(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.


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Browne, Ray B. Heroes and Humanities: Detective Fiction and Culture. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1986. A study of humanist ideology in American, Canadian, and Australian detective fiction, geared toward a popular audience interested in scholarly approaches to culture. Provides perspective on Lacy’s work.

“Ed Lacy (Len Zinberg).” In American Hard-Boiled Crime Writers, edited by George Parker Anderson and Julie B. Anderson. Detroit: Gale Group, 2000. Compares Lacy to other hard-boiled detective writers. Bibliographic references and index.

Lachman, Marvin. “Ed Lacy.” In Murder off the Rack: Critical Studies of Ten Paperback Masters, edited by John L. Breen and Martin Harry Greenberg. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1989. Lacy is compared to nine other masters of paperback genre fiction. Bibliographic references and index.

Landrigan, Linda. Introduction to Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine Presents Fifty Years of Crime and Suspense, edited by Linda Landrigan. New York: Pegasus Books, 2006. Lacy is one of the authors covered in this anthology of some of the best crime fiction of the second half of the twentieth century.

Niemi, Robert. “Ed Lacy.” In Woody Allen to C. D. Wright. Supplement 15 to American Writers: A Collection of Literary Biographies, edited by Jay Parini. New York: Scribner’s, 2006. Massive update to a truly voluminous series of author biographies; devotes extensive coverage to Lacy and his work.

Steinbrunner, Chris, and Otto Penzler, eds. Encyclopedia of Mystery and Detection. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1976. Places Lacey’s characters in relation to other, more famous private detectives.