James McClure Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

With the procedurals that develop the Tromp Kramer-Mickey Zondi partnership, James McClure fashioned a neutral portrayal of South African apartheid society as seen from within. Amassing much historical and cultural information in the course of his exposition, characterization, and plot, McClure nevertheless maintained a carefully guarded distance from any direct, judgmental commentary. Indeed, McClure claimed that “the neutrality of the crime story” is the primary appeal of the genre. Of the South African novel, he said, “Every novel . . . that I’d come across . . . had been self-limiting . . . in that its antiapartheid slant made it appeal only to the ’converted.’” By guarding the neutrality of his novels, he believed that he can “leave people to make their own moral judgments.” Seeking to appeal universally to his readers, McClure considered his first obligation to be entertainment, “leaving graver matters—which [can] be included, but obliquely—to those with the time, money, and intellectual capacity to indulge them.”

Although conscious of his craftsmanship and the psychological complexity of his characters, McClure made his procedurals hew closely to the facts of daily existence under apartheid, so that the culture and place, evoked even descriptively, are integral to his success as a crime novelist. That McClure’s readership included not only mystery devotees but also international antiapartheid activists and academic literati as well as the South African police attested his achievement of neutrality without compromising the serious, socially significant framework of his novels. McClure’s Kramer and Zondi novels are taught in creative writing courses at the college level in the United States.

James McClure Bibliography

(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Dove, George N. The Police Procedural. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1982. Discusses McClure’s contribution to police procedural literature and the relationship of the subgenre to the larger crime-fiction genre.

Hausladen, Gary. Places for Dead Bodies. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000. This study of the settings of crime fiction includes a chapter discussing McClure’s representation of South Africa. Bibliographic references and index.

Lockwood, Bert B., Jr. “A Study in Black and White: The South Africa of James McClure.” Human Rights Quarterly 440 (1983). Examination of McClure’s representation of race and racial politics.

McClure, James. “A Bright Grey.” In Colloquium on Crime: Eleven Renowned Mystery Writers Discuss Their Work, edited by Robin W. Winks. New York: Scribner, 1986. McClure offers his personal perspective on the craft of mystery fiction.

Peck, Richard. A Morbid Fascination: White Prose and Politics in Apartheid South Africa. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1997. Compares McClure to other writers working during Apartheid in South Africa.

Peck, Richard. “The Mystery of McClure’s Trekkersburg Mysteries: Text and Non-reception in South Africa.” English in Africa 22, no. 1 (May, 1995): 48-71. Discusses the reception of McClure’s work in his native country.

Tomarken, Edward. “James McClure’s Mickey Zondi.” In The Post-colonial Detective, edited by Ed Christian. New York: Palgrave, 2001. Discusses McClure’s character and fiction from the point of view of postcolonial theory. Bibliographic references and index.

Wall, Don. “And the First Shall Be Last: James McClure’s Kramer and Zondi Series.” In In the Beginning: First Novels in Mystery Series, edited by Mary Jean DeMarr. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1995. Study of the first books in each of McClure’s two series and their relationship to later entries. Bibliographic references.