Today on Tablet, Ron Capshaw has a fascinating piece on the famous crime novelist Ed Lacy, whose real name was Leonard Zinberg.
A Harlem resident his entire life, Zinberg was deeply interested in the plight of blacks. His first story, “Lynch Him” (1935), dealt with vigilante action against Southern blacks. His first novel, Walk Hard, Talk Loud (1940), about a black prizefighter, earned praise from Ralph Ellison. Drafted in 1943, Zinberg, as a Yank correspondent, continued his attacks on racism, even the anti-Japanese variety. By the late 1940s, Zinberg’s future as a major novelist seemed assured—until the blacklist era. A communist since the 1930s whose name appeared on the lists of at least three organizations deemed subversive by the attorney general, Zinberg was also vulnerable because he was married to a black woman who worked for the radical Jewish newspaper Die Freiheit. Zinberg wanted to both dodge the blacklist (he was so secretive about his identity that not even his literary agents knew that Lacy was a pen name) while at the same time continuing his attacks on racism.
Read what happens next here.