Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: New Noir

Mari Hall (
Mon, 12 Jan 1998 16:23:29 -0600 I have to show off my little knowledge here as I heard Bob Skinner talk
right after Skin Deep, Blood Red came out. He is librarian at Xavier
University in New Orleans (which was originally an all-black school and
is mentioned in Cat-Eyed Trouble as such). He said they were going
through some old photographs of the '30's and '40's trying to catalog
them and sort them, when he saw this picture of a young, black man with
the fedora and upon turning the photo over, saw the name "Wesley
Ferrell". No other information was available. You'll note (and it's
worth a trip to the store just to gaze at this cover) that on both
covers the young black man appears with a fedora. Skinner said he hoped
that someone would recognize the photo and come forward. I'm sure we'll
hear if someone does!

Melissa Hudak wrote:
> Mari asked about Robert Skinner's books. Very good reads, and
> exceptionally true to their era. The lead character is Wesley Farrell,
> the son of a Creole family, who is passing as white. A great deal of the
> books' emotion comes from the fact that Farrell is reluctant to reveal his
> true racial mix because he knows he will end up losing everything he has
> worked so hard to gain if he does so.
> I read the first book in the series, Skin Deep Blood Red about a year ago,
> so I'm a bit vague on plot details. However, if I'm remembering
> correctly, Farrell is asked to investigate a murder that threatens his
> family. Wanting to stay as far as possible from the cold and distant
> woman who raised him, Farrell agrees to investigate if only to get her out
> of his life. Great book, very gritty quality.
> The second book I read this weekend. Again, a very good book. A Negro
> policeman (that is the term used in the book, so please don't flame me for
> being politically incorrect) is being released from prison after serving
> time for a manslaughter conviction. Although he was framed, he has little
> or no interest in gaining revenge. He just wants to reunited with his
> girlfriend, who has been waiting for him. When he returns to New Orleans,
> however, he discovers that his girlfriend has been murdered and that
> somebody else wants him dead. His girlfriend was also a former girlfriend
> of Wesley Farrell, so Farrell helps him track down the killer.
> The thing that struck me most vividly about both books is the fact that
> they don't prettify their era at all--especially in terms of how the white
> and black characters interact. The most annoying thing to me in
> historical mysteries is when an author feels compelled to change an era so
> that modern day audiences will feel less uncomfortable. Skinner gives as
> realistic depiction of 1930's America as in anything by Chandler or
> Hammett. It may be disturbing to modern readers, but I think honesty is
> better than an airbrushing of history.
> Hammett and Chandler, by the way, along with Cornell Woolrich, are used as
> comparisions to Skinner's work on the book jacket. I wouldn't say Skinner
> is quite that good, but he may get there after one or two more books.
> Melissa Hudak
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