Traces, Codes, and Clues: Reading Race in Crime Fiction
Detective fiction featuring white women and people of colorsuch as Barbara Neelys Blanche White and Walter Mosleys Easy Rawlinshas become tremendously popular. Although they are considered "light reading," mysteries also hold important cultural and social "clues." Much recent scholarly work has demonstrated that race is both a cultural fictionnot a biological realityand a central organizing principle of experience. Popular writers are likely to reflect the conventions of their own historical situations.In "Traces, Codes, and Clues: Reading Race in Crime Fiction," Maureen T. Reddy explores the ways in which crime fiction manipulates cultural constructions such as race and gender to inscribe dominant cultural discourses. She notes that even those writers who appear to set out to revise outdated conventions repeatedly reproduce the genres most conservative elements. The greatest obstacle to transforming crime fiction, Reddy states, is the fact that the genre itself is deeply embedded in the discourse of white (and male) superiority. There is, therefore, an absolute necessity to break away from that discoursethrough reversal or other strategiesin order to produce work that defies, and thus helps readers to defy, the dominant ideology of race.
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Additional references American Indian argues Asian attitudes black women writers Blanche Bland's Blue Dress Brigid Cawelti central Chandler's characters of color Chicano claims consciousness Continental Op conventions crime fiction crime novels critics culture Daphne Dashiell Hammett death define describes detective fiction Easy Rawlins Elvira ethnic fantasy feminist gender genre genre fiction Ginny Hammett hard-boiled detective hard-boiled fiction hard-boiled ideology heterosexual Hillerman identity instance interracial Kenzie Kenzie's Latino male Maltese Falcon Marlowe Marti Mosley motivated murder mystery narrative ness never nigger not-white passing person plot police officer popular position race and racism racial racism relationships Sara Paretsky says seems sexism sexual Sharon Smokey social story suggests texts theme tion tive traditional Valerie Wilson Wesley villain volume are given Walter Mosley white discourse white feminist white ideology white readers white women white writers white-authored crime woman writers of color Yellow Peril York