From the Booking Desk:
I hold a BA in English with a concentration on minority literature, so reading widely has never been a challenge for me. However, I have still found myself drawn to diverse writings and #ownvoices stories more in the current socio-political environment, and I hope that others are feeling the same inclination. Here are a few recent titles which I highly recommend.
Martha Reed has launched a new series with Love Power, featuring ex-detective Jane Byrne. Set largely in the Bywater Historical District of New Orleans, Reed populates her story with characters from across the LGBTQ+ spectrum. With a case that features a hate-crime fueled serial killer, this story pulls-no-punches when it comes to addressing issues facing marginalized groups. Love Power is a very contemporary and timely book, but the inclusion of information about the early-80’s music scene makes for a nice counter-point without distraction. It is clear that Reed knows NOLA and she brings the location to vibrant life and exposes much of the grittier underlayer that taints the façade. Her characters feel like the people you would encounter walking down those iconic streets and readers will long for more than a few of them to become regulars as the series moves forward.
Festive Mayhem is a collection of short stories from members of the Crime Writers of Color Association. Linked by their holiday-time settings, this anthology has something to offer every reader. Because the stories range from cozy to noir, the participants acknowledged that every story might not appeal to the same reader, so they mark each story with a “rating” based on its overall tone: Cozy, Cold, and Chilling. This means readers can safely avoid stories that might be too intense. I enjoyed each story, but my favorite from each of the categories were (Cold): S. G. Wong’s “Pipe Dreams,” an authentically-rendered historical story that follows a struggling actress trailing a private detective in an effort to perfect her up-coming audition, only to stumble upon a much bigger conspiracy and possibly a new career move. (Chilling): “A Deadly First” by Delia C. Pitts is one of the darker stories in the collection. It tells the story of a Black PIs first murder case, which hardly proceeds as expected. Much of the story takes place in an out-of-the-way bar in Harlem and it simply drips with atmosphere. Readers witness what seems like typical barroom exchanges knowing that more is going on under the surface of these conversations. (Cozy): Stella Oni’s “The Stranger in the House” features Nigerian housekeeper, Elizabeth Ojo, who simply cannot resist getting nosy about some of the guests staying at the guest house where she works. She discovers more than she bargained for and finds herself tangled in a case that could have deadly consequences. Like Blanche White from the works of Barbara Neely, Elizabeth is a character readers will relate to and immediately fall in love with; thankfully, this story is listed as a prequel to the London House series.
In Virgil Wounded Horse, David Heska Wanbli Weiden has crafted an instantly-iconic crime fiction protagonist – an inherently good man, flawed and fractured, but always striving to do better, to be better, surrounded by a society that repeatedly undermines his self-confidence at every turn. Weiden’s Winter Counts is one of the best debut novels of 2020 and launches a career that is sure to alter the course of the genre. His #ownvoices story of life on the reservation – where the addiction and corruption of the drug trade shatters the hopes and dreams of both individual and tribe – feels fresh in both its celebration of an under-represented people and in the incandescent prose Weiden uses to convey his tale. It is hard to imagine that Winter Counts is a first novel given how assured both the plotting and execution are. David Heska Wanbli Weiden is amassing a legion of fans who will follow both he and Virgil Wounded Horse into any battle.