Otto Penzler, an editor of mystery fiction and owner of the Mysterious Bookshop in New York City, gives a rare and fascinating collage of crime, mystery and suspense fiction in the book “Black Noir.”
Short stories by well-known African Americans include Chester Himes, Walter Mosley, Ann Petry, Charles W. Chesnutt and others. The authors, some who started their literary careers as early in the late 1890s, present excellent tales that many readers are unaware of.
Each writer presents their own special forte in bringing out versions of crime or mystery in a language that can be mundane or archaic, depending on the time period or characters in the story.
Whether it’s Pulitzer Prize winning author Edward P. Jones’ story of a man’s life in and out of prison in “Old Boys, Old Girls;” Charles W. Chesnutt’s gripping story of a white sheriff who also has a black son he sold in “The Sheriff’s Children,” or Rudolph’s Fisher’s mystery “John Archer’s Nose;” which has a Sherlock Holmes-Dr. Watson colloquy.
There’s also Chester Himes’ gun-toting killer named Sure in “Strictly Business,” and Gar Anthony Haywood’s “The First Rule Is;” about a successful athlete who has reached fame and fortune who teaches a lesson to a jealous past rival.
The extraordinary volume of work also gives a background of each author before their story and how they started in the literary business. Each account provides a script; though fictional, that could easily be applied in a realistic setting.
Black Noir is a captivating collection for readers who love mystery, suspense and surprise in noir fiction.