Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Butler Did It

by Maya Jones, West End Branch Library

In the Heat of the Night movie tie-in book cover
for the 1967 film starring Sidney Poitier
I come from a long line of mystery buffs. My mother loves to read mysteries and watch television mystery series and films. My father loves to watch mysteries but doesn’t read them. I’m always telling him, “Dad, you know this mystery series is based on a book, right?” Ever in hope that one day, he will actually read a mystery and decide that he likes the book better than the television series or movie. It’s not that my father doesn’t read but he likes to read newspapers, journals, and magazines that deal with politics, business, and finance.

Anyway, since we're celebrating Black History Month here at the Birmingham Public Library, I decided that this might be the time to showcase African American mystery writers.

Frankie Y. Bailey is a criminal justice professor at the University at Albany, State University of New York. She has written numerous nonfiction books about crime and is the author of the Hannah McCabe and Lizzie Stuart mystery series. In her most recent series, Hannah McCabe is a police detective and the series takes place in the near future 2019 & 2020. Her sleuth, Lizzie Stuart, is a university professor and crime historian. The books in her Hannah McCabe series are The Red Queen Dies (2013) and What the Fly Saw (2015). There are five books in the Lizzie Stuart series.

John Ball is creator of the Virgil Tibbs series and winner of the Edgar Award for his first book in the series, In the Heat of the Night. Don’t forget to watch the films with Sidney Poitier after you read the book.
In the Heat of the Night (1967)
They Call Me Mister Tibbs! (1970)
The Organization (1971)
You can also watch the TV series In the Heat of the Night (1988-1995) with Howard Rollins as Virgil Tibbs and Carroll O’Connor as Chief Gillespie on the WGN America channel.

Karen Grigsby Bates is an NPR correspondent and is the author of the Alex Powell series. Alex Powell is a journalist who has an interest in mysteries. There are only two books in the series: Plain Brown Wrapper and Chosen People.

Eleanor Taylor Bland’s African American detective Marti MacAlister moves from Chicago to work in a small town in Illinois. There are fourteen books in the series.

Charlotte Carter’s Nannette Hayes series features a female jazz musician who solves murders. There are four books in her Nanette Hays series. Carter also has two books in another series which features a trio who solves mysteries in Cook County, Illinois.

Stephen L. Carter burst onto the writing scene in 2002 with The Emperor of Ocean Park the first book in his Elm Harbor series. Carter depicts the lives of upper class African Americans in his mysteries and thrillers. There are three books in his Elm Harbor series. He has two other stand-alone mystery/thriller novels.

Christopher Chamber’s heroine, FBI agent Angela Bivens, is in a catch-22 situation, she’s just won a discrimination suit against the FBI. Because of the suit, she’s not trusted at the agency and she can’t trust anyone. But that’s not going to keep her from solving crimes. There are only two books in the Angela Bivens series.

John William Corrington & Joyce Hooper Corrington are a husband and wife team who’ve written screenplays for television and film. Together they authored the Ralph “Rat” Trapp series. Trapp is a homicide detective in New Orleans and there are four books in the series.

Christopher Darden & Dick Lochte write the Nicolette Hill series. Nicolette “Nikki” is a prosecutor in Los Angeles. There are four books in the series.

Kyra Davis is the author of the Sophie Katz mystery series. Sophie, like her creator Kyra Davis, is a writer and biracial. There are five books in her Sophie Katz series.

Nora DeLoach is the creator of the Mama Detective Series. Sadly, Ms. DeLoach passed in 2001. I had the honor of meeting her at an American Library Association Convention and was impressed by her tenacity in selling her books and her kindness. There are eight books in the Mama Mystery Series.

Grace F. Edwards authors the Mali Anderson series. Mali is a former NYPD police officer who lives in Harlem and is working on a PhD in social work. She lives with her father and helps take care of her young nephew, whose mother was murdered. There are four books in this series.

Clyde W. Ford writes the Charlie Noble mysteries and Shango mysteries. There are three books in the Charlie Noble series and two books in the Shango series.

Robert Greer writes the CJ Floyd mysteries. CJ is a bail bondsman, bounty hunter, and antique dealer. There are eight books in the series.

Gar Anthony Haywood writes the Aaron Gunner detective series. There are currently five books in the series. Haywood has also written two thriller/mysteries under the name Ray Shannon.

Chester Himes is author of a detective series that takes place in Harlem featuring detectives “Coffin” Ed Johnson and “Grave Digger” Jones. Five of his books were made into movies: Come Back, Charleston Blue, Cotton Comes to Harlem, Hot Day Hot Night, A Rage in Harlem, and Yesterday Will Make You Cry.

Walter Mosley is a mystery, science fiction, and literary fiction author. He is best known for his Easy Rawlins and Fearless Jones mysteries set in the 1940s/1950s. He also writes about a modern detective and ex-criminal, Leonid McGill.

Barbara Neely’s character Blanche White works as a domestic in North Carolina. Her first book in the series, Blanche on the Lam, won the Agatha Award in 1992. There are four books in this series.

Jewell Parker Rhodes writes the Marie Laveau mystery series, based on Marie Laveau, a legendary New Orleans Voodoo priestess. There are four books in the series.

Pamela Thomas-Graham’s detective Nikki Chase is an economics professor. She has four books in the series.

Valerie Wilson Wesley’s private detective, Tamara Hayle, is a single mom and ex-police officer. There are eight books in the series.

Paula L. Woods’ LAPD detective Charlotte Justice is the protagonist in her four-book series.

I hope you enjoy these authors and their detectives. If the Birmingham Public Library doesn’t have a book in the series that you are reading, you can always have it ordered through ILL (Interlibrary Loan).

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