With the publication of his first novel, The Fury of Rachel Monette, Peter Abrahams was widely recognized as an important new voice in the genre of crime fiction. His subsequent novels have strengthened his hold on the imagination of critics and general readers alike. In an interview, Abrahams expressed great admiration for the works of American-Canadian crime novelist Ross Macdonald and others like him. Abrahams particularly noted that Macdonald’s main character, detective Lew Archer, was developed by Macdonald to grow over the years as a human being and to become more interesting and complex. Furthermore, Archer was given a broader understanding of life and began to respond more deeply to the inevitable messiness of human experience. One recognizes the same qualities in characters created by Abrahams.
Abrahams effectively uses the conventions of the melodramatic crime thriller to create intense reader involvement. His novels also rise above others with their sophisticated rendering of flesh-and-blood individuals caught up in the dilemmas of contemporary life.
Lights Out was nominated for an Edgar Award, and Down the Rabbit Hole won an Agatha Award. The Edgar and Agatha awards (named for Edgar Allan Poe and Agatha Christie) are among the most prestigious awards for mystery fiction. The Fan was made into a 1996 feature film starring Robert De Niro and Wesley Snipes.
Adewoye, Sam A. The African Novel: Another Evaluative View. Lagos, Nigeria: Majab, 1996. Discusses works by Abrahams, Ousmane Sembene, Chinua Achebe, T. M. Aluko, Bayo Adebowale, Elechi Amadi, and Ngugi Wa Thiongo. Focuses on Tell Freedom.
Dathorne, O. R. “Peter Abrahams.” In African Literature in the Twentieth Century. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1975. A helpful analysis.
Ensor, Robert. The Novels of Peter Abrahams and the Rise of Nationalism in Africa. Essen, Germany: Verlag Die Blaue Eule, 1992. From the series African Literatures in English. Includes bibliographical references.
Heywood, Christopher. “The Novels of Peter Abrahams.” In Perspectives in African Literature, edited by Heywood. New York: Africana, 1971. From the proceedings of the Conference on African Literature held at the University of Ife in 1968.
Lindfors, Bernth. “Peter Abrahams.” In Contemporary Novelists, edited by James Vinson. 3d ed. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1982. A standard profile.
Ogungbesan, Kolawole. The Writing of Peter Abrahams. New York: Africana, 1979. Contains useful background information and sharp critical insights on Abrahams’s works.
Wade, Jean-Philippe. “Song of the City and Mine Boy: The ‘Marxist’ Novels of Peter Abrahams.” Research in African Literatures 21, no. 3 (1990). Emphasizes political context.
Wade, Michael. Peter Abrahams. London: Evans Bros, 1972. Includes criticisms of each of Abrahams’s works up to and including This Island Now.
Wauthier, Claude, et al. “Peter Abrahams.” In Modern Commonwealth Literature, edited by John H. Ferres and Martin Tucker. New York: Ungar, 1977. A standard source.