We often hear talk of how crime fiction is the social novel of today. Many of the problems faced by society are reflected back to us through the books we read. However, diversity issues still plague this genre. Things are getting better and there are more representations of diversity in both authors and characters with each passing year, but we can still use more of these lesser-heard voices within the crime fiction community. As a way of supporting and encouraging, Lesa, Kristofer, and I decided to center our latest Triple Post on the subject of diversity. Fittingly, we each pinpointed and covered the topic in different ways. We hope that you will enjoy our posts and that it inspires you to try something new, something outside of your everyday box.
# # # # # # # # # # #
When I pick up a book to read, the racial identity of the characters does not consciously come into play. I know they will most likely be Caucasian and if there is diversity in the book, they will be a police officer or a friend of a friend.
Recently I have discovered several books where the main protagonists were African-American women and in two of the books, they are portrayed as amateur sleuths. They were the same as their counterparts, inquisitive women who feels the prime suspect is innocent and they could do a better job in finding a killer. The third features a LAPD Homicide Detective whose on the street training gives her the one-up on the criminal element, creating a well-rounded person who I’m rooting for.
Mahalia Watkins Mystery Series
Murder with Fried Chicken and Waffles (2015)
Murder with Macaroni and Cheese (August 30, 2016)
A.L. Herbert writes a cozy mystery that takes place at Mahalia’s Sweet Tea–the finest soul food restaurant in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Halia Watkins is the owner and her cousin Wavonne “works” at the restaurant and her momma bakes the desserts. The food is delicious and with murder served as the side dish, we get to see Halia do her thing in order to protect her cousin and save her business. I enjoyed all the Southern colloquialism dispersed in the book by the multitude of characters.
Eugeena Patterson Mystery Series
Shattered Dreams, A Short Story (2013)
Deep Fried Trouble (2013)
Oven Baked Secret (2015)
Lemon Filled Disaster (2017)
Tyora Moody pens a Christian cozy mystery series featuring Eugeena Patterson, a recently widowed and retired Social Studies teacher in North Charleston, South Carolina in the neighborhood called Sugar Creek. She is the mother of three and grandmother to four. Her life is disrupted when first she finds the body of an estrange friend and then the sudden appearance and disappearance of her youngest daughter who comes bearing not one, but two grand-babies, of which the second one is a surprise to this grandmother.
Detective Elouise Norton Mystery Series
Land of Shadows (2014)
Skies of Ash (2015)
Trail of Echoes (May 31, 2016)
Rachel Howzell Hall writes about Elouise “Lou” Norton, an African-American homicide detective who works in Los Angeles, California. I don’t know what it is like to be an LAPD Homicide Detective, but Rachel does a good job in bringing the words on the page to life and I can feel the character’s strength and vulnerability in these stories that tells more than what is being seen.
Diversity means different things to different people and I can’t wait to see what Lesa and Kristofer wrote on the topic. Thanks again for stopping by the blog today. Please journey over to BOLO’s Book and Lesa’s Book Critiques for further discussion of diversity in crime literature.
We, Lesa, Kristopher and Dru Ann, are at it again and this time we are highlighting some of our favorite songs that focuses on the criminal elements as we all know that what’s a mystery without a crime. Sit back and enjoy these musical selections. Another thanks to Krisopher who came up with this topic.
Visiting dru’s book musings today is Lesa Holstine of Lesa’s Book Critiques. Below you hear in Lesa’s own words why the songs were selected. Make sure to drop by Kristopher and Lesa’s blog for more of our song selections.
I probably made a mistake in looking too closely at my choices for the project about crime and music. Although I’ve often thought I read mysteries because I want the criminal caught and justice served, I also know I read for character. In my choices of music, it turns out I cheer for the villain. Interesting. I know I don’t cheer for the villain when I read. However, music tends to make the villain into an attractive devil.
I will say my choices in music tell the story of my life and passions. Some of the choices reflect the times. Most of it reflects my personal interests.
I was thirteen in 1970, when Johnny Cash was at the height of popularity. I saw him perform at the Ohio State Fair when I went with an aunt and uncle and my grandfather. And, to this day, I’ve never seen a performer with his charisma. People may think of some of his prison songs such as “Folsom Prison Blues” and “San Quentin”. But, it’s the ballads that haunt me. Do you know “Long Black Veil”? It’s the story of a man hanged for a crime he didn’t commit. But, he remains silent and doesn’t use his alibi; “I’d been in the arms of my best friend’s wife.” The song involves a murder, a trial, and the death of the wrong man. Danny Dill and Marijohn Wilkin wrote it in 1959, and other artists recorded it. But, it’s Johnny Cash’s version that I heard first, and loved.
Anyone who remembers the ‘80s will remember the TV show “Miami Vice”. It still stands for ‘80s television with Don Johnson as Sonny Crockett in those white jackets, and Philip Michael Thomas as Rico Tubbs, undercover detectives in the Metro-Dade Police Department in Miami. Most of the episodes involved the police investigations of drug trafficking and prostitution. And, the show influenced music and fashion. Numerous hits of the period performed by the original artists were used on the show. But, nothing was as memorable to me as the episode in which Glenn Frey did “Smuggler’s Blues”. That song, representing the ‘80s, is still on my playlist.
Soon after my husband died in 2010, I discovered Celtic Thunder. It’s a stage show made up of male Celtic soloists who perform as a group, and as soloists. Most fans originally discovered them through PBS as I did. I’ve seen them in concert a number of times, and own every dvd and cd. A story of my life in music wouldn’t be complete without them. And, of course, the Celtic ballads are the ancestors of so many of our ballads and country music. But, Celtic Thunder did one stage show that contained a connection to crime, and for those of us who love Georgette Heyer’s Regency romances, a connection to those books. “Storm” is the name of the show featuring Irish villagers and a caravan of Romani. But, one of the group is a romantic Highwayman, a man who catches the eye of a woman who is robbed. Remind you of Georgette Heyer? Phil Coulter wrote the music for “Storm”, including the song, “Stand and Deliver”, sung by Keith Harkin as the Highwayman.
I have to end with Broadway. Although I could include songs from “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”, songs such as “Poison in My Pocket”, there are two other shows I want to recognize because they mean more to me. I’ve been to New York City four times in the last year, and, each time I went, I went to multiple shows. I love Broadway and live theater. There are all kinds of shows that feature crimes, from “Gentleman’s Guide” to “Chicago” to “Sweeney Todd”. But, I’ve picked two favorites.
I had to laugh at the comment made by a friend’s husband. She and I were heading to see “Phantom of the Opera”, and he questioned why everyone likes that show about a man who is a stalker, a kidnapper, and a killer. True, but he’s also mysterious. So the songs may not be about crime, but the show is about “a stalker , a kidnapper, and a killer”. And, it’s hard not to love “Music of the Night”. And, my favorite version? Performed by Ramin Karimloo and Sierra Boggess in the 25th Anniversary show. They reprised it for the 2012 Classic BRIT Awards.
And, then there’s my all-time favorite Broadway show, “Les Miserables”. It may be my favorite because it’s the first show I ever saw on Broadway just before it ended its original run there. In the last year, I saw it four times with Ramin Karimloo playing Jean Valjean. “Les Miserables” is the story of Valjean, who went to prison for stealing bread to keep his sister’s son from starving. And, then he broke parole, and was hunted for the rest of his life by a policeman, Javert. Throughout the place, the policeman chases the ex-convict, a man who has actually changed. But, Javert only sees that he broke parole, and knows a criminal can never change.
Nothing represents the conflict between Jean Valjean and Javert more than “The Confrontation”. The cast of the 2014 Broadway production starred Ramin Karimloo as Valjean and Will Swenson as Javert. In 2015, Karimloo did a guest appearance at Swenson’s show at 54 Below in NYC. Together, they did (semi-seriously) two songs from “Les Miserables”, including “The Confrontation”, reversing roles with Karimloo singing Javert’s part.
Or, thanks to Kristopher, I’ve also seen the clip of “The Confrontation” with Neil Patrick Harris and Jason Segel.
Crime and music. There’s false arrest, trials, smuggling, drug trafficking, highway robbery, stalking, kidnapping, murder, convicts breaking parole, confrontations between criminals and the police. Actually, crime novels tend to celebrate the investigator, the detective much more often than music does. Our music and shows tend to glorify the criminal. Or maybe it’s just the music and shows I love?
Lesa Holstine has been a librarian longer than either of her fellow bloggers has been alive. She currently works in Evansville, Indiana.