West, John B. (pulp fiction writer)


He was not destined to receive the sort of lasting attention that has been given to Chester himes, but John B. West was, like Himes, a groundbreaker as a black American writing a hard-boiled detective series in the 1950s. Comparisons pretty much end there, however, as West’s superficial pulp was not in the same league with Himes’s visionary and stylistically brilliant crime novels. West gathered up the well-worn cliches of postwar hard-boiled fiction and reshuffled them to produce his adventures of tough New York private eye Rocky Steele (a white man, incidentally), a slightly less explosive Mike Hammer. A more unusual character was the author himself, a physician and graduate of Howard and Harvard universities whose interest in tropical diseases led him to resettle in West Africa. West moved to the black republic of Liberia, where he practiced medicine, pursued research projects, and came to be a business magnate whose holdings included a broadcasting company and assorted hotels and restaurants. Somehow he found time to write detective stories, too. His first novel, An Eye for an Eye, was published in 1959. Five more would follow. They were undemanding, cliche-filled fun. Only the final topic, Death on the Rocks, offered something unusual—it was set in West’s adopted homeland. By the time it appeared on the racks in America, John B. West was already dead.


  • An Eye for an Eye (1959);
  • Bullets Are My Business (1960);
  • Cobra Venom (1959);
  • Death on the Rocks (1961);
  • Never Kill a Cop (1961);
  • Taste for Blood, A (1960)

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