Eleanor Taylor Bland Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Eleanor Taylor Bland’s highly successful Marti MacAlister series reflects the standard elements of the police procedural: the faith in tireless investigation and the momentum toward resolution via insight, rather than intuition, and the reaching of an inevitable conclusion based on common sense and legwork. However, Bland’s character, Marti MacAlister, broke new ground as an African American woman. Because the series has a modern time frame, MacAlister faces only subtle discrimination and the occasional off-putting remark, and her commitment to police work ensures her the respect of her colleagues. Given the two partners’ diverse backgrounds, the series affirms the viability of multiculturalism in the workplace. A strong feminist role model, MacAlister has come to terms with the death of a husband, the responsibilities of two children, and ultimately the complex emotional experience of a remarriage and stepchildren.

What further distinguishes the MacAlister series is its commitment to pressing social issues and its unflagging sympathy for those who are voiceless victims of social and economic distress—abused women and children, the homeless, the mentally ill, alcoholics, drug addicts, the unemployed, and the elderly.


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Fabre, Michel, and Robert E. Skinner. Conversations with Chester Himes. Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 1995. Invigorating conversations with the African American procedurals writer whose influence Bland acknowledges. Provides cultural context for understanding the African American approach to procedurals, specifically how black detectives helped counter stereotypes.

Klein, Kathleen Gregory, ed. Diversity and Detective Fiction. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1999. Although geared for narrative theorists and targeted to teachers interested in using procedurals, the collection provides a context to appreciate Marti MacAlister as a landmark contribution to a genre that, because of its urban roots, readily lent itself to diversity.

Klein, Kathleen Gregory, ed. The Woman Detective: Gender and Genre. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1995. Surveys more than sixty female detectives and private eyes with specific interest in a feminist reading that sees these groundbreaking fictional characters as social and cultural templates.

Panek, LeRoy Lad. The American Police Novel. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2003. A sweeping survey that traces the genre in post-World War II America and catalogs the genre’s plot devices, character types, symbols, and themes. Challenges the perception of the genre as male dominated by tracing its inclusion of gender, race, sexual orientation, and age diversity.

Vicarel, Jo Ann. A Reader’s Guide to the Police Procedural. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1999. Indispensable reference, a thorough explication of the genre that includes themes and narrative elements as well as major writers and their works. Helpful in distinguishing the genre from the more familiar (and flashier) private investigator genre.