Yes: Black Lives Matter (2)
“The actions we need to collectively take
to support the Black community.”
I live in the publishing community. My publisher is the biggest gorilla on the street, and I am actively involved in Mystery Writers of America, both of whom have come out with public statement on the #BLM movement (here and here.) And though we all know that the larger the organization, the more glacial the institutional racism can be, many of us are pledged to making sure real change does happen.
But on a more personal level, which Black writers do I recommend?
I thought you’d never ask.
Black Writers matter
There are a lot of Black mystery writers, and I imagine that we all (especially if we don’t have a hardback with an author photo) already read Black writers without realizing it. There are good places to begin with long and enticing lists that lead into the world of Black Mystery fiction. But let’s start with five authors I particularly enjoy. (Each has a link to Indiebound, to take you to your local bookshop, but you can get them anywhere.)
Barbara Neely (or BarbaraNeely) is this year’s MWA Grand Master, based on four delicious books about a Black cleaning woman ironically named Blanche White. They’re funny and moving and deal with all the issues you’d expect a working-class woman of color to encounter. Just too terribly sad that Barbara died before she held the plaque in her hand. Meet Ms. White in Blanche on the Lam.
Paula Woods also had a four-novel career, starting in 1999 with Inner City Blues. The name of her cop protagonist is Charlotte Justice, and I do not know why she stopped writing because they are good, solid crime fiction with a distinctive and compelling voice.
(Although: hmm. Two women, both Black, both fine writers, both with four-novel careers. So how much did their race—and particularly, the race of their characters—affect their publishing success?)
More recently, my friend Rachel Howzell Hall. She has a great series with police detective Lou Norton, starting with Land of Shadows, and a nice, creepy, alt-Agatha Christie thriller They All Fall Down. (Rachel has four in her series, but also the same number of standalones, so she’s well past the four-novel career curse.)
Attica Locke won the Edgar Award a couple years back for Bluebird, Bluebird, a thought-provoking tale of Black Texas life and the pulls when a Black man is also in law enforcement. I don’t know much about Texas, but Locke makes it sing.
The other writer I can’t recommend highly enough is sci-fi writer N. K. Jemison, the only author to have won the Hugo award three years running, for all three books in her Broken Earth trilogy. But her new one, The City We Became, is absolutely stunning. If you know China Mièville’s work, it’s a little like some of his, but if you don’t, I can’t think how to describe it except in superlatives. Rich, sharp, complicated. Amazing, fantastic, enthralling. Utterly unexpected and original. And so incredibly present, it might have been written last week.