RARA-AVIS: Re: 1970s reading

From: Kevin Burton Smith ( kvnsmith@thrillingdetective.com)
Date: 05 Mar 2003

Yeah, I'd have to say the seventies are a real treat, particularly for P.I. buffs. Then-rookies like Bill Pronzini, Robert Parker, Joseph Hansen, Michael Collins, Dick Francis, Joe Gores, James Crumley, Roger Simon, Arthur Lyons, Marcia Muller, Lawrence Block, Liza Cody, Ernest Tidyman -- all these folks, in their own way, really shook up the genre. And guys like Ross Macdonald and John D. MacDonald wrote some of their best books during this period.

And I'm sure I'm forgetting tons of great writers from that period, but thanks to them, the genre is something far more vital than a nostalgic joke wrapped up in fedoras and trenchcoats.

As for non-Caucasian protagonists, John E. Bruce's SADIPE OKUKENU was not only one of fiction's first black private eyes, but he was also one of the very first fictional private eyes, period. He was an operative for the International Detective Agency, predating Hammett's CONTINENTAL OP by at least fifteen years!

He appeared in only one case, THE BLACK SLEUTH, serialized between 1907 and 1909. He's on the trail of a stolen diamond, which takes him from England to America and back home to Africa, and allows him, as Gary Phillips says, in his essay The Cool, the Square and the Tough, to ruminate "on the state of race relations on these various continents."

I'm not sure how hard-boiled he was, but it might be interesting to find out.


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