Crime Writers of Color Coming Attractions: January-March 2024

 by Elizabeth Wilkerson

 Whose Right? Who’s Right?

I often hear people say the book was better than the movie. I usually agree, especially in cases where the film adaptation has altered the original book to the point of being unrecognizable.

I recently saw a movie on Netflix based on a book I hadn’t read — Leave the World Behind. I watched the film because it was a cyberthriller — my favorite genre — and because it was produced by the Obamas. What kind of thriller was the ex-first couple involved in?

While watching the movie, I was struck by all the references to the arrival of enslaved Africans in the U.S. Subtle clues, easily overlooked. I wondered if they were coded dog whistles, signals from a Black writer to Black audience members, in the knowledge that Black folk would read between the lines of the layered meaning.

It made me wonder if the original book’s author was Black. Were these references to the enslavement of Africans a part of the source material, or did the screenwriter’s adaptation introduce them? Or maybe the coded visual messages were recommended by the Obamas, who I later learned had provided developmental script notes for the movie. (No spoilers, but it unnerved me to know that the former president had given notes on the dystopian thriller’s script.)

I considered how distorted the vision becomes with each derivative work, with each new artistic creation based on somebody else’s inspiration.

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Alice Walker wrote The Color Purple, a brilliant masterpiece. Then, it controversially became Steven Spielberg’s version of The Color Purple, adapted for the screen and reflecting Spielberg’s interpretation of the story. Later, Oprah brought The Color Purple to Broadway, complete with music. And recently launched a newer movie version with newer music. Each derivative, each adaptation, brings in more voices, more creative contributions, and more course-changing alterations to the original writer’s work.

Are book adaptations improvements or just a different medium? The integrity of the original author’s vision may get lost, distorted, or deemphasized as each derivative work drifts farther and farther away from the creator’s vision. Works from underrepresented groups risk getting diluted with every creative iteration.

But then I think about Hamilton, the mega-blockbuster musical. A radical reimagining of a scholarly biography. The musical adaptation decidedly and unapologetically adjusts the book’s focus and centers on non-white casting.

And I’m reminded of The Wizard of Oz. How it got snatched from the dusty library of public domain stories and stormed onto Broadway as The Wiz, infused with Black culture, music, and fashion before it “eased on down the road” to the silver screen starring Michael Jackson and Diana Ross.

Adaptations can expand the exposure of the source material, but the reinterpretations threaten to erode the impact of the original writer’s vision.

And as we move into a future where “creative” work is being generated by artificial intelligence — an intelligence derived from the mass parsing of existing works, an intelligence that’s already been proven to distort underrepresented voices — it’s imperative that we as readers, as viewers, consider the source. Whose story is this?

This new year, enjoy wholly original works by members of Crime Writers of Color!

The PerfectAffair by Angela Henry
Release Date: January 15, 2024
The lives of a college professor and his wife unravel when his former mistress and colleague disappears, and he becomes the prime suspect, forcing them both to face dark secrets from their pasts.

A Stalker's Prey by K.D. Richards
Release Date: January 23, 2024
Hollywood actress Bria Baker has all that comes with worldwide fame…including a stalker who’s followed her to a New York City film set. To assure her personal protection, the superstar hires bodyguard Xavier Nichols—the man whose heart she once broke. As the stalker’s threats escalate, so do Bria’s feelings for Xavier.

Pangu's Shadow by Karen Bao
Release Date: February 6, 2024
Two rival science apprentices are wrongly accused of their professor's murder. Since they're immigrants from other moons, they must team up against more powerful people to prove their innocence, exposing painful truths about their star system along the way.

Ill-FatedFortune by Jennifer J. Chow
Release Date: February 20, 2024
The Magical Fortune Cookie mysteries follow Felicity Jin as she hones her talent for baking delicious treats with a touch of magic in her family-run bakery. In Ill-Fated Fortune, Felicity feels compelled to solve a murder connected to her fortune cookie predictions.

A MidnightPuzzle by Gigi Pandian
Release Date: March 19, 2024
Sleuth Tempest Raj returns in locked-room mystery A Midnight Puzzle, where a supposedly-haunted, old theater reveals a deadly booby trap, family secrets, and one perplexing puzzle of a mystery.

The Memory Bank by Raquel Byrnes, Brian Shea
Release Date: March 19, 2024
When a series of high-profile deaths is linked to a lethal conspiracy, Detective Morgan Reed must risk everything to uncover the truth. All evidence points to a suicide, and the case is closed…until he begins working a series of similarly strange deaths. As Reed joins forces with Detective Natalie De La Cruz to expose the lies and corporate treachery at the heart of the suicides, they discover a shocking plot that will put thousands of lives at risk.

 Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section in Kings River Life and in our mystery category here on KRL News & Reviews. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. And check out our new mystery podcast which features mystery short stories and first chapters read by local actors!

Elizabeth Wilkerson was one of Silicon Valley’s first cyberlawyers and now writes thrillers with a tech edge. A native of Cleveland, her debut novel is Tokyo Firewall. You can learn more on her website.