Babb, Valerie M. “William Melvin Kelley.” In Afro-American Fiction Writers After 1955, edited by Thadious M. Davis. Vol. 33 in Dictionary of Literary Biography. Detroit: Gale Research, 1984. In the absence of book-length secondary sources, this is a good start to learning about Kelley. The bibliography includes critical essays and an interview.
Bradley, David. Foreword to A Different Drummer, by William Melvin Kelley. New York: Doubleday, 1989. A carefully researched essay that considers Kelley’s first novel in the context of its time and in relation to American William Faulkner’s novels, particularly The Reivers (1962).
Early, Gerald. Introduction to A Drop of Patience, by William Melvin Kelley. Hopewell, N.J.: Ecco Press, 1996. With a short overview of the black writers of the 1950’s and a brief introduction to the Black Arts movement, Early positions Kelley’s “jazz novel” on the cusp, between the two eras and of neither.
Karrer, Wolfgang. “Romance as Epistemological Design: William Melvin Kelley’s A Different Drummer.” In The Afro-American Novel Since 1960, edited by Peter Bruck and Wolfgang Karrer. Amsterdam: Gainer, 1982. Karrer considers Kelley’s novel of exodus as romantic rather than realistic and positions it among other romances by African American writers.
Ro, Sigmund. Rage and Celebration: Essays on Contemporary Afro-American Writing. Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press, 1984. Discusses African American literature, focusing on Kelley, John Alfred Williams, and James Baldwin.
Thomas, H. Nigel. “The Bad Nigger Figure in Selected Works of Richard Wright, William Melvin Kelley, and Ernest Gaines.” CLA Journal 39, no. 2 (December, 1995). A critical article that is especially useful in understanding Kelley’s works.
Weyant, Jill. “The Kelley Saga: Violence in America.” College Language Association Journal 19, no. 2 (December, 1975): 210-220. Weyant proposes that Kelley’s fiction may be the first saga written by a black American; she examines his work in the light of what she sees as his attempt to redefine the “Complete Man.”