Tuesday, February 22, 2022


Mystery Writers of America announced the first two recipients of the Barbara Neely Grants, Jonathan Brown and Necole Ryse.

Barbara Neely was the author of the “Blanche” series, one of the first crime fiction series to feature a Black woman as the protagonist. While there were only four books in the series, Ms.  Neely was not only a role model, but a major influence for an entire new generation of Black women writers. Mystery Writers of America named her a Grand Master in November of 2019 to recognize her enormous contributions to the genre as well as her impact on the crime fiction community. Unfortunately, Ms. Neely passed away before she could accept the honor in person in April 2020 at the Edgars presentation and in 2021, MWA created a scholarship program for Black crime fiction writers in her name; one for an already published author, and another for one just getting started in publishing.

“We received some absolutely stunning applications,” said MWA’s Executive Vice President Greg Herren. “I was glad I wasn’t asked to be one of the judges because it would have been incredibly difficult to choose just two.”

Austin Camacho, Christopher Chambers, and Faye Snowden served as judges for the first annual Barbara Neely Grants.

The grant comes with a $2000 award to assist each recipient with any aspect of their career as they see fit. “There are a lot of financial challenges for writers at every stage of their career,” Herren went on to say. “Whether you need some software, a new computer, maybe a weekend away from the kids. We hope this cash award will help give the recipients’ career a needed boost, however they see fit.”

Jonathan Brown writes the Lou Crasher mysteries. Lou Crasher is a rock drummer turned amateur P.I. The Big Crescendo was released November 2019, followed by Don’t Shoot the Drummer in November 2020. Both novels were published by Down and Out Books. The third book, Drums Guns ‘n’ Money, is expected to be released mid-2022. Brown has also written a stand-alone with a female protagonist. Chloe is slated for release late 2022 on Level Best Books. Chloe is the first of three standalones featuring (bad ass) female protagonists. In addition to writing, Brown teaches private drum lessons, is a fitness trainer and is branching out into audiobook narration.  He draws from his experience as a drummer to capture L.A.’s music scene for his Crasher novels. As a black belt in Hapkido karate he writes action and fight scenes with zeal.

Necole Ryse has been writing since she was four years old when she triumphantly carved the alphabet on the hood of her grandmother’s brand new Volvo. Alive and well, Necole has since authored several books that are light on love and heavy on murder, available wherever books are sold online. When she’s not writing, she’s weeping into a stack of unfinished manuscripts, abandoning exercise regimens, scolding innocent children in libraries, or listening to other people’s conversations.

Barbara Neely



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