Skip to main content

Screaming 'Black' Murder: Crime Fiction and the Construction of Ethnic Identities

Staehler, Axel (2019) Screaming 'Black' Murder: Crime Fiction and the Construction of Ethnic Identities. English Studies, 100 (1). pp. 43-62. ISSN 0013-838X. (doi:10.1080/0013838X.2018.1543754) (KAR id:70302)

PDF Author's Accepted Manuscript
Language: English
Download (254kB) Preview
[thumbnail of staehler_screaming-black-murder_2018-01-17.pdf]
This file may not be suitable for users of assistive technology.
Request an accessible format
Official URL


A significant segment of crime fiction is concerned with the representation of ethnic identities and may to some extent be considered paradigmatic of the participation of literary texts in discourses on race and minorities. This article explores constructions of ethnic identities in American, British, and South African crime fiction from the 1920s to the early twenty-first century. In particular, the focus will be on such texts in which the ethno-cultural identity of the detective gives special prominence not only to the ethnic particularity of the fictional character itself and of its environs but frequently also to that of its author. Main texts discussed are Rudolph Fisher’s The Conjure Man Dies (1932), Earl Derr Biggers’ The House Without a Key (1925) and The Black Camel (1929), Walter Mosley’s Devil in a Blue Dress (1990) and Little Scarlet (2004) as well as James McClure’s The Gooseberry Fool (1974) and Patrick Neate’s City of Tiny Lights (2005). It is argued that all of these texts have a distinct subversive potential of which the construction of ethnic identities becomes the main vehicle because these identities are the products and the catalysts of the conflicts negotiated in ethnic crime fiction and correlating to ‘reality’.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1080/0013838X.2018.1543754
Uncontrolled keywords: Twentieth-century crime fiction; twenty-first century crime fiction; literary constructions of identity; black detective fiction; ethnic detective fiction; cross-ethnic literature; power relationships in literature
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature
P Language and Literature > PS American literature
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of European Culture and Languages
Depositing User: Axel Staehler
Date Deposited: 23 Nov 2018 10:43 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2021 13:59 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Staehler, Axel:
  • Depositors only (login required):


Downloads per month over past year