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Black Noir: Mystery, Crime, and Suspense Fiction by African-American Writers

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Some of the best-known and most influential pieces of crime fiction have been from African American writers. Be it Walter Mosley’s great detective Easy Rawlins, or the mean streets of Harlem at the hands of Chester Himes, the stories and characters in this anthology have shaped the mystery genre with their own unique viewpoints and styles. Contributors to the collection in Some of the best-known and most influential pieces of crime fiction have been from African American writers. Be it Walter Mosley’s great detective Easy Rawlins, or the mean streets of Harlem at the hands of Chester Himes, the stories and characters in this anthology have shaped the mystery genre with their own unique viewpoints and styles. Contributors to the collection include Robert Greer, Chester Himes, Walter Mosley, Cary Phillips, Frankie Bailey, and Richard Wright.


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Some of the best-known and most influential pieces of crime fiction have been from African American writers. Be it Walter Mosley’s great detective Easy Rawlins, or the mean streets of Harlem at the hands of Chester Himes, the stories and characters in this anthology have shaped the mystery genre with their own unique viewpoints and styles. Contributors to the collection in Some of the best-known and most influential pieces of crime fiction have been from African American writers. Be it Walter Mosley’s great detective Easy Rawlins, or the mean streets of Harlem at the hands of Chester Himes, the stories and characters in this anthology have shaped the mystery genre with their own unique viewpoints and styles. Contributors to the collection include Robert Greer, Chester Himes, Walter Mosley, Cary Phillips, Frankie Bailey, and Richard Wright.

56 review for Black Noir: Mystery, Crime, and Suspense Fiction by African-American Writers

  1. 5 out of 5

    jv poore

    By far the best collection of crime, mystery and suspense shorts that I've ever encountered. Mostly written in the early 1900s by Black writers only, these gritty yarns effortlessly evoke images of dark alleys, sounds from the shadows and stoic detectives. By far the best collection of crime, mystery and suspense shorts that I've ever encountered. Mostly written in the early 1900s by Black writers only, these gritty yarns effortlessly evoke images of dark alleys, sounds from the shadows and stoic detectives.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    This was a solid collection which I liked for several reason (1) One of the theme was role of the PI in investigating crimes in communities that mistrust the police (due to racism on the part of the police, violence by the police etc.) The book also explored the interesting space occupied by African-American cops. Both themes are extremely relevant currently. (2) An writing motif common to the noir mystery genre is the use of the "twist," and this book makes use of it in spades with several storie This was a solid collection which I liked for several reason (1) One of the theme was role of the PI in investigating crimes in communities that mistrust the police (due to racism on the part of the police, violence by the police etc.) The book also explored the interesting space occupied by African-American cops. Both themes are extremely relevant currently. (2) An writing motif common to the noir mystery genre is the use of the "twist," and this book makes use of it in spades with several stories in the collection employing one. Some of the ones that didn't, you wished they did. (3) It included stories which I would term "country noir." I think too often noir is thought of as an urban genre. This article on the topic looks interesting. (4) The inclusion of older works. The earliest in this book, "The Sheriff's Children," by Charles Waddell Chesnutt, was published in 1889 and was probably my favorite piece in the book. Waddell would later going on to be an civil rights activist, serving on the General Committee of the NAACP. (5) Like most anthologies, I read this one with an eye toward exposure to authors I'd want to read more of, and it didn't fail me on that score due to their sadness without one. Pieces I particularly enjoyed and want to read more of the author "Old Boys, Old Girls" byEdward P. Jones is notable for it's stark simple language which builds and winds up packing quite a punch "I'll Be Doggone" by Paula L. Woods (She has a series and also edited the first anthology devote exclusively to the work of African-American crime writes (Spooks, Spies, & Private Eyes: Black Mystery, Crime, & Suspense Fiction of the 20th Century)) "On the Saturday the Siren Sounds at Noon by Ann Petry has a sad ending which you can spot a mile away but still aren't ready for. "The Sherrif Children" by Charles W. Chesnutt (discussed above) "The Canasta Club" by Eleanor Taylor BlandEleanor Taylor Bland teaches us that old ladies can be hella dangerous. "Summer Session" by Alice Dunbar-Nelson was a slight story. What I mean by that is it was exactly what it was supposed to be without trying to do too much. Dunbar-Nelson was married for 4 years to the more famous Paul Dunbar. They divorced in part to her lesbian affairs. I most definitely want to read her autobiography, Give Us Each Day: The Diary of Alice Dunbar-Nelson. Her short story collection "The Goodness of St. Rocque is regarded as the first short story collection by an African-American woman. She is known for her reviews and essays which influenced more famous Harlem Renaissance writers. Pieces which I also really enjoyed but for which didn't necessarily make me want to checkout more work by the author "Corollary" by Hughes Allison was his only detective story. "John Archer's Nose" by Rudolph Fisher had an interesting twist at the end and was about good solid detective work, but it dragged a bit in places. "Black Dog" by Walter Mosley

  3. 5 out of 5

    Carla Remy

    I had never heard of Anne Petry (1908 - 1997) before, and her story here (On Saturday the Siren Sounds at Noon) is just fantastic. She wrote a few novels in the 1940s and 50s, and I totally want to read them now. House of Tears by Gary Phillips was quite entertaining. I loved The Canasta Club by Eleanor Taylor Bland so much that I might read one of her books (even though they are all a series, and I usually avoid series). I think my favorite was The First Rule Is by Gar Anthony Haywood.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Angela

    One of the best anthologies I have read in years. I learned a lot from the histories of each author prior to the short stories written. The book also elevated my vocabulary. I loved the stories written in the early part of the 1900s. These authors mastered suspense. I didn't realize that there were magazines dedicated to mysteries writers and fiction. I had several favorite stories. I would recommend this book to those readers who don't really like mysteries. It is a good introduction to the gen One of the best anthologies I have read in years. I learned a lot from the histories of each author prior to the short stories written. The book also elevated my vocabulary. I loved the stories written in the early part of the 1900s. These authors mastered suspense. I didn't realize that there were magazines dedicated to mysteries writers and fiction. I had several favorite stories. I would recommend this book to those readers who don't really like mysteries. It is a good introduction to the genre. I would also recommend it to those who are fans of the genre and need to find something different to read.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    COUNTDOWN: Mid-20th Century North American Crime BOOK/Short 34 (of 250) "On Saturday the Siren Sounds at Noon" by Ann Lane Petry is my favorite short story here. Otto Penzler does a sensational job of collecting mystery/crime works by black authors which are hard, or impossible, to find elsewhere. Ann Lane Petry is of huge importance in American literature: she is the first African-American woman to sell a million copies of a book, "The Street." But to "Siren": Hook=3 stars: Standard, as this work o COUNTDOWN: Mid-20th Century North American Crime BOOK/Short 34 (of 250) "On Saturday the Siren Sounds at Noon" by Ann Lane Petry is my favorite short story here. Otto Penzler does a sensational job of collecting mystery/crime works by black authors which are hard, or impossible, to find elsewhere. Ann Lane Petry is of huge importance in American literature: she is the first African-American woman to sell a million copies of a book, "The Street." But to "Siren": Hook=3 stars: Standard, as this work opens with a group of people at a train station, waiting for the next train. Something bad is about to happen. Pace=4: After the first page, you'll not be able to stop reading. Plot=5: Sensational, horrific: a crime, and then another. Like the old saying: "If you seek revenge, dig two graves." People=4: You can't forget 2 characters. Place=4: We are in a certain time and place in America. It's unmistakable, but this story is all plot. Summary: 4.0. The plot is a punch to the gut. I hope to find more works by this author.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lydia

    I cannot recommend this book highly enough! As usual, Otto Penzler does an outstanding job of collecting a truly historical representation of short-stories from a group of authors. The first story by Edward P. Jones, "Old Boys, Old Girls", is all of what a mystery short story should be; Poe would be impressed. He includes not only currenty black mystery authors, but also those from the 19th century, assisting in the recording of a relevant literary history. Otto, you rock! I cannot recommend this book highly enough! As usual, Otto Penzler does an outstanding job of collecting a truly historical representation of short-stories from a group of authors. The first story by Edward P. Jones, "Old Boys, Old Girls", is all of what a mystery short story should be; Poe would be impressed. He includes not only currenty black mystery authors, but also those from the 19th century, assisting in the recording of a relevant literary history. Otto, you rock!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Bre (Loc'd Booktician)

    This is by far my favorite book of 2020. There is a world of black mystery, crime, and suspense writers that I didn't know about. I purchased 5 books while reading this collection of short stories. A lot of these authors were born in the mid-1800s to the mid-1990s. I didn't know that Black Mystery Writers existed at that time. That shows my ignorance. It was so refreshing to read short stories from Black Women. Wow, the talent. These stories gave me a window into this time period. It was clear t This is by far my favorite book of 2020. There is a world of black mystery, crime, and suspense writers that I didn't know about. I purchased 5 books while reading this collection of short stories. A lot of these authors were born in the mid-1800s to the mid-1990s. I didn't know that Black Mystery Writers existed at that time. That shows my ignorance. It was so refreshing to read short stories from Black Women. Wow, the talent. These stories gave me a window into this time period. It was clear that the black writers in the mid to late 1800s wrote for white authors. This was 15 beautiful and often painfully crafted stories. I have many favorites at the moment. I will be doing a thorough review of this book and will be putting the link to the video review here later. Wow! I need time to digest what I have read.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    I'd recommend this book to anyone who likes mystery fiction. I'm not a short story fan but I picked this up in the bookstore and the introduction said that "mystery fiction written by black authors is, not surprisingly, often very different from work in that broadly defined genre written by white authors". I tend to think that groupings by race are entirely bogus and that anything that supports the grouping is probably reflective of some common experience that, for whatever reason, happens dispr I'd recommend this book to anyone who likes mystery fiction. I'm not a short story fan but I picked this up in the bookstore and the introduction said that "mystery fiction written by black authors is, not surprisingly, often very different from work in that broadly defined genre written by white authors". I tend to think that groupings by race are entirely bogus and that anything that supports the grouping is probably reflective of some common experience that, for whatever reason, happens disproportionately to one group or another. I think that this is what the editor here is thinking too. He wrote a good and thought-provoking introduction. There are fifteen stories, most good, a couple outstanding. "Old Boys, Old Girls" by Edward P. Jones is outstanding. I also especially liked "The First Rule Is" by Gar Anthony Haywood, "The Canasta Club" by Eleanor Taylor Bland, and "Talma Gordon" by Pauline E. Hopkins. It's a good anthology just from an enjoyment perspective. As for a commonality among the writers, it did seem that most, though not all, lacked a denouement. There was often no defined ending or, at least, no sense of justice. However, I don't know if that is a reflection of the tastes of the editor or if it could point to a broader generalization that could be ascribed to some subset of writers based on common experiences, geography, or something else. It's intriguing enough that I wrote to my old English teacher to suggest the book to her and let her know that I'd value her thoughts. It's an excellent book for discussion.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Linda B

    A great little collection. I particularly liked "Talma Gordon." A great little collection. I particularly liked "Talma Gordon."

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mel

    I did enjoy this collection of short stories but not as much as I was hoping. I really enjoy the old pulp style detective stories, but I'm not really a fan of modern crime writing. This book was an ecclectic mix of writing from the 19th century through to the 21st. While it was good to show that African American writers had been writing in the genre for so long being such a big mix made it feel like perhaps there weren't enough stories for a more concentrated book. (Which I hope isn't true). Ove I did enjoy this collection of short stories but not as much as I was hoping. I really enjoy the old pulp style detective stories, but I'm not really a fan of modern crime writing. This book was an ecclectic mix of writing from the 19th century through to the 21st. While it was good to show that African American writers had been writing in the genre for so long being such a big mix made it feel like perhaps there weren't enough stories for a more concentrated book. (Which I hope isn't true). Overall I enjoyed the older stories more. The stories I enjoyed the most were the ones with social commentary. It was also great to see so many early writers, including women writers, who'd been published, even if they were in the black press rather than the mainstream press.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Emlen

    A good anthology, with the stories arranged in no obvious order, which makes it more pleasant to read straight through. I couldn't really enjoy any of the straight whodunits (I just don't like the genre that much, though I did read a lot of Agatha Christie years ago), except where a few of the older ones were historically interesting. But there's a good deal of variety within crime fiction. Stories worth mentioning: "Old Boys, Old Girls," by Edward P. Jones: taking place over the main character's A good anthology, with the stories arranged in no obvious order, which makes it more pleasant to read straight through. I couldn't really enjoy any of the straight whodunits (I just don't like the genre that much, though I did read a lot of Agatha Christie years ago), except where a few of the older ones were historically interesting. But there's a good deal of variety within crime fiction. Stories worth mentioning: "Old Boys, Old Girls," by Edward P. Jones: taking place over the main character's long stretch in prison, then his attempts to find a life after his release; one of the best stories in the collection, by far. "Corollary," by Hughes Allison: pretty dull, actually, but filled with detailed descriptions of police work in the 1940s, which kept me somewhat interested. "Strictly Business," by Chester Himes: just a solid crime story, by a master of the genre. "Black Dog," by Walter Mosley: a good story, with a sympathetic main character (in a similar situation to the one from "Old Boys, Old Girls") and other characters surrounding him who manage to have a lot of complexity given how little we hear about them. Also, it centers on kindness to a dog, so very much calculated to tug my heartstrings. "The Sheriff's Children," by Charles W. Chesnutt: absolutely my favorite in the collection. (Also the earliest-written [from 1889], which is perhaps unsurprising.) Takes place in a Southern town, where the background of slavery and the Civil War loom over everything. The character of the sheriff, in particular, starts off looking like a model of a good Southern citizen - he was reluctant to join the Confederate Army in the first place, but then served bravely; he stops a lynch mob out of a sense of duty - but then his past crimes turn out to be the focus of the story, and it ends (view spoiler)[ on a very unsettling note, without giving him absolution. I actually wonder if the effect of the ending is in a way stronger now than when the story was written. When I hear a character say that he's innocent in spite of damning evidence against him, I assume I'm being set up for a gradual discovery of the real killer (especially when the police-officer protagonist determines to investigate the crime); and when the story is cut short, there's an added level of shock because that expectation is disappointed. But in 1889, when the detective genre was so much younger, would this have been as striking? (hide spoiler)] In any case, I definitely plan to look for more Chesnutt.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Nandi

    Good. read

  13. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Lind

    #BlackWritersMatter Do Black writers matter? Of course, they do! And editor Otto Penzler proves it. In BLACK NOIR, famous short story anthology editor, Otto Penzler, takes stories from African-American authors dating all the way back to Alice Ruth Moore Dunbar-Nelson, who wrote short stories in the 1800s, all the way up to Gary Phillips, who is still writing to this day. Out of all the short story anthologies he has put together, I have to say this is Penzler's best one. Not a single story in here #BlackWritersMatter Do Black writers matter? Of course, they do! And editor Otto Penzler proves it. In BLACK NOIR, famous short story anthology editor, Otto Penzler, takes stories from African-American authors dating all the way back to Alice Ruth Moore Dunbar-Nelson, who wrote short stories in the 1800s, all the way up to Gary Phillips, who is still writing to this day. Out of all the short story anthologies he has put together, I have to say this is Penzler's best one. Not a single story in here is boring and all of them are roughly the same length ("John Archer's Nose" by Rudolph Fisher is the longest one). Each one is unique in its own way guarantying the reader a different and one-of-a-kind bedtime story every night of the week.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Katherine Stansfield

    I very much enjoyed this anthology of crime short stories by African American writers. There's a good range of material here, from C19th stories to work from the late 2000s, some by names I was already familiar with (Walter Mosley, Eleanor Taylor Bland, Chester Himes) and some new-to-me-authors whose other works I'll now be checking out: Paula L. Woods, Robert Greer, Gary Phillips, Gar Anthony Haywood. The standout story for me was 'On Saturday the Siren Sounds at Noon' by Ann Petry which is an a I very much enjoyed this anthology of crime short stories by African American writers. There's a good range of material here, from C19th stories to work from the late 2000s, some by names I was already familiar with (Walter Mosley, Eleanor Taylor Bland, Chester Himes) and some new-to-me-authors whose other works I'll now be checking out: Paula L. Woods, Robert Greer, Gary Phillips, Gar Anthony Haywood. The standout story for me was 'On Saturday the Siren Sounds at Noon' by Ann Petry which is an arresting and moving story about trauma, so tightly wound I almost felt I stopped breathing while I read it - a fantastic short story. I also absolutely loved Edward P. Jones' 'Old Boys, Old Girls' - a masterclass in character, pathos, grit.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Hobbs

    Read so far: Old boys, old girls / Edward P. Jones --1 I'll be doggone / Paula L. Woods -- Corollary / Hughes Allison --3 Oprah's song / Robert Greer -- On Saturday the siren sounds at noon / Ann Petry -- The sheriff's children / Charles W. Chesnutt --3 House of tears / Gary Phillips -- The Canasta club / Eleanor Taylor Bland -- Talma Gordon / Pauline E. Hopkins --2 Strictly business / Chester Himes -- John Archer's nose / Rudolph Fisher -- *The shoemaker murder / George S. Schuyler -- The first rule is / Ga Read so far: Old boys, old girls / Edward P. Jones --1 I'll be doggone / Paula L. Woods -- Corollary / Hughes Allison --3 Oprah's song / Robert Greer -- On Saturday the siren sounds at noon / Ann Petry -- The sheriff's children / Charles W. Chesnutt --3 House of tears / Gary Phillips -- The Canasta club / Eleanor Taylor Bland -- Talma Gordon / Pauline E. Hopkins --2 Strictly business / Chester Himes -- John Archer's nose / Rudolph Fisher -- *The shoemaker murder / George S. Schuyler -- The first rule is / Gar Anthony Haywood -- Summer session / Alice Dunbar Nelson --2 Black dog / Walter Mosley--

  16. 5 out of 5

    Terry

    Made myself finish

  17. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie Foust

    very good collection of African-American writers like Chester Himes & Walter Moseley.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    Short stories by African American mystery writers. I did not read every story but several of them were excellent.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Creolecat

  20. 4 out of 5

    Siobhan Cortes

  21. 5 out of 5

    Doug

  22. 4 out of 5

    Afonette

  23. 5 out of 5

    Nick Seeley

  24. 4 out of 5

    Khalfani Myrick

  25. 5 out of 5

    Gayle

  26. 5 out of 5

    Clifton Brown

  27. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Glaze

  28. 4 out of 5

    Angie

  29. 4 out of 5

    Beverly Brown

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lindy Loo

  31. 4 out of 5

    Robert Monroe

  32. 4 out of 5

    Dionisia

  33. 4 out of 5

    Lara

  34. 5 out of 5

    Anna

  35. 4 out of 5

    Susie

  36. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

  37. 5 out of 5

    Poppy

  38. 4 out of 5

    Anna

  39. 5 out of 5

    Tasha

  40. 5 out of 5

    Dolsey

  41. 4 out of 5

    Amber

  42. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

  43. 5 out of 5

    Heidi

  44. 5 out of 5

    Amber

  45. 5 out of 5

    Tere

  46. 4 out of 5

    Tonia

  47. 4 out of 5

    Ericka

  48. 4 out of 5

    Brian Lindenmuth

  49. 5 out of 5

    Orishaz

  50. 5 out of 5

    Thomas Redmond

  51. 4 out of 5

    Angel

  52. 4 out of 5

    Trey Taylor

  53. 5 out of 5

    Toni

  54. 4 out of 5

    Harini

  55. 4 out of 5

    Rachael

  56. 5 out of 5

    TheStoryBrooks

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