Frank Yerby Analysis

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

ph_0111207126-Yerby.jpg Frank Yerby Published by Salem Press, Inc.

In addition to his novels, Frank Yerby wrote poetry and short stories that are often found in anthologies of black literature. One story, “Health Card,” first published in Harper’s magazine, won a special O. Henry Memorial Award in 1944.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Frank Yerby wrote many best-selling historical novels over a long career beginning in the 1940’s. Most of his best work, however, dates from the 1960’s, after he had established himself as a prolific popular novelist. Yerby excelled at creating complicated, fast-moving plots that give vivid impressions of historical eras and periods. Often the novels contradict myths and stereotypes of the periods in question. Almost every novel, too, suggests the futility of finding real truth in the universal confusion of the human condition. While Yerby’sprotagonists are flawed, often by ruthlessness and infidelity, they are also characterized by a fierce sense of dignity based on the worth of a human life.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Bone, Robert A. The Negro Novel in America. Rev. ed. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1965. A general survey of black novels. Bone dismisses Yerby as the “prince of pulpsters.”

Glasrud, Bruce. “‘The Fishes and the Poet’s Hands’: Frank Yerby, a Black Author in White America.” Journal of American and Comparative Cultures 23 (Winter, 2000): 15-21. A profile of Yerby that compares his lack of scholarly attention to the situation of Chester Himes.

Hemenway, Robert, ed. The Black Novelist. Columbus, Ohio: Merrill, 1970. Darwin Turner comments on Yerby’s “painful groping for meaning” behind a “soap-opera façade.”

Klotman, Phyllis. “A Harrowing Experience: Frank Yerby’s First Novel to Film.” College Language Association Journal 31 (December, 1987): 210-222. Focuses on the changes made to Yerby’s story when The Foxes of Harrow was adapted to the screen.

Mendelson, Phyllis Carmel, and Dedria Bryfonski, eds. Contemporary Literary Criticism. Vol 7. Detroit: Gale Research, 1977. Contains excerpts of positive criticism about Yerby’s use of racial themes.

Metzger, Linda, and Deborah A. Straub, eds. Contemporary Authors. New Revision Series 16. Detroit: Gale Research, 1986. A sympathetic look at Yerby’s work. Also contains an interview with the novelist.

Ryan, Bryan. Major Twentieth-Century Authors. Detroit: Gale Research, 1991. Contains a brief entry on Yerby.