Twenty-two well- and lesser-known African-American writers tackle the short form—with variable success.
The big gun is Walter Mosley, whose “Bombadier” is a six-page short-short that presents a heavenly perspective on the pros and cons of using race as an excuse for a misspent life. Editor Bland, with an assist from her relative Anthony, offers up a train ride for series sleuth Marti MacAlister and her kids, “Murder on the Southwest Chief,” that will make you want to take the bus. Gar Anthony Haywood pits a pair of married truckers against another, battling couple on the road in “Better Dead than Wed.” With considerable panache, the late Hugh Holton’s “The Werewolf File” rips the throats out of victims aboard the Viking Warrior on January 18th, the day the life of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is commemorated. And that about does it for the good stuff, unless you’re partial to by-the-numbers p.i.’s (although Tracy P. Clark’s Eve DeHaas has her wry moments in “For Services Rendered”), cops with attitude, WWI and WWII pathos, and kid detectives (a trio of 11-year-olds in Patricia E. Canterbury’s “The Secret of the 369th Infantry Nurse”).
Although Bland accurately notes that the African-American mystery has come a long way in the past ten years, this landmark collection may not dissuade cautious readers from waiting a little longer for an investment-grade anthology.