Associated Press Cites Gary Phillips as Precursor to Black Lives Matter-Era Crime Fiction

Looking at current and upcoming releases in the crime fiction genre, one may notice a trend: with books like Ben Winters’s Underground Airlines, Trudy Nan Boyce’s Out of the Blues, and David Baldacci’s The Last Mile to be published in the coming months, it is clear that the intense media attention given to the police killings of black men will have a large role to play in this year’s publications.

That so many books in which race plays a central role are being published this year is a testament to the rise in the trend, but, as the Associate Press points out, such subjects are hardly foreign to the genre, even if their authors may have been overlooked in their day. Similarly, some might argue, there has been a rise not in the amount of blacks killed by police, but in the amount of attention given to those killings.

As an example of these great, but neglected, forerunners, AP points to author Gary Phillips, whose Violent Spring, published in 1994, tells of a murder in the wake of the LA riots that followed the Rodney King verdict.

On the subject of his work and its shift away from dominant narratives in the genre, Phillips had this to say:

"The old days of the PI with just a file and an address and a sexy secretary are long dead. Back in the 1980s and '90s writers like me and Walter Mosley and Paula Woods pushed the envelope forward and looked at different issues. I think the younger folks will do even better pushing it forward more. You have writers in this field who are going to be able to use things like Ferguson and what's happening on college campuses."

With these upcoming titles, and others further down the pipeline, it’s clear that many young writers will heed Phillips’s call. But while you’re waiting, we suggest you familiarize yourself with the pioneer himself -- four of Phillips’s novels are available in eBook from

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