky is truly the limit in fiction writing — and I can always make the bad guys pay for their crimes.Marilyn Jax: The sky is truly the limit in fiction writing — and I can always make the bad guys pay for their crimes.

Jax will share what she has learned as a mystery novelist later this fall when she teaches writing workshops for five Twin Cities education programs. The workshops will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. on Oct. 5 at the Edina Community Education Center; Oct. 6 at the Minnetonka Community Education Center; Oct. 12 at the Osseo Community Education Center; Oct. 19 at the Wayzata Community Education Center; and Oct. 26 at the St. Louis Park Community Education Center. (To register, contact the individual location.)

“Writing is hard work,” she said. “It is a process.”

Jax has previously spoken about her background, her books and the art of mystery writing at the Sabes JCC in St. Louis Park. Her first novel, The Find, integrated victims of the Holocaust into a present-day mystery, and she said it remains a popular read in the Twin Cities Jewish community.

The Find has won six book awards, including being named a finalist for the 2008 National Indie Excellence Awards. Similarly, her second novel, Road to Omalos, has won three awards, including being named a finalist in the Fiction and Literature: Thriller/Adventure category of USA Book News’ national “Best Books 2010” Awards. It was also recently named as the winner in the mystery/suspense category of the 2011 Benjamin Franklin Awards, and in the fiction/thriller category of the 2011 International Book Awards.

Jax is fortunate to have found two careers she enjoys.

“As far as being an investigator, it was a profession that I enjoyed very much. I often encourage young people to consider it as a career,” she said. “Unfortunately, fraud is an ever-growing weed in our society, and therefore opportunities in all aspects of the criminal justice system… are here to stay in a major way.”

And perhaps Jax has come full circle. Whereas she was inspired by the mystery shows she saw on television, she hopes young people may be inspired by today’s television to pursue a career in criminal justice.

“I find that teenagers seem particularly interested in the field of crime scene processing due to all of the popular CSI and other crime shows currently on television,” she said. “I encourage young people to follow their dreams, to work in a field they are passionate about.”

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For information, visit: www.marilynjax.com.

(American Jewish World, 9.16.11)

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