If you’re interested in reading about the images and stereotypes of black characters in mystery fiction try my Out of the Woodpile: Black Characters in Crime and Detective Fiction (Greenwood, 1991). I wrote it when I was living in Frankfort, Kentucky, just after finishing my dissertation. To my surprise, it was nominated for an Edgar (Mystery Writers of America) in the criticism/biography category. The book begins with Edgar Allan Poe and goes up to 1990 examining all of the crime fiction I could get my hands on and offering my conclusions about how black characters were depicted as the mystery evolved. It includes a “symposium” in which a number of mystery writers (who I had met at conferences or simply wrote to out of the blue) graciously responded to my questions about the portrayal of black characters.
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