Episode 26: Blanche on the Lam by Barbara Neely (1941-2020)

Barbara Ann Neely in 2018 Photo: Zamani Feelings

Barbara Ann Neely’s “Blanche White is a plump, feisty, middle-aged African-American housekeeper working for the genteel rich in North Carolina. But when an employer stiffs her, and her checks bounce, she goes on the lam, hiding out as a maid for a wealthy family at their summer home. That plan goes awry when there’s a murder and Blanche becomes the prime suspect. So she’s forced to use her savvy, her sharp wit, and her old-girl network of domestic workers to discover the truth and save her own skin. Along the way, she lays bare the quirks of southern society with humor, irony, and a biting commentary that makes her one of the most memorable and original characters ever to appear in mystery fiction.” (Description from Brash Books

Barbara Neely died in March 2020. Rest in peace. 


Let’s just be honest: Blanche White is the best Black domestic detective there ever was. Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of her. Some of the Spoilers hadn’t either. She’s smart. She’s bold. SHE’S THE BEST. In this episode we basically won’t let Anita end the show because we can’t stop talking about how much we love this book. Let this episode be your introduction to the wonderful world of Blanche White, creation of the late, brilliant Barbara Neely. The good thing is, when you finish this novel, there are still three more to read!

Books, Authors, Characters, etc. Mentioned on the Show

  • Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot  
  • Arthur Conon Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes (I was actually trying to think of Auguste Dupin from Poe’s “Murders in The Rue Morgue”)
  • Christina Sharp, Monstrous Intimacies
  • Kathryn Stockett, The Help
  • Audre Lorde
  • Toni Morrison
  • Alice Walker
  • Gloria Naylor
  • Jeanine Cummings, American Dirt (not an endorsement)
  • Teri McMillan
  • Sue Grafton
  • Donald Goines and Holoway House Publishing
  • Michel-Rolph Troulliot, Silencing the Past
  • Mary Higgins Clark
  • Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshowski
  • Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe
  • Dorothy L. Sayers
  • Eve Sedgewick – discursive power for the dispossessed
  • Lisa Delpit

What we're reading, watching, listening to, eating, etc:

  • Crystal – Vanguard, Martha Jones
  • Adriana – Grey’s Anatomy
  • Todd – Blacktop Wasteland, S.A. Cosby; P-Valley (Katori Hall);
  • Anita – Sept 16th episode of podcast Throughline on James Baldwin with Eddie Glaude (author of Begin Again)

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