Nina Halligan
Created by Norman Kelley

With a chip on her shoulder and her politics on her sleeve, kick-ass black private eye NINA HALLIGAN doesn't go gently -- anywhere! She's a woman who's not afraid of letting her fierce intelligence, deep passions or uncompromising politics show.

She also finds the time to be a rather left-of-centre political science instructor at Brooklyn's City College, and an activist deeply involved in New York's African-American community. But whatever hat she wears, she takes few prisoners in her seemingly never-ending fight against corruption and injustice or, as The Washington Post puts it, "the mostly male, racially motivated cruelty that haunts her life." That's a bit too specific, and a little too PC-cheap, if you ask me. It takes Nina sound more like a shrill, one-note tin horn, which is certainly not the case. I think it's fairer to say that Nina, like many a noble private eye before her, just shows the "disgust for sham, and a contempt for pettiness" (wherever it comes from) that Chandler envisioned and wrote about long ago. But Nina goes down mean streets Phil Marlowe would never have dreamed of.

Why is she so pissed off? Well, she was a rather idealistic Brooklyn assistant D.A. whose husband and kids were gunned down by a drug dealer she was prosecuting. That can really take the glow off a sunny personality, and get one thinking of grabbing a little hands-on personal justice. As it is, Nina offers a stream of political and social commentary as in-yer-face and refreshing as she is, but she's not afraid of taking a little more direct action if she has to. Armed with the strength of her convictions (and a pursefull of black martial arts throwing stars), Nina doesn't back down from much of anything.

The first installment in the series, Black Heat, was published to great critical acclaim by Cool Grove
Press in 1997. The politically-charged folks at plucky little Akashic Books were lucky enough to grab the rights to the follow-up, The Big Mango, which has Nina, along with best bud, lesbian Chinese-American artist rep Anna, heading down to the strife-torn Caribbean island of Miserordia to help the deposed former president regain power after a right-wing military coup. Not long after, HarperCollins swooped down to acquire the rest of the series. They'll be reissuing the first book in hardcover in 2001.

Nina's creator, Norman Kelley, is a freelance journalist who lives in Brooklyn. He also produces arts segments for WBAI 99.5 FM Pacifica Radio. He's written for The Black Star News, New Politics, New York Press, Black Renaussance/Noir, The Bedford Stuyvesant Current, and Newsday. In his own way, he's as outspoken and opinionated as Nina. Like the man says, "Welcome to the world of political noir."

Recommended for those of you who think political discussion is something more than just some lame Clinton one-liners from Jay Leno.




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