It seems that my spouse and I have a video collection of 100 "classic" mysteries. There's some hyperbole in there, not all are classic. But they're all good-old black and white films from the 30s and 40s (some 50s). One we watched recently was Ten Minutes to Live
, which came out in 1932, and featured an all African American cast. It turns out to have been written, directed, and produced by an African American, Oscar Micheaux. The movie was a bit difficult to follow in parts, perhaps due to the poor quality of the digitization and sound. So, I tried to look up the story on which it was based to get a better handle on the plot.
I didn't find the story, but I did find out that Oscar Micheaux started out his adult life homesteading on the prairies, moved on to writing novels, from there to film, and finally back to novels in his later years. Well, I like stories of life on the prairies some century or so ago. After all, that was the life my grandmother experienced as a young girl, first in South Dakota and later in Kansas. Anyway, I found The Homesteader: a Novel
on Gutenberg and read it forthwith. The book would also fit in with my off-and-on-again forays into trying to understand race relations. The protagonist is, after all, an African American, or as he had it in the book itself, of Ethiopian extraction.
I adored this book. It's an old fashioned romance/melodrama, but actually quite well done, a compelling read. Some of the writing is rather poetic and beautiful. Occasionally a phrase or word choice comes up which seems awkward to me, but then I think Micheaux was mostly self taught. Plus, I'm not a writer by any means, so how can I be so caddish as to criticize the writing of someone who made his living writing?
Whatever, overall the plot line is gripping. It's been quite some time since I found a book so compelling that I was hard pressed to put it down for more mundane domestic duties like child care, dog walking, and cooking. Probably one reason the book was so interesting was that it was semi-autobiographical. Thus Micheaux was writing from experience, which in turn, gives a better sense of reality to the action than one gets from made-up books.