Re: RARA-AVIS: Racial minorities in classic crime fiction

Date: 16 Jul 2003


A couple of more ethnic lead characters from the
'30s-'50s HB era.

"Spanish Blood," a short story by Raymond Chandler, features an Hispanic LAPD lieutenant as the hero.

Fredric Brown's THE LENIENT BEAST features an Hispanic police detective on the trail of a serial killer.

Ed Lacy's ROOM TO SWING features a tough, black private eye. The book got an Edgar for Best Novel of

In the late '40s, EQMM published a police procedural short story featuring a black detective. The name of both the story and the author (who was also black) escape me at the moment, but it was reprinted in Paula Woods's anthology of African-American crime fiction, SPOOKS, SPIES, AND PRIVATE EYES.

As for important supporting characters:

One of the cops in Chandler's "Red Wind" is Hispanic. On the Gerald Mohr MARLOWE radio series, that Hispnaic character becomes Marlowe's regular police contact.

One of the hero's Philadelphia police contacts in Bart Spicer's Carney Wilde series is black, as are his clients in the first book in the series, THE DARK LIGHT, and the second (or maybe third), BLUES FOR THE PRINCE (the titular "Prince" is a legendary jazz musician, if you like books with a musical background).

One of Mike Roscoe's Johnny April novels (I think it might have been RIDDLE ME THIS), has an interesting twist on the "when a man's partner is killed" theme. The murder victim April musta venge is a young PI he was mentoring. The young PI was black and was trying to prove that there was enough of a demand for an honest black PI in the "colored section" of Kansas City.

I'm sure there are more. Those are just off the top of my head.


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