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Friday, January 16, 2009

Mysteries, Racism, and MLK Day

Do any mysteries revolve around a theme suitable for MLK Day? I'm not sure.

Chiefs (Stuart Woods) traces a crime through 3 generations of police chiefs in a small Georgia town. One factor is the evolving race relations. By the end of the book, An African-American chief solves the series of murders that goes back some forty years.

I have always enjoyed the Easy Rawlins character created by Walter Moseley. There are many things that come together to make the Moseley books a great series: plot, characterization, great dialog. But it's hard to find a lot of books that provide insight into the challenges of urban African Americans in the Civil Rights era (1945-1970ish) as you get from following the life of Rawlins and his friends.

Like many, I never read John Ball's In the Heat of the Night (1965) but remember the movie. The book one an Edgar for first mystery, and was strong on theme of racial tension.

A ten year old article describes "a crowded list of black protagonists who solve crimes in detective stories and novels penned by African-American writers." I am not familiar with these books. This should be a good start into some new and different writers.

As usual, the "Stop You're Killing Me" site is great for lists: For example all of the African-American sleuths featured in mystery fiction.

I found an interesting study of both positive and negative stereotyping in mysteries of the 1940s and earlier.

I do not believe that every black author necessarily will result in a book with insights into the issues of racism and civil rights in our society; however I'm not well read enough to say for sure. In looking up various books, I found one for my "must read" list: A Rage in Harlem, (1957) by Chester Himes. You can get the idea from Amazon readers and others.

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