LA Residents Attica Locke & Steph Cha Bring Diversity to the Mystery Genre
While Walter Mosley is a legendary mystery novelist that brought badly needed diversity to the genre with his iconic protagonist Easy Rawlins first introduced in the novel DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS in 1990, there are two rising stars in Los Angeles that have quickly won my admiration and fandom: African American writer Attica Locke and Korean American Steph Cha.
Attica has published three mystery novels, all featuring black protagonists, BLACK WATER RISING in 2009, THE CUTTING SEASON in 2012, and PLEASANTVILLE in April 2015. Cha published two mystery novels featuring Korean American sleuth Juniper Song, FOLLOW HER HOME in 2013 and BEWARE BEWARE in 2014. Her third novel, DEAD SOON ENOUGH, will be published in August 2015 with Juniper Song back again.
Attica, a native of Houston, now may be better know for being a writer and producer for the hit series on Fox, Empire. But in 2009 when I read her first novel, BLACK WATER RISING, set in Houston in 1981, I was blown away by her depiction of the post civil rights black student activism on college campus in the flashback scenes and the internal struggle of her protagonist, Jay Porter, to overcome his bitterness from his activism days and get involved in a case that could endanger his life. But I was also mesmerized by her depiction of the Black community and its struggles through the eyes of her protagonists.
While Attica lives in Los Angeles, two of her three novels were set in Houston: BLACK WATER RISING (set in 1981) and PLEASANTVILLE (set in 1996), both which feature Jay Porter. In both Jay Porter novels, she makes the reader feel the weight of his past and pain, but most importantly his courage to overcome them to pursue justice.
While Attica is a transplant to LA, Steph Cha was born and raised there and has set all her novels in present day Los Angeles. What’s enchanting about Cha’s novels is how she captures the kaleidscope of cultures in the neighborhoods and characters featured in her novels. Whether its Koreatown or a Latino gang, I feel like I know the rich diversity of Los Angeles when reading Cha. As for her protagonist Juniper who is in her late 20s, I feel the restlessness and emotional baggage she carries and her desire to jumpstart her life through sleuthing, Raymond Chandler style. And I cannot forget another perspective Cha brings to the novel throug Juniper for me, the perspective of the millenials on life in America as they see it. As a babyboomer with two daughters that are millenials, it is an eye opening experience.
So if you’re a mystery lover looking for diverse voices in literature, read Attica Locke and Steph Cha novels. If you’re just looking for an entertaining mystery novel, read Attica Locke and Steph Cha novels.