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Shades of Black: Crime and Mystery Stories by African-American Authors [Hardcover]

Eleanor Taylor Bland
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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From Publishers Weekly

Talking about African-American mystery writers, editor Bland says, "In my opinion, the most significant contribution we have made, collectively, to mystery fiction is the development of the extended family; the permanence of spouses and significant others, most of whom don't die in the first three chapters or by the end of the novel; children who are complex, wanted, and loved; and even pets." And while some of the 22 stories in this excellent anthology are as hard as nails and as noir as a night in Thompsonville (such as Gary Phillips's "Beginner's Luck," which stars Chainey, his no-nonsense former Las Vegas stripper, and Walter Mosley's short, pungent "Bombardier"), most of them do have a strong sense of family. Bland's own "Murder on the Southwest Chief," written with her 15-year-old son, Anthony, has her suburban Chicago cop Marti MacAlister using her sons' journals to solve a crime. Frankie Y. Bailey's "Since You Went Away" is another corking railroad yarn, featuring Lizzie Stuart's grandfather, a Pullman porter, in a tale of jealousy and sexual repression in 1946. The feeling of extended family includes a tribute to the late Hugh Holton, a Chicago police captain and prolific mystery writer, by historian Lerone Bennett Jr., even though Holton's own entry, "The Werewolf File," is a dark and rather bloody tale. Some of the other contributors' names may be new to casual mystery readers, but part of the pleasure of this wide-ranging volume is welcoming them to the family.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

For a collection touted as "the first anthology of African-American mystery writers," one would have hoped for tougher editorial oversight. It's mystifying why Bland (who includes a decidedly bland Marti MacAlister mystery written with her 15-year-old son) would feature the elliptical Walter Mosley story "Bombardier," for instance, rather than any number of more noteworthy Mosley efforts. Readers also might be puzzled to find what appears to be an open-ended snippet of a novel--with no further explanation--from the talented Grace F. Edwards as well as a few stories clearly not ready for print. Thankfully, there's enough top-notch stuff here to recommend this groundbreaking collection anyway. Gems include Chris Benson's "Double Dealing," a crackling tale of an undercover reporter's investigation into the inner-city drug trade; a grisly supernatural mystery from the late Hugh Holton; Tracy P. Clark's whimsically fun PI character study, "For Services Rendered"; and a compelling tale of murder at a women's shelter by Dicey Scroggins Jackson. Frank Sennett
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

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4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Uneven , poorly edited--yet entertaining collection March 22 2004
Format:Hardcover
Shades of Black: Crime and Mystery Stories by African-American Authors is an uneven yet entertaining collection of stories all penned by African-American authors, some well known, other fairly obscure.
Not all of these are "mystery" stories in the traditional sense. Some of the "mysteries" here cover issues as mundane as a missing dog. Others are "mysteries" mainly in a cultural context, as is the case with Walter Moseley's contribution, "Bombardier". It's all in all a very diverse collection that, in total, ought to have something among the 22 submissions that would appeal to virtually any reader.
If there can be said to be an underlying theme to these stories it would be, generally speaking, an examination of the underlying forces of society, relationships and personality that motivate one toward the life of crime. If that's the question, the fact is the answers-to the extent there really are any-are all over the board.
The writing throughout is universally good. The proofreading and editing, by Eleanor Taylor, is slipshod and uneven. One is left with the sense Ms Taylor didn't so much edit this collection as assemble it. While this is often a source of mild irritation it doesn't detract in a serious way from enjoying the book.
In the end one is not so much moved by the mysteries presented as by the wit, superstitions, mores, aphorisms, attitudes and-most keenly-the shared experiences of the authors, specifically as it relates to the minority experience in America.
All in all, a very good diversionary, beach type of read.
Was this review helpful to you?
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining Feb. 3 2004
Format:Hardcover
This delightful twenty-two short story collection is written by African-Americans though some of the writers are not household names yet. The stories are all solid with no losers, but only a handful attain the great label such as Walter Mosley's thought provoking take on the use of the race card. In fact the better known authors like Mr. Mosley, the late Hugh Holton, Frankie Y Bailey, and Gar Anthony Haywood provide the best tales. Much of the remaining stories are well written, but seems a bit formulaic yet fans will enjoy the contributions while getting a glimpse of the future. Look forward to see how far African-Americans have come (especially this group of authors) in a decade when one compares editor Eleanor Taylor Bland today to what she was writing ten years ago. It is interesting to see who was writing then and how many more have joined the rapidly growing community. SHADES OF BLACK: CRIMES AND MYSTERIES STORIES BY AFRICAN-AMERICAN WRITERS contains reliable tales that entertain the audience.
Harriet Klausner
Was this review helpful to you?
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like a literary Jackie Robinson! Feb. 3 2004
Format:Hardcover
It is about time an anthology of black writers came out. It has been shameful these authors have lived in the shadows of mainstream mystery and suspense authors, be the white authors "huge names" or amateurs (like me!) writing Cozies. My father used read Himes in the 1950s, but I did not know this until my mother and I obtained this anthology. Himes was a contemporary of Chandler and Hammett, and just as good! Kudos to women Bland, Woods, Edwards. I am always impressed with gum-shoe writer Phillips' work, and Mosely is stellar as always. Notable also was thrill/suspense man Chambers, who was shocking yet very, very interesting. Frankly, nobody in this bundle of stores disappoints me, and avid readers should note that these stories aren't about "ghettoes" or rap music or sex. They are about great mystery writing, and I think we're all enriched by them.
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like a literary Jackie Robinson! Feb. 3 2004
By Jennifer H - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
It is about time an anthology of black writers came out. It has been shameful these authors have lived in the shadows of mainstream mystery and suspense authors, be the white authors "huge names" or amateurs (like me!) writing Cozies. My father used read Himes in the 1950s, but I did not know this until my mother and I obtained this anthology. Himes was a contemporary of Chandler and Hammett, and just as good! Kudos to women Bland, Woods, Edwards. I am always impressed with gum-shoe writer Phillips' work, and Mosely is stellar as always. Notable also was thrill/suspense man Chambers, who was shocking yet very, very interesting. Frankly, nobody in this bundle of stores disappoints me, and avid readers should note that these stories aren't about "ghettoes" or rap music or sex. They are about great mystery writing, and I think we're all enriched by them.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining Feb. 3 2004
By Harriet Klausner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This delightful twenty-two short story collection is written by African-Americans though some of the writers are not household names yet. The stories are all solid with no losers, but only a handful attain the great label such as Walter Mosley's thought provoking take on the use of the race card. In fact the better known authors like Mr. Mosley, the late Hugh Holton, Frankie Y Bailey, and Gar Anthony Haywood provide the best tales. Much of the remaining stories are well written, but seems a bit formulaic yet fans will enjoy the contributions while getting a glimpse of the future. Look forward to see how far African-Americans have come (especially this group of authors) in a decade when one compares editor Eleanor Taylor Bland today to what she was writing ten years ago. It is interesting to see who was writing then and how many more have joined the rapidly growing community. SHADES OF BLACK: CRIMES AND MYSTERIES STORIES BY AFRICAN-AMERICAN WRITERS contains reliable tales that entertain the audience.
Harriet Klausner
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Mystery Lover's Dream Feb. 5 2005
By The RAWSISTAZ Reviewers - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Are you bored, with nothing on your bookshelf that will stimulate your mind and activate your imagination? If the answer is yes, then SHADES OF BLACK could be the book for you. This anthology features over 20 stories by various African-American writers of the Mystery genre.

I am an avid reader and mystery is one of my favorite genres so I'm always on the lookout for something to get my mysterious juices flowing and SHADES OF BLACK did this for me. Usually when someone speaks of a good suspenseful novel, Walter Mosley and maybe two or three other authors immediately come to mind. With this anthology, I was exposed to a wealth of African-American mystery writers who are prominent in the literary scene today. My favorite contribution to this collection was "The Werewolf File" by Hugh Holton. This story involved a murderous and vengeful werewolf and three very colorful detectives. The attention to detail and the author's writing was so vivid I was on the edge of my seat the entire time.

SHADES OF BLACK is a great example of the talented mystery writers who are on the literary scene today and their works are a welcomed change from predictable stories with very little mental challenge. This anthology has me anxious to check out the works of the authors who were not familiar to me.

Reviewed by Simone A. Hawks

of The RAWSISTAZ™ Reviewers
8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Uneven , poorly edited--yet entertaining collection March 22 2004
By David J. Gannon - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Shades of Black: Crime and Mystery Stories by African-American Authors is an uneven yet entertaining collection of stories all penned by African-American authors, some well known, other fairly obscure.
Not all of these are "mystery" stories in the traditional sense. Some of the "mysteries" here cover issues as mundane as a missing dog. Others are "mysteries" mainly in a cultural context, as is the case with Walter Moseley's contribution, "Bombardier". It's all in all a very diverse collection that, in total, ought to have something among the 22 submissions that would appeal to virtually any reader.
If there can be said to be an underlying theme to these stories it would be, generally speaking, an examination of the underlying forces of society, relationships and personality that motivate one toward the life of crime. If that's the question, the fact is the answers-to the extent there really are any-are all over the board.
The writing throughout is universally good. The proofreading and editing, by Eleanor Taylor, is slipshod and uneven. One is left with the sense Ms Taylor didn't so much edit this collection as assemble it. While this is often a source of mild irritation it doesn't detract in a serious way from enjoying the book.
In the end one is not so much moved by the mysteries presented as by the wit, superstitions, mores, aphorisms, attitudes and-most keenly-the shared experiences of the authors, specifically as it relates to the minority experience in America.
All in all, a very good diversionary, beach type of read.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Shades of Black Oct. 21 2011
By Nana - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
Enjoyed this very much. I am usually not a short story person, but these were good. Introduction to mystery writers with whom I was not familiar.
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