Skinner, Robert 1948-

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Skinner, Robert 1948-
(Robert Earle Skinner)


Born June 25, 1948, in Alexandria, VA; son of Earl Woodrow (a military officer) and Pearle Labar Capper (a homemaker and bookkeeper) Skinner; married Linda Sue Long, June, 1970 (divorced, 1976); married Patricia Ann Friedmann, March 17, 1979 (divorced, 1995); married Bettye Jean Verlenden, June 20, 2001; children: Christopher W., Kelly Skinner Fuller, Werner H. Ethnicity: "Caucasian." Education: Old Dominion University, B.A., 1970; Indiana University at Bloomington, M.L.S., 1977; attended University of New Orleans, 1990-92. Politics: Independent. Religion: Roman Catholic. Hobbies and other interests: Camping, hiking, photography, radio, reading, history and literature of the West.


Home—New Orleans, LA. Office— Library, Xavier University of Louisiana, 1 Drexel Dr., New Orleans, LA 70125-1098; fax: 504-520-7917. Agent—Pamela G. Ahearn, 2021 Pine St., New Orleans, LA 70118. E-mail—[email protected].


U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, San Antonio, TX, reference librarian, 1977-79; Louisiana State University Medical Center, New Orleans, reference librarian and branch head, 1979-84; Robert L. Seigel and Associates (market research firm), New Orleans, senior consultant, 1984-86; Xavier University of Louisiana, New Orleans, library director, 1987—. Military service: U.S. Coast Guard, 1970-74.


American Library Association.


Robert F. Gibbon Fiction Award, 1992, for a short story "A Little Something to Keep Going."



Skin Deep, Blood Red, Kensington Books (New York, NY), 1997.

Cat-eyed Trouble, Kensington Books (New York, NY), 1998.

Daddy's Gone a-Hunting, Poisoned Pen (Scottsdale, AZ), 1999.

Blood to Drink, Poisoned Pen (Scottsdale, AZ), 2000.

Pale Shadow (novel), Poisoned Pen (Scottsdale, AZ), 2001.

The Righteous Cut (novel), Poisoned Pen (Scottsdale, AZ), 2002.

Short stories represented in anthologies, including Crime Yellow, edited by Maxim Jakubowski, 1994; and Plots with Guns: A Noir Anthology, edited by Anthony Neil Smith, 2005.


The Hard-boiled Explicator, Scarecrow Press (Metuchen, NJ), 1985.

The New Hard-boiled Dicks: A Personal Checklist, Brownstone Books (Madison, WI), 1987.

Two Guns from Harlem: The Detective Fiction of Chester Himes, Bowling Green University (Bowling Green, OH), 1989.

(Editor, with Michel Fabre and Lester G. Sullivan) Chester Himes: An Annotated Primary and Secondary Bibliography, Greenwood Press (Westport, CT), 1992.

(Editor, with Michel Fabre) Plan B, University Press of Mississippi (Jackson, MS), 1993.

(Editor, with Thomas Bonner, Jr.) Above Ground: Stories about Life and Death by New Southern Writers, Xavier Review Press (New Orleans, LA), 1993.

The New Hard-boiled Dicks: Heroes for a New Urban Mythology, Borgo (San Bernardino, CA), 1995.

(Editor, with Michel Fabre) Conversations with Chester Himes, University Press of Mississippi (Jackson, MS), 1995.

(Editor, with Thomas Bonner, Jr.) Immortelles: Poems of Life and Death by New Southern Writers, Xavier Review Press (New Orleans, LA), 1995.

Contributor to books, including Los Angeles in Fiction, edited by David Fine, revised edition, University of New Mexico Press (Albuquerque, NM), 1995; Mystery and Suspense Writers: The Literature of Crime, Detection, and Espionage, edited by Robin Winks, Scribner (New York, NY), 1998; The Big Book of Noir, edited by Ed Gorman, Lee Server, and Martin H. Greenberg, Carroll & Graf (New York, NY), 1998; The Critical Response to Chester Himes, edited by Charles L.P. Silet, Greenwood Press (Westport, CT), 1999; and Andre Dubus: Tributes, edited by Donald Anderson, Xavier Review Press (New Orleans, LA), 2001. Contributor of articles and reviews to periodicals, including Xavier Review, Louisiana Literature, Firsts: Collecting Modern First Editions, Armchair Detective, Labor's Heritage, African-American Review, Mississippi Quarterly, University of Mississippi Studies in English, and Perspectives in Biology and Medicine.


Robert Skinner once told CA: "I originally began writing because I was in an academic career and felt it was a necessary part of academic life. Although I never did graduate work in English or history, those were the subjects that interested me the most. My early efforts were in history, biography, and historical bibliography. Later, as my interest in fiction began to deepen, I began reading critical analysis to see how it was done, and I discovered a kind of writing I enjoyed even more. A number of years spent working as a reviewer and academic critic made me wonder if I had learned enough about the craft to attempt to write fiction of my own.

"Like many writers, my influences come from all over the map of modern fiction. I admire the work of Jim Harrison and Richard Ford and Larry Brown, and I use them for models when I attempt short fiction. As a writer of crime fiction, Chester Himes has been a powerful influence, but Chandler's short stories, Elmore Leonard's gift for dialogue, the Matt Helm novels of Donald Hamilton, and the heroic fantasy of C.L. Moore and Robert E. Howard have also informed my work at times. In a more global way of speaking, though, I find myself always trying to imagine how people deal with loss, because loss is something that everyone experiences. It is the theme I seem to return to, almost without thinking.

"I write almost every day. It's impossible for me to keep the thread of a story without visiting it daily, rereading what I did yesterday, and revising it. I don't write from an outline or from a synopsis of any kind. I start with an opening scene and a few characters, and I see how far I can get with them. Very often, I find myself at a dead end and have to go back to the beginning. This results in characters and entire scenes being eliminated. I do this until the characters form real connections with each other, and the scenes flow naturally into one another. It normally takes me a year to a year-and-a-half to come to a successful conclusion.

"The real genesis of my fiction writing career came through my discovery of the work of Chester Himes. What he did opened up an entirely new set of vistas for me. I found that African-American life was particularly compelling and was a landscape that invited exploration, even from a white writer. I discovered, as well, that the African-American voice was a particularly strong vehicle for relating stories, and for creating larger-than-life characters. Unconsciously the idea of writing about a hero with African-American roots grew into the germ of a story. I was, at first, unsure how a white man could successfully imagine the life, thoughts, and motivations of a black man. Eventually, though, New Orleans history came to my rescue. Part of the lore of New Orleans is the story of the ‘Colored Creole,’ people who are a mixture of black and white, but who belong to neither. Some Creoles ‘pass’ for white, others live as blacks, some remain aloof from both groups. It occurred to me that a man of mixed race, passing for white in the repressive racial environment of the late 1930s, perhaps not even really knowing where he belonged, could be an extension of the Depression-era, hard-boiled/outsider hero as conceived by Hammett and Chandler.

"After publishing several novels about Depression-era nightclub owner Wesley Farrell, I took a break from writing to pursue other interests. Over the past few years I've continued to write essays and an occasional story while I considered other possibilities for a book-length piece of fiction. Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath have set my schedule back a bit, but I still plan another novel set in postwar New Orleans. As envisioned, this new novel will utilize some of the cast from my original series, but will introduce some ‘new blood’ (no pun intended, although I get ribbed pretty frequently about the high body counts in my novels) as well.

"My interest in Western American history and in the western stories of Elmore Leonard have recently led to an interest in Hispanic characters. The novel I'm writing now features such a character, working in tandem with some of my original cast."

Skinner more recently told CA: "Hurricane Katrina has somewhat hindered my writing life, since I've been concerned with the rebuilding of my house and the resumption of library services here at Xavier University. Both are very time consuming, leaving me with little time of late for personal avocations."



African American Review, summer, 1998, Bernard W. Bell, review of Conversations with Chester Himes, p. 351.

Booklist, February 1, 1997, Bill Ott, review of Skin Deep, Blood Red, p. 929; February 15, 1998, Bill Ott, review of Cat-eyed Trouble, p. 989; November 15, 1998, Bill Ott, review of Daddy's Gone a-Hunting, p. 573.

Drood Review of Mystery, November-December, 2001, Nancy-Stephanie Stone, "Creole Blues and All That Jazz," pp. 3-6.

Library Journal, January, 1997, Rex E. Klett, review of Skin Deep, Blood Red, p. 153; March 1, 1998, Rex E. Klett, review of Cat-eyed Trouble, p. 130; November 1, 1998, Rex E. Klett, review of Daddy's Gone a-Hunting, p. 129; January 31, 2006, "LJ Talks to Robert Skinner."

Publishers Weekly, October 21, 1996, review of Skin Deep, Blood Red, p. 73; December 22, 1997, review of Cat-eyed Trouble, p. 41; November 30, 1998, review of Daddy's Gone a-Hunting, p. 53; June 26, 2000, review of Blood to Drink, p. 54.


January Magazine Online, (December 11, 2002), J. Kingston Pierce, review of The Righteous Cut.

Plots With Guns Web site, (July-August, 2001), Kent Westmoreland, "A Meeting of the Minds Down in Steamy New Orleans" (interview).