(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Ed Lacy is one of the many underrated detective-fiction writers who both flourished and faded all too rapidly. In 1958, he received the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Allan Poe Award for the best mystery of the year, Room to Swing (1957). Later works did not bring him the same degree of success, and his reputation faded to near oblivion after his death. Yet his crime novels still merit critical attention. Unlike his peers, Lacy often chose blacks as protagonists. His characters have greater psychological depth than is ordinarily found in detective fiction, an achievement that is all the more remarkable when one considers that those same characters are generally immersed in the stereotypically macho worlds of boxing and urban crime. Lacy’s plotting is similarly skillful, featuring recurring flashbacks, considerable action but little gratuitous violence, and double-twist endings. In 1957, the Los Angeles Mirror-News called Room to Swing “the occasional perfect mystery novel.” The hyperbole of this judgment should not be allowed to obscure the fact of Ed Lacy’s genuine achievement as a writer of detective fiction.