If you’re any kind of fan of crime and mystery novels, you’ll want to take a look at the Baltimore Sun‘s book blog, Read Street, which is doing a knockout job covering this weekend’s Bouchercon. The blog invited a batch of writers attending the fest to weigh in on a topic of their choosing, and among them is Austin Camacho, the Springfield-based author of a batch of novels featuring detective Hannibal Jones. Jones, like Camacho, is black, and his essay tackles the question of whether race matters when it comes to character. The whole thing is worth a read, but here’s an excerpt:
Like most of his peers, Hannibal is not well-off financially, because in his world, being moral doesn’t pay very well. But how did our hero get to be this impoverished paragon? Surely his personal history shaped his character. The fact that Hannibal is a black man in a white man’s world shapes him just as much as the fact that he was raised by his mother after his father died in Vietnam and has little feel for the hip hop, red-black-and-green, whitey-distrusting culture of his neighbors. Hardboiled detectives are always outsiders, but in the case of black detectives it’s easy to understand why. White clients may expect them to have a hidden, anti-white agenda. Other African Americans, distrustful of authority figures in general, sometimes have a special resentment of black men who question them or try to associate them with crimes.