The African American Experience in Crime Fiction

A Critical Study


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About the Book

An immensely popular genre, crime fiction has only in recent years been engaged significantly by African American authors. Historically, the racist stereotypes often central to crime fiction and the socially conservative nature of the genre presented problems for writing the black experience, and the tropes of justice and restoration of social order have not resonated with authors who saw social justice as a work in progress.
Some African American authors did take up the challenge. Pauline Hopkins, Rudolph Fisher and Chester Himes led the way in the first half of the 20th century, followed by Ishmael Reed’s “anti-detective” novels in the 1970s. Since the 1990s, Walter Mosley, Colson Whitehead and Stephen L. Carter have written detective fiction focusing on questions of constitutional law, civil rights, biological and medical issues, education, popular culture, the criminal justice system and matters of social justice. From Hopkins’s Hagar’s Daughter (published in 1901), to Hime’s hardboiled “Harlem Detective” series, to Carter’s patrician world of the black bourgeoisie, these authors provide a means of examining literary and social constructions of the African-American experience.
Instructors considering this book for use in a course may request an examination copy here.

About the Author(s)

Robert E. Crafton is an associate professor of English at Slippery Rock University, Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania.

Bibliographic Details

Robert E. Crafton
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 212
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2015
pISBN: 978-0-7864-9938-0
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2129-6
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Preface: Putting Things in Perspective 1
1. High Anxiety 7
2. A More Perfect Union: Pauline Hopkins, Hagar’s Daughter and the Struggle for Equality 21
3. “A Mystery Tale of Dark Harlem”: Rounding Up the Usual Suspects 53
4. Plus ça change: Chester Himes’s Harlem Domestic Series 77
5. Entr’Acte: A Postmodernist Interlude 104
6. Falling into History: Easy Rawlins and the Arc of African American Experience 135
7. Our Kind of People: Stephen L. Carter and the Mysteries of the Black Bourgeoisie 160
8. Detecting Difference? 178
Chapter Notes 191
Works Cited 195
Index 201

Book Reviews & Awards

“this well-researched book takes up an important contemporary topic…recommended.” —Choice.