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Eleanor Taylor Bland

Eleanor Taylor Bland, 1944-2010.

Eleanor Taylor Bland, 1944-2010, died on June 1, and our world of writers, readers, humans, is diminished.

I first met Eleanor in 1992, when she published Dead Time. We bonded over concerns about depictions of women and African-Americans in crime fiction, and the fact that we both had full-time corporate jobs while trying to write and raise a family.

I later learned that Eleanor had been diagnosed with a life-threatening cancer in the 1970’s, which she took  as a signal to live each day to its fullest. Eleanor was awe-inspiring in her gallant and tireless spirit, her commitment to helping other writers, her dedication to her beloved grandson, Antony, and her ability to keep all these balls in the air while writing some of the country’s finest mysteries.

She was the among the first, if not the first, to create a hero who challenged the “mammy-whore” stereotypes of African-American women. She believed the crime novel was a perfect vehicle for pushing the boundaries of America’s class/race/sex consciousness because you can tell a story and explore issues at the same time. With Marti Macallister, she said, she could “comment on slices of life within black culture….This is the one genre where you can talk about it and have a little fun with it.”

Her passionate commitment to the lives of children and those damaged families who get swept under our social-judicial rugs showed up time and again in her fiction.

Eleanor’s support of the written word was legendary. She served on the board of the Waukegan Public Library and chaired their friends of the library. She also mentored writers like Libby Fischer Hellman and Michael Dymmoch, and served as president of Sisters in Crime.
Grace under pressure, gallantry, these are the images that come to mind, and, always, a smile that warmed us to the core of our souls. May your memory be a blessing to those of us you’ve left behind.

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  • Wonderful tribute – I look forward to reading her stories.

  • I agree, wonderful tribute. I’ll confess that I never heard of her before, but she sounds like just the kind of author I’d love to read. This is one of the things I like best about crime fiction, and you put it so well “you can tell a story and explore issues at the same time” – and sometimes (the best times IMO) they aren’t even openly explored as such, but the set and perhaps formulaic format enables the society it’s written in to shine through in the most clarifying manner.

  • genny from jersey

    Sara, as everyone else has said, very nice tribute to a great woman.

  • I wish had had heard of her before. Thank you, Sara.

  • So sorry. It’s very hard to lose a friend and it sounds like she was a good friend.

  • Shirley

    Sorry about Ms. Bland’s passing.

    There’s a “Killer Thriller” contest on the NPR (National Public Radio) web site. You can nominate your favorite thriller for a recommended Summer Reading list posted by NPR. They say a thriller is oriented toward action and suspense. I say “Hardball.” If you, like me, want to nominate Sara’s latest book, just go to npr.org and click on Summer Reading to register and vote.

  • Idzan Ismail. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

    A Belated Happy Birthday, Ms Paretsky.
    Here’s a toast to you. Cheers.

    May the angels look after Ms Bland. R I P.

  • Unlike the others responders, I have been a fan of Ms. Bland since she began writing her series in 1992. I’ve been reading her books ever since. Thank you, Sara, for such a lovely tribute to a wonderful writer. I was stunned to learn of her death only today, as I was checking to see if she’d published anything more recent than her 2007 mystery, Suddenly a Stranger. For more information on Ms. Bland’s books and her protagonist, Marti MacAlister, as well as other mysteries with women detectives in a series you might want to check http://www.serialsistersleuths.com

  • Erica Woods Tucker

    Marti McCalister was one of my favorite characters in fiction. She made me want to go and become a detective. The small town of Lincoln Prarie Illinois seemed big enough for interesting crime to occur constantly, but small enough for the characters to be real, and rich. Not caricatures of what police in a small town are supposed to be.

    Eleanor Bland’s writing was rich, fervent, and right on time in my life. Struggling in my late twenties I sought out novels about African Americans, and being a mystery buff Ms. Bland’s novels became important steppingstones in my life. I wish I had written to her and told her that.

    I loved that Marti had a personal life with children, spouse and that lovable cranky Vik (When I re-read Mallory’s dialogue I sometimes think of Vik.) Her’s was a superhero life, trying to rid the earth of killers and bad guys, while giving her children her best. She epitomized the feminist ideal of creating choices in your life and making no excuses for those choices. To me she was a literary hero.

    It’s because of writers like her that I continue to aspire to write.

    A great writer will truly be missed. (I’m going to start re-reading her books tonight!)

  • Idzan Ismail. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

    I really hope you will visit my country some day.
    Laura Caldwell was a special guest of the KL Book Fair in March.
    She was a big hit. Seven-foot tall banners of her face were strategically placed at the fair.
    My eldest girl and her pals who are fans of chick lit and crime novels queued up to get her autograph.
    Ms Caldwell got very good press from our media. She remarked: “I didn’t get such a reception in the States.”

  • Cheryl Stevens

    I am also a fan of Eleanor’s work and as a member of the Friends of Chester Himes had the great opportunity to work with her and invite her to our annual mystery conferences. I just learned yesterday that Eleanor passed away earlier this month and was sad to hear that her last days were so difficult for her. The one blessing is that maybe now a larger audience will discover her books and enjoy Marti McAllister as much as I have enjoyed her. I was delighter to know that Marti and VI were so close because truly Eleanor Taylor Bland and Sara Paretsky are my favorite mystery writers. Thanks for this tribute Ms. Paretsky and thanks for being a friend to Eleanor.

  • Sandra Morgan

    I have enjoyed all of Ms. Bland’s books and hope that her last, Suddenly A Stranger, will be published soon. I’m so sorry to hear that she passed away. She was a terrific writer and will be missed.

  • Esther Martinez

    I just found out about Eleanor’s passing and I am still in shock. I had lost touch with Eleanor and had just purchased all of her books and had been thinking about her. She was such a wonderful and caring woman full of wisdom and joy for life. May she rest in peace and she will be missed.

  • Robert Brunet

    Sorry that I had to wait for her death to read her books. Waukegan was my home town, and she nailed it, almost as well as bradbury did in Dandelion Wine. Marti McAllister is such a great name, since McAllister Street runs through the heart of Waukegan’s black ghetto. And Vic Jesenovic, another great waukegan name. Did she publish any novels after 2005? Her 2005 novel was really well done.

  • Pamela Springs

    R.I.P Eleanor, you will be greatly missed, as will Marti and Vic.

    I met Eleanor since we’re both from the same area while I was working at the North Chicago Library. She was a wonderful, kind spirit, and I’m sad not to have had a chance to say goodbye.

  • Dicey Scroggins Jackson

    Sara, you have written a loving, true-to-the-core tribute to a woman in a class of her own. She was my friend, my mentor, and simply an extraordinary human being and writer. Although we had not seen each other in years, I feel the loss deeply as will the entire writing community.

  • Virginia Luther

    This news just breaks my heart. Years ago I found Ms. Bland’s books at Booked for Murder book store in Madison,WI while vacationing there. I’ve read every book in the series. My condolences to her family and friends. I will miss all the rich characters she created. RIP Eleanor. You were read and admired and will be missed by so many.

  • Leona Franklin

    Thank you so much for writing this tribute. I have been a fan of Ms Bland’s and had eagerly anticipated what would have been her last book. It apparently was never published. I knew that she had been dx’d with cancer and feared the worst when her book did not come out. I will miss her series. I read every Marti McAllister book.

  • I read all of Sara Paretsky’s book and noticed that she mentioned Eleanor Taylor Bland’s books. I have read four so far and wondered why Amazon didn’t have any new ones. Now I know why and I am so sorry to hear about her death in June 2010.

    Thank you for the tribute to Eleanor Taylor Bland and keep writing your great novels, Sara.

  • Joyce D. Fuhrman

    I learned from one of Sara Paretsky’s books that she like Eleanor Taylor Bland’s books. So I found them on ebay and have read 4 so far and love them. I read all of Sara Paretsky’s books and was looking for another crime writer. Then I tried to find out why there were no new books from herm googles and found this website. I was so sorry to hear of her death in June 2010. I was also a fan of Stief Larsson and am still depressed over his passing.

    Please, Sara Paretsky, take care of yourself and keep writing. And thank you for sharing one of the authors you liked with me.

    Thanks
    Joyce D. Fuhrman

  • Nellie D. Sinclair

    I just recently heard about Eleanor Taylor Bland from a book club member. She knows how much I love mysteries. I just finished reading all thirteen of the Marti McAllister Mysteries. I would love to read Number Fourteen, if it made it to publication. I was also shocked and saddened to read of Ms. Bland’s recent death. Her books are a wonderful and lifelong legacy.

  • Cosette

    I also greatly admired Eleanor Taylor Bland. I have only just discovered that she died last year!

    Upon discovering Bland back in 1992, I felt she was a, welcome and long overdue author who mixed the excitement of crime and mystery with the ordinary everyday life we in fact, all live.

    What is more significant, is the fact that Bland applied cultural mores relative to African American Culture in her writing.

    As a strong afficianado of the genre of crime/mysteryfiction, I was very glad to add Bland to my list of ” heroes” in the genre.

    Women like Sara Paretsky, Sue Grafton, and Janet Evanocivich……the genre needed authors like Bland.

    Her African American character Marti MacAlister is warm, loving and kind. She proves that she can enforce the law with a firm deftness, as well as bring to her position comprehension and fairness. She is tough when she feels the necessity to be so.

    I am glad MacAlister is not just another so called streotypical ” strong black sugar mama” or a feisty sexual prototype of the pretty so called intellectual cop/P.I. who depends on the male counterpart to bail her out of tight situations, while projecting a “feminine romantic sexuality”.

    I will greatly miss Eleanor Taylor Bland. I am grateful for the rich character she left in the form of Marti MacAlister and all of her books! I will do all that I can do to preserve her rich legacy.

    She did leave her imprint on the Mystery Crime Fiction genre with excellence, class and grace.

    C. Sondai

  • C. L. Hogan

    I am so sorry to hear about the passing of Ms. Bland. I found Eleanor Taylor Bland to be one of the greastest authors of this century. I enjoyed reading her books and looked forward to each case Marti McAllister undertook. Her books inspired me to write one of my own. Rest in peace my sister, and may the Angels watch over you.

    The world has truly lost a great mind.

  • V Simms

    I have just found out today that one of my favorite writers is dead. I have read all of Eleanor Taylor Bland’s Marti McAllister books. I noticed her disappearance when her latest book did not come out. I have been checking periodically to discover any information concerning Miss Bland. Thank you Miss Paretsky for providing me with information that I did not want to receive. It provides closure for me on a great author. RIP Miss Bland. V. Simms

  • I’m on the road this week lecturing and won’t be email regularly. If you need me before May 15, please call my cellphone or email Noah Cruickshank ncruickshank@gmail.com for help

  • Vhcash

    in 1973 we lived next door to Eleanor in great lakes,IL. on great lakes drive in navel housing until she moved to Waukegan, she was a good friend and corresponded over the years at christmas times. though we lost track of each other over the years. we last spoke to her in 2007.   

  • DW40

    I had just finished reading Ms Bland’s last book, thought I’d check to see when she had another one coming out. So saddened to hear of her passing I so enjoyed reading her character Marti “Big Mac”McCalliste, she made all of her main character’s come alive and the children and their hurts were so much about how they suffer now. Did she have a last novel ready for publication? I will miss her.

  • D Johnson

    I was wondering about the last MacAllister book Ms. Bland was working on.  Do you know if it will be published, I believe it was entitled “Suddenly a Stranger: A Marti Macalister Mystery (Marti Macalister Mysteries)”?

  • D Johnson

    Yes!  In 2007, she was about to publish another book entitled “Suddenly a Stranger: A Marti Macalister Mystery (Marti Macalister Mysteries)”? It just did not come out.  I had pre-ordered it on Amazon.com but noticed that the date kept being pushed back over and over again until it stated that I will not be published with any explanation given.

  • Iamnana17

    Did you get an answer?

  • Delores

    No, I have not received an answer.

  • Delores, I just don’t know. Ms Bland was quite ill the last year of her life so the ms may not have been close enough to completion for publication. If you write to St Martin’s Press, her publishers, they can tell you if they have it and are trying to publish it

  • Colleen Haithcock

    I just discovered her works, and was searching for a latest book and am very sad that she has past. She sees the world as it is and yet her books the fact that she can tell these stories – is in itself hope. So much of what we call news is fiction and what is called fiction is truth. I will be reading her works with gratitude.

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