Saturday 28 January 2017

Guest Post & Giveaway (CLOSED): Ethnicity's Place in Pigeon-Blood Red by Ed Duncan

Pigeon-Blood Red is an interracial crime novel but it is, first and foremost, a crime novel. At its centre is the theft of a priceless pigeon-blood red ruby necklace. That theft sets in motion the novel's action and, together with the hunt to find the necklace, it pushes the action forward. The crime also brings together the novel's disparate characters, each of whom contributes something different to the story, but the ethnicity of the characters is incidental to the plot. In other words, with minor exceptions, a reader would not know whether a given character was white or black if the character weren't described as such. On this latter point, permit me a slight digression. 

When an author doesn't point out a character's ethnicity, the widely accepted default position is that the character is white. I haven't done a scientific study but I think this statement is true. Therefore, even where race or ethnicity is an issue in a novel, the author expects his readers to assume that all of the characters are white unless the writer says a particular character is black or describes him or her as such. This default position is a little trickier to handle where the novel's setting is a place where blacks predominate, such as Africa or certain countries in the Caribbean like Jamaica. In those cases, authors do often specifically point out when a character is white to distinguish that character from the predominant group. My novel takes place in Chicago and Honolulu, so I have adhered to the default position by directly pointing out when a character is black or by indicating it by describing the colour of the character's skin.

The above digression aside, the point of this piece was to explore ways of addressing two questions that arise when writing a crime novel in which some of the main characters are black (or are of some other non-white ethnicity), but in which their ethnicity is not central to the story, as is true in my novel. The first question is how the novel should be marketed. The description of Pigeon-Blood Red on the novel's back cover is completely silent as to the ethnicity of the characters, because their ethnicity is incidental to the story. Here is that description:

"After an unfaithful husband and his lover try to double-cross a loan shark, they endanger the lives of the man's unsuspecting wife and an old flame who comes to her rescue. Pursued by a "killer with a conscience," the wife and her newly found protector must decide what to do with a stolen ruby necklace worth millions. And their pursuer must decide what to do with them: murder them as ordered - although one of them saved his life - or refuse and risk the life of the woman he loves."

The unfaithful husband and his lover are both black, as are the unsuspecting wife and the old flame, while the loan shark and the killer with a conscience are white. Race is irrelevant to these characters as they react to the theft of the necklace and as they interact with each other. Therefore, pointing out their race in the description of the novel adds nothing. This is not to say that race might not have been relevant to a different set of characters I might have imagined. It could have, just not in this novel. But wait for the sequel!

The second question is whether a realistic interracial crime novel can be written where race is merely incidental to the story. My answer is yes because Pigeon-Blood Red is that novel. That said, I do in fact mention race in the novel, but only a few times and then only tangentially. Addressing it, if only incidentally, was a bow to reality. Regrettably, at this time and place in our history, it is very difficult to ignore race completely. Perhaps it will not always be so.

About Pigeon-Blood Red


For underworld enforcer Richard "Rico" Sanders, it seemed like an ordinary job. Retrieve his gangster boss's priceless pigeon-blood red ruby necklace and teach the double-dealing cheat who stole it a lesson. A job like a hundred before it. But the chase quickly goes sideways and takes Rico from the mean streets of Chicago to sunny Honolulu, where the hardened hit man finds himself in uncharted territory when a couple of innocent bystanders are accidentally embroiled in the crime. 

As Rico pursues his new targets, the hunter and his prey develop an unlikely respect for one another and Rico is faced with a momentous decision: follow his orders to kill the couple whose courage and character have won his admiration, or refuse and endanger the life of the woman he loves?

About Ed Duncan


Ed Duncan is a graduate of Oberlin College and Northwestern University Law School. He was a partner at a national law firm in Cleveland, Ohio for many years. He currently lives outside of Cleveland and is at work on the second instalment in the Pigeon-Blood Red trilogy.

For more information about Ed and his work, visit his website or connect with him on Facebook, Twitter or Goodreads.


If you think Pigeon-Blood Red sounds interesting, then you're in luck, as I've kindly been given a copy to give away to one lucky reader. To enter, please use the Rafflecopter widget below. Please note, this is a US only giveaway.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms and conditions:
  1. Giveaway closes on 5th February 2017 at 11.59pm (GMT).
  2. The prize consists of one paperback or Kindle copy (winner's choice) of Pigeon-Blood Red by Ed Duncan.
  3. Upon confirmation of the winner's address, the prize will be sent to the winner by the promoter, NOT The Writing Greyhound.
  4. This giveaway is open to US residents only.
  5. The winner will be randomly generated by Rafflecopter once the giveaway has ended.
  6. The winner will be informed by email once the giveaway has ended.
  7. The winner will have 72 hours to claim their prize. If the winner has not responded by this time, another winner will be announced.
Pigeon-Blood Red is available to buy now.

Will you be reading the book? What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!

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