Eleanor Taylor Bland’s influence on the mystery genre is respected.
Her first published novel, Dead Time (1992), introduced African-American police detective Marti MacAlister and set a tone for her subsequent novels as well as influenced other writers at the time.
Marti, recently transferred from Chicago to the small town of Lincoln Prairie, Illinois, was committed to her family, community and religious convictions. A hallmark of the series was how Bland weaved in social issues into the investigations of Marti and her partner, Polish American Vik Jessenovik.
By the way, Bland’s second book, Slow Burn, was the first one she had written, but she could not find a publisher interested. Still, she persisted.
Bland was known to be a personable, compassionate writer and generous to other authors. Her death in 2010 left a void.
But her influence on the genre continues through the Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award, which is given annually to an emerging writer of color who has not yet published a full-length work. Sponsored by Sisters in Crime the award was established in 2014 and carries a $2,000 grant.
Jessica Martinez, left, is the recipient of the 2019 Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award.
Judges Cheryl Head, Mia P. Manansala and Tonya Spratt-Williams said in a joint statement: "Ms. Martinez has great potential as a fresh new voice within the crime fiction community and capably displays a proficiency with humor. Her submission introduced the committee to a fun and witty protagonist and left the committee looking forward to her completed novel."
Martinez is a government worker by day and blogger/aspiring novelist by night, or by naptime for her boys, according to the press release. Martinez has worked in customer service for more than 15 years and has been writing on the side for years but recently started to hone her craft through classes at Santa Barbara City College, Arizona State University, attending SDSU’s Writer’s Conference, and writing blog posts. Jessica has a non-fiction blog where she writes about her real life encounters with difficult situations.
For more information about the award and how to apply, visit https://www.sistersincrime.org/page/EleanorTaylorBland