Octavus Roy Cohen Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Although he was more famous for his southern black dialect fiction of the 1920’s and early 1930’s, which he considered neither biased nor derogatory, Octavus Roy Cohen also created a memorable detective. Jim Hanvey, Detective (1923), the collection of short fiction that first recounted the adventures of the big, slow-moving, cigar-smoking sleuth, was considered by Ellery Queen to be “a book of historical value with a high quality of literary style.” Two of the short stories, “Common Stock” and “Pink Bait,” were later chosen by Eugene Thwing as part of his anthology of mystery fiction, The World’s Best One Hundred Detective Stories (1929). In addition, Cohen’s work represented one of the early, minor crossovers to the more realistic detective fiction of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler.


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Bailey, Frankie Y. Out of the Woodpile: Black Characters in Crime and Detective Fiction. New York: Greenwood, 1991. This discussion of how African American characters were handled in crime fiction contains some discussion of Cohen’s work.

Barfield, Ray. Listening to Radio, 1920-1950. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1996. Barfield describes old-time radio, including the Amos ’n’ Andy series.

Beidler, Philip D. “Introduction: Alabama Flowering I.” In Many Voices, Many Rooms: A New Anthology of Alabama Writers, edited by Philip D. Beidler. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1998. Cohen is one of four Alabama writers compared in this essay, which precedes his “The Fatted Half.”

Panek, LeRoy Lad. The Origins of the American Detective Story. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2006. Study of the beginnings and establishment of American detective-fiction conventions, focusing especially on the replacement of the police by the private detective and the place of forensic science in the genre. Provides a context for understanding Cohen.

Priestman, Martin, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Crime Fiction. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Chapter on black crime fiction provides a contrast to Cohen’s early works and provides perspective on Cohen.

Van Dover, J. K., and John F. Jebb. Isn’t Justice Always Unfair? The Detective in Southern Literature. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1996. Critical examination of the tradition of Southern detective fiction. Sheds light on the context in which Cohen wrote.