The Mysterious Bookshop

Penzler, Otto, Black Noir: Mystery, Crime, & Suspense Fiction by African-American Writers

As mystery fiction expert Penzler notes in his concise overview of African-American crime writing at the start of this welcome anthology, despite the central element linking the 15 short stories, they "transcend race and genre to fulfill their primary purpose-to inform and entertain." Contributors include expected names like Walter Moseley and Chester Himes, not to mention Robert Greer, Gary Phillips and Eleanor Taylor Bland, as well as writers rescued from obscurity by their inclusion in this mostly reprint volume. Edward P. Jones's "Old Boys, Old Girls" is the standout, a powerful if grim psychological portrait of a man after his imprisonment for murder. Of historical interest are Hughes Allison's "Corollary" (1948), the first story by an African-American to appear in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, and Pauline E. Hopkins's "Talma Gordon" (1900), the first impossible crime tale published by an African-American.