Carter, Charlotte 1943-
CARTER, Charlotte 1943-
PERSONAL: Born 1943, in Chicago, IL; married. Hobbies and other interests: Travel.
CAREER: Freelance editor, proofreader, and writer.
Rhode Island Red, Mask Noir/Serpent's Tail (London, England), 1997.
Coq au Vin, Mysterious Press (New York, NY), 1999.
Drumsticks, Mysterious Press (New York, NY), 2000.
Walking Bones, Serpent's Tail (New York, NY), 2002.
Jackson Park, Ballantine (New York, NY), 2003.
Trip Wire, Ballantine (New York, NY), 2005.
Contributor to periodicals, including Black Enterprise.
SIDELIGHTS: Charlotte Carter is a mystery writer and an author of more experimental fiction. She has created a series about an amateur detective, Nanette Hayes, a well-educated African-American woman who makes her living playing jazz on the streets of New York City. Readers first met Nanette in Rhode Island Red. In this story, a guest in her apartment dies there. Things become more complicated when Nanette finds sixty thousand dollars stuffed in her saxophone, and learns that her visitor was really an undercover police officer. She soon finds herself searching for something or someone called "Rhode Island Red," but the search is difficult, since she has no idea who, or what, Rhode Island Red might be. A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that the novel's protagonist is "so charming and confident that she overshadows her own story," but still called the novel a "breezy, sexy mystery." Rhode Island Red is a "fine, funky first novel," wrote Chicago Tribune contributor Gary Dretzka.
Nanette's second adventure is "brilliant," according to a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Coq au Vin finds the jazz-playing sleuth hitting the boulevards of Paris in an attempt to find her eccentric Aunt Viv, who has just come into a sizable inheritance. Nanette finds time for love and music in the French capital, hooking up with another American expatriate musician, Andre. Their chemistry, and the vivid depiction of Paris, makes this book "an incredibly hot property," stated Bill Ott in Booklist. "Hayes may be the most charismatic crime fiction heroine to appear in the last decade…. Throw in Carter's jazz history-drenched plot and her terrific feel for incorporating setting into the action, and you have a superbly entertaining novel." Drumsticks, the third Nanette Hayes mystery, finds the musician back in New York, drinking too much in the wake of her breakup with Andre. Her life is deteriorating in several ways, due to her bad habits, but things seem to take a turn for the better when she is given a voodoo doll. In gratitude, she invites the doll's maker to hear her play at jazz club where she has secured a regular gig, but the night ends with the woman shot dead. Nanette's search for the answers involves a violent rivalry between rap artists, and she must tap into her family's upper-middle-class connections to solve the crime. Rex E. Klett praised Nanette in the Library Journal as an "upbeat, tough, sexy, and wryly humorous" heroine.
Carter used her native Chicago as the setting for another mystery, Jackson Park. The action takes place shortly after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., and unfolds on the city's South Side. Cassandra Lisle is a young woman whose parents abandoned her as a child. Raised in comfortable circumstances by an aunt and uncle, she is pushed by her college friends to become a radical. When the granddaughter of an old acquaintance disappears, Cassandra and her aunt and uncle hunt for her, and begin digging through her past. Booklist's Bill Ott commented that "Chicago's South Side—its despair, its energy, and its sense of community—provides this novel with both a setting and a sense of the characters' inner lives," and the Library Journal's Klett praised the way the "complicated plot" is presented, "in a smooth, simple, and disarmingly straightforward manner."
Carter proved her ability to write outside the mystery genre with Walking Bones, an "erotic exploration of sexual obsession," according to Bill Ott in Booklist. The plot involves the strange attraction and hatred that flows between Nettie, a former model who is black, and Albert, a white man who works in publishing. Their first meeting involves racial and sexual insults and the eventual breaking of a glass in Albert's face. When he later attempts to apologize, they act out their sublimated sexual desire for each other, and so begins their obsessive relationship. Though it is clearly doomed from the start, "we are no more able to abandon reading about it than Nettle and Albert are able to abandon each other," noted Ott. The author unflinchingly explores the ugliness in the interactions between the two, yet "manages to generate remarkable sympathy" for the principals as well.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, January 1, 1999, Bill Ott, review of Coq au Vin, p. 836; November 15, 1999, Bill Ott, review of Drumsticks, p. 606; July, 2002, Bill Ott, review of Walking Bones, p. 1820; May 1, 2003, Bill Ott, review of Jackson Park, p. 536.
Buffalo News, May 21, 2000, Ed Kelly, review of Drumsticks, p. F6.
Detroit Free Press, October 16, 2002, Lev Raphael, review of Walking Bones.
Green Bay Press, February 20, 2000, review of Drumsticks, p. D5.
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 1997, p. 764; May 15, 2003, review of Jackson Park, p. 716.
Library Journal, December, 1999, Rex E. Klett, review of Drumsticks, p. 190; April 1, 2003, Rex Klett, review of Jackson Park, p. 133.
New York Times Book Review, April 19, 1998, Marilyn Stasio, review of Rhode Island Red, p. 30; February 21, 1999, Marilyn Stasio, review of Coq au Vin, p. 29.
Publishers Weekly, May 12, 1997, review of Rhode Island Red, p. 62; January 4, 1999, review of Coq au Vin, p. 77; January 17, 2000, review of Drumsticks, p. 47; July 14, 2003, review of Jackson Park, p. 61.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), August 3, 1997, p. 11.
Viriginian Pilot, June 10, 1999, Bonnie Capito, review of Coq au Vin, p. E7.
Spike, http://www.spikemagazine.com/ (May 22, 2003), Chris Wiegand, "Red Hot and Blue."