Color naming

Anthology of detective novels with 20 stories by authors of color

“Midnight Hour” edited by Abby L. Vandiver

The word “chilling” in the subtitle aptly describes “Midnight Hour,” the thematic title of a crime novel anthology and its 20 distinctive short stories. Some are black, several dive into horror, and many carry a stealthy punch.

What sets this collection apart from many other short story anthologies is that each “Midnight Hour” story is written by a different, talented writer of color.

Abby L. Vandiver is one of the anthology’s contributors and editor.

And more.

Vandiver played a key behind-the-scenes role in bringing “Midnight Hour” to life. She made the first cut of the anthology. She said she handled the book; that is, she organized the copy and returned it on time.

Abby L. Vandiver

“It was my idea to do the anthology and I contacted the (other) members of Crime Writers of Color. The book is not an offshoot of (the organization), but I think it is a good collection pool,” she said in a phone interview from her home in Cleveland.

Vandiver played another important role – as a literary agent for the authors of the book. “As an agent, I made submissions to publishers to sell our anthology. It was purchased by Crooked Lane Books,” Vandiver said.

She believes that being included in the anthology enhances the exposure of unknown and unpublished contributors.

For “Midnight Hour,” Vandiver penned the noir story “The Bridge.” It’s the story of a woman who agrees to kill a friend’s husband. Readers must wait until the end to see a twist in the murder-for-hire scheme and the surprise reveal of the killer’s identity.

“I wrote it because I was trying to teach myself how to write short stories,” Vandiver explained. “My first (effort) was 20,000 words. I narrowed down the following story to 14,000. ‘The Bridge’ was the first under 5,000 words. Most short stories are between 5,000 and 7,000 words.

Vandiver herself is widely known for her intimate mysteries starring protagonist Romaine Wilder. Next August, his novel “Where Wild Peaches Grow” will be released under the pen name Cade Bentley. It’s no mystery.

David Heska Wanbli Weiden’s contribution “Skin” won the Western Writers of America’s Spur Award for Best Short Story. It concerns an attempted theft of a rare prized book from a religious school in Rapid City, South Dakota. The cover of the late 18th century book is said to have been made – be prepared for that – from the skin of a Native American. He had been killed in action by a white man, states one figure, who “flayed and tanned the flesh of the corpse and used it for the binding of the book”. Theft has an honorable purpose: a healer must follow the proper spiritual steps and give the book a decent burial.

Weiden, a registered citizen of the Sicangu Lakota Nation, is a professor of Native American studies and political science at Metropolitan State University in Denver.

Three “Midnight Hour” stories have been nominated for awards. Richie Narvaez’s “Doc’s at Midnight” was nominated for the Malice Domestic Agatha Award for Best Short Story. Tracy Clark’s “Lucky Thirteen” and VM Burns’ “The Vermeer Conspiracy” were nominated for a Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award in the Best Short Story category.

Trade magazine Publishers Weekly gave “Midnight Hour” a star-studded review, stating, “Each contributor offers a surprising and original take on the mystery genre. Full of diverse voices, this volume is a must-read for mystery aficionados.

One contributor, Gigi Pandian, has family ties to New Mexico. She said her mother grew up in Albuquerque and an aunt lives in Santa Fe. Her father is from India.

Vandiver said the anthology asserts that people of color “write books and we read books.”

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Crime Writers of Color is described on its website as an ad hoc, informal association of authors “seeking to present a strong, united voice for members who identify as crime/mystery writers from racial, cultural and traditionally underrepresented ethnicities.” Visit crimewritersofcolor.com for more information.