Murder Is Our Peculiar Pastime: Fifty Notable American Crime Novels: 1-2.


Ball, John.  In the Heat of the Night.  New York: Harper, 1965.

John Ball’s most memorable creation, the African-American police detective Virgil Tibbs, was the protagonist of six novels and five films, most of which were not based on Ball’s novels.  In the Heat of the Night, the first novel to feature Tibbs, was an award-winning novel that was adapted fairly faithfully into an award-winning film.  For the novel, Ball received an Edgar award from the Mystery Writers of America for best first mystery and a Gold Dagger award from the Crime Writers Association for best non-British mystery.  The film, starring Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger, won honored with five Academy Awards, including the award for best picture.

The publication of Ball’s novel and the release of the film roughly coincided with the height of the civil rights movement.  Virgil Tibbs is an African-American detective with the Pasadena…

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