Feb. 14, 2005


LEWISBURG, Pa. — Bucknell University will host a symposium on African-American detective fiction March 3 and 4 from 7 to 9 p.m. in Bucknell Hall.

According to Tish Crawford, faculty coordinator, the symposium will include six authors: Frankie Y. Bailey, Robert Greer, Gar Anthony Haywood, Penny Mickelbury, Robert Skinner and Paula L. Woods.

Crawford, who has been interested in detective fiction since reading Nancy Drew mysteries, says that "Detective fiction allows a reader to zero in on a community and look at it from the inside out, because the detective has to ask all these intimate questions and find out all the secrets in these small communities.

"African-American authors raise concerns that are particular to being African American and, beyond that, try to challenge stereotypical ways of looking at African Americans that have over time existed in the mainstream literature," she said.

Detective fiction began with Edgar Allan Poe's "The Murders in Rue Morgue" in 1841. African-American authors entered the field early, according to Crawford, with Pauline Hopkins' novel Hagar's Daughter, serialized in 1900.

From the 1920s, when the genre changed to include the hard-boiled private eye, to Walter Mosley's Easy Rawlins series in the 1990, African-American authors have helped to expand and enhance the detective fiction tradition.

"Approximately 50 contemporary authors of novels and short fiction feature African-American characters as the central protagonists in the crime fiction genre. Bucknell's symposium is a timely event that will add an important component on the scholarship," said Crawford.

Participant bios:

Bailey, an associate professor in the School of Criminal Justice at SUNY Albany, is the author of several non-fiction books and a series of three detective fiction novels featuring Lizzie Stuart, an African-American crime historian. Her most recent novel is Old Murders.

Greer, who is a professor of pathology, medicine, surgery and dentistry at the University of Colorado's Health Sciences Center, has written a series of three detective novels with private investigator C.J. Floyd and a stand-along detection novel, Heat Shock, with Carmen Nguyen, a half African American, half Vietnamese emergency room physician.

Haywood is a screenplay writer who has written 10 detective fiction novels featuring African-American protagonists Aaron Gunner, and the Loudermilks, a sleuthing husband and wife team. As Ray Shannon, he has published one detective fiction novel, Man Eater.

Mickelbury, a journalist who writes novels and plays, has written two detective fiction series; the first features Mimi Patterson, a reporter, and her partner, cop Gianna Maglione. The second features Carole Ann Gibson, an African-American attorney, and her partner, ex-cop Jake Graham. Paradise Interrupted in the fourth and latest in the series.

Skinner, who is head librarian at Xavier University in New Orleans, is the author of several non-fiction works concerning detective fiction as well as a series featuring Wesley Ferrell, an African-American bar owner who often passes for white in order to get what he wants in the underworld of Depression-era New Orleans. Daddy's Gone a Hunting is the third in the series.

Woods is the editor of a critically acclaimed African-American crime fiction anthology and the author of a three-volume police procedural series set in Los Angeles and featuring African-American detective Charlotte Justice. Dirty Laundry is the latest novel in the series that partners Justice with a Hispanic woman on the Los Angeles police force.

The symposium, which is open to the public, is sponsored by the Bucknell Association for the Arts, Committee for Campus Diversity, English department, Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Stadler Center for Poetry, University Lectureship Committee, and the Women's Resource Center.

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