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Black Mystery Month


Wednesday, February 06, 2008
 
Actually February is Black History Month, so here's a few links to tide you over until I have the Carnival of the Criminal Minds up this weekend.

* Room To Swing is generally considered to be the first novel to feature a realistic black detective, Toussaint Moore. Ed Lynskey profiles author "Ed Lacy" (actually Leonard Zinberg) at MysteryFile.com.

* Brian Lindemuth provides an interesting overview of black crime and mystery fiction over at FantasyBookSpot.

* Let's not forget Kevin Burton Smith's "Beyond Shaft: Black Private Eyes In Fiction" from 2001.

* Last but certainly not least: earlier this week, Slate.com published an appreciation of one of my favorite mystery movies, In The Heat Of The Night. Sidney Poitier was the star, but Rod Steiger had the better role, as bigoted police chief Bill Gillespie.

This movie reminds me of an interview I once heard with Donald Barksdale, the first black NBA All-Star back in the segregated 1950s. When asked about his teammates' reaction to playing with a black man, he responded, "They're athletes. If you can play, they respect you."

The same is true in every profession, and as Gillespie realizes that Poitier's Virgil Tibbs is a good policeman - better, in fact, than he is himself - he is able to overcome his prejudices and eventually offer his hand in friendship.

As the Slate piece notes, the film doesn't sacrifice story for social policy. Over forty (!) years later this remains a taunt thriller as well as a document of why the Good Old Days weren't all that rosy.

posted by Graham Powell at 6:41 PM