Bates, Karen Grigsby 1951(?)-
BATES, Karen Grigsby 1951(?)-
PERSONAL: Born c. 1951; married Bruce Talamon; children: Jordan. Education: Wellesley College, B.A., 1973; Yale University Graduate School of Organization and Management, Executive Management Program. Hobbies and other interests: Photography.
AWARDS, HONORS: Fiction Honor Book award, Black Caucus of the American Library Association, 2002, for Plain Brown Wrapper: An Alex Powell Novel.
(With Karen Elyse Hudson) Basic Black: Home Training for Modern Times, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1996.
Plain Brown Wrapper: An Alex Powell Novel, Avon (New York, NY), 2001.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Chosen People, a second mystery featuring reporter Alex Powell.
SIDELIGHTS: "I've been writing since about age six in one form or another, and I've always gotten in trouble—probably since I was old enough to talk—for having 'Too Many Opinions'!," Karen Grigsby Bates told Gwendolyn E. Osborne in an interview for Mystery Reader. Although she grew up on the East coast, Bates lives and works in Los Angeles, California as a journalist and frequent commentator on National Public Radio. A voracious reader, she is also the author of a book on etiquette and a mystery with a heroine who, like Bates, is a black journalist.
In Basic Black: Home Training for Modern Times, Bates and coauthor Karen Elyse Hudson present an unusual etiquette book that not only talks about traditional etiquette but also focuses on black American traditions or, as the authors write, "the way our grandmothers, mothers and aunts have taught us for centuries." As a book covering topics like addressing wedding invitations, letter writing, and being a good host, Basic Black is universal in its guidelines for good etiquette, regardless of race. However, the book also addresses the concerns of black Americans specifically on topics like black traditions in joining a church, family reunions, and planning a funeral. In addition, Bates and coauthor Hudson go far beyond the boundaries of the typical etiquette book when they instruct black Americans on how to act with dignity, politeness, and assertiveness when faced with bad or unacceptable treatment because of their race. "Each subject is discussed briefly and entertainingly, with solid common sense," wrote Marry Carroll in a review in Booklist. A Library Journal reviewer called the book a "common-sense approach to etiquette" that "is for everyone, regardless of race."
Bates turned from etiquette to excitement for her next book, the mystery Plain Brown Wrapper: An Alex Powell Novel. According to Bates in the Mystery Writer interview, the idea for the book came about when she attended a National Association of Black Journalists conference, noting that "it occurred to me that journalists are such interesting and often volatile people, this particular conference would be a perfect setting for a murder." The plot of Plain Brown Wrapper centers on the murder of publisher Everett Carson just prior to his receiving a "Journalist of the Year" award from the National Association of Black Journalists. His friend and former employee, newspaper columnist Alex Powell discovers the body and is soon swept up in the investigation on the orders of her current newspaper employer. A demanding and powerful man who also had a way with the ladies, Carson has numerous enemies. Powell sets off on a two-week cross-country trip with another journalist, Paul Butler, in an investigation that leads them to tangle with the social elite from San Francisco to Martha's Vineyard.
Noting that the book benefits from Bates's "firsthand knowledge" of journalism, a reviewer from Publishers Weekly commented that the book has an "easygoing style" with "just the right spark of humor in a fun, suspenseful novel." Library Journal's Rex Klett called the book "Flip and jaunty." Writing in Black Issues Book Review, Susan McHenry noted, "The bonus offered by Plain Brown Wrapper is a wise and wickedly satirical perspective on today's black media and those of us who will live and die and for it."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Black Issues Book Review, September, 2001, Susan McHenry, review of Plain Brown Wrapper, p. 20.
Booklist, December 15, 1996, Mary Carroll, review of Basic Black: Home Training for Modern Times, p. 695; July 21, 2001, Carrie Bissey, review of Plain Brown Wrapper, p. 1985.
Essence, August, 2001, review of Plain Brown Wrapper, p. 62.
Library Journal, November 1, 1996, Susan B. Hagloch, review of Basic Black: Home Training for Modern Times, p. 73; April 15, 1997, review of Basic Black: Home Training for Modern Times, p. 37; August, 2001, Rex Klett, review of Plain Brown Wrapper, p. 169.
Los Angeles Times, March 21, 1994, "Bates on Farra-khan," p. B6; October 10, 2001, "Sifting through L.A.'s Shadows" (interview with Karen Grigsby Bates), p. E1.
Publishers Weekly, November 18, 1996, review of Basic Black: Home Training for Modern Times, p. 73; June 25, 2001, review of Plain Brown Wrapper, p. 54.
Mystery Reader Web site, http://www.themysteryreader.com/ (November 9, 2001), review of Plain Brown Wrapper; (December 13, 2001) Gwendolyn E. Osborne, "Meet Karen Grigsby Bates."*