While the hype around the Black Lives Matter movement might have died down a bit, the fact is that they still matter and racism is still prevalent in most countries around the world.
As such, representation matters; if we can get more black voices heard then we can get people to care about them more. It’s a bloody shame that people can’t care about them just because they’re human beings, but that’s the way of the world, unfortunately.
We need to start reading more writing from members of the BAME community. The best way to read from a more diverse range of authors is to find writers who produce the stories that you enjoy.
As there’s still a serious lack of inclusivity in the literary market, you need to actively search for reading material from a wide range of different writers.
So, with that in mind, here’s a list of 5 incredible crime fiction novels by five unbelievably talented black writers.
This list isn’t exhaustive, but I hope that it helps you to find some inspiration and allows you to expand your reading list and add some diversity to your reading list.
5. Hollywood Homicide: This engaging crime caper is Kellye Garrett’s opener to a series based on the adventures of Dayna Anderson, a down on her luck actress who gets a lucky break when she finds out that the police are offering a hefty reward for anyone with information about a crime that she witnessed. She just needs to find out more information to earn the cash and then she can support her struggling parents and get her own life back on track. With the help of her gal pals she sets to work, and it’s a thrilling ride. Funny and dark at the same time, the plot keeps readers guessing and the characters will keep you engaged.
4. Blanche on the Lam: The debut novel from Barbara Neely introduces readers to Blanche White, a housekeeper who’s on the run after being sentenced to thirty days in jail for writing dodgy checks because of her uncertain circumstances and poor pay in her new job. In her panic, she flees the courthouse and takes a job that she’d previously turned down and which the agency hasn’t found a replacement for. She becomes a housekeeper for a white family, and she and her new employers leave the city for their house by the sea. She is asked to witness a will, and then she realises that she’s caught up in the middle of a bizarre scheme to take control of a mentally disabled relative of the family matriarch, Grace. The novel explores a wide variety of racial and sexist issues, as well as offering a unique crime novel. It spanned a widely popular series, and is great for fans of cosy crime fiction and Golden Age writers.
3. My Sister, The Serial Killer: Oyinkan Braithwaite’s incredible novel is an unusual take on the normal serial killer narrative. Set in Nigeria, the novel tells the story of Ayoola, a woman who often stabs her boyfriends in what she claims is self-defence. The story is told through the perspective of her long-suffering sister Korede. A nurse, Korede is used to clearing up bodily fluids, and as such she is often called upon by her younger sister to clear up after another of her murders. The whole situation changes when Ayoola starts dating a doctor college of Korede’s, who her older sister has long been lusting after. Korede now has a challenging decision to make, and Braitwaite documents the situation with hilarity and humility. The characters are relatable and the story is equal parts funny and thrilling.
2. Where Evil Sleeps: Part of Valerie Wilson Wesley’s incredible Tamara Hayle mystery series, this novel is an amazing private detective tale set in sunny Jamaica. After heading out for an impromptu night on the town with a fellow tourist on her travels, Tamara ends up deep in a devilish murder mystery. She follows a number of leads while trying to find out what really happened and get through her holiday without dealing with another crime.
1. Cotton Comes to Harlem: Chester Himes was a hardboiled crime fiction writer in the same league as Raymond Chandler and other popular writers of the time. Cotton Comes to Harlem was an amazing novel that explores the challenges that black people faced in the 1960s and which is still hailed as a revolutionary text. It begins with a church fundraiser in a black community to send funds to Africa. A violent attack and the theft of the money results in two black detectives being put on the case. Facing racism both from the community they serve and the police force itself, the pair set out to uncover the truth using their wits and powers of persuasion. A wry indictment of the treatment of black people at the time, the novel is also an amazing piece of crime fiction that is not to be missed.
The entire literary market needs to step up and offer a safe, inclusive space for all readers and writers. While the Dorset Book Detective tries to be inclusive and offer a space for every writer to showcase their talents, I realise that there is still more that I need to do to help. If you are, or know of, a talented member of the BAME, LGBTQ+, differently-abled or any other marginalised community and love writing and reading, then feel free to get in touch. Use the contact form and I’d be happy to check out your work and share my thoughts on it with my amazing readers.