Robert Fleming is a Top 100 AALBC.com Bestselling Author Making Our List 8 Times
Interested in psychology and sociology, I came to writing as a fluke in the early 1970s when a friend, Willard Jenkins, allowed me to sub for him as a music writer at a local magazine in Cleveland. Reading had always been a favorite pastime for me, but writing was something I never imagined myself doing. While studying full-time for a degree in psychology at night at a local college, I worked fulltime during the day as a welfare case worker, squeezing time in doing interviews with people like Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Sarah Vaughan, Minnie Riperton, Ray Charles, Bob Marley, and a host of other jazz and pop greats. Like many writers, my first love was poetry and I published two books of poems, Melons (1974) and Stars (1975).
It wasn’t until I came to New York as a young writer that a whole realm of possibilities opened for me in that area. I landed my first real writing job at Encore Magazine, a pioneering black newsmagazine in 1977, working as an associate editor. Despite hassles with pay, the experience at the publication was extremely beneficial, giving me a chance to work with such talents as Nikki Giovanni, Ivan Webster, Paula Giddins, and Henry Jackson. I worked on hard news stories, such as the involuntary sterilization of young black women in several southern states, political corruption on a national level, the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island, medical experiments conducted on black patients at several East Coast medical sites, and the spate of police brutality cases nationwide. In 1979, I did one story which would change my life: a car tour of the Deep South, where I interviewed poor black families in rural Alabama and Mississippi, spoke with plantation owners in Georgia and Louisiana about their abuse of their black tenant farmers, and conducted a late night talk with a group of hooded Klansmen outside of Anniston, Alabama. This series got me some notice and earned me a scholarship to Columbia University’s noted School of Journalism.
After my tour of duty at the “J School,” I worked for a time with former CBS News president, Fred Friendly, former boss of the legendary Edward R. Morrow, as a staff writer for the PBS TV show, Media and Society. A chance meeting at one of the show’s taping got me a job as a reporter at The New York Daily News, where I worked throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s. While there, I learned the world of hard New York news from the street up, earning a New York Press Club, award, a Revson Fellowship, and several other honors. I retired at the end of 1991 to write and teach. Since that time, I’ve published work in Essence, Black Enterprise, The Source, U.S. News and World Report, Omni, Black Issues Book Review, Bookpage, Quarterly Black Review, The New York Times and Publishers Weekly.
If you have skills in a discipline, pass that along to those who want to acquire that talent. I taught writing and media studies at Marist College, and The College of New Rochelle for a time. Also, I taught courses in “Media And The Black Experience,” “Hard And Soft News Journalism for A New World,” and “African-American Film History before The Cold War” at the New School in 1999-2002. Recently, I instructed local college teachers in literacy educational strategies at CUNY.
In the early 1990s, I wrote two young adult books: Rescuing A Neighborhood: The Bedford-Stuyvesant Volunteer Ambulance Corps and The Success of Caroline Jones, Inc.: The Story Of An Advertising Agency. Two other books followed: The Wisdom of the Elders (1996) and The African American Writer’s Handbook (2000), both of which were selected by The Black Expressions Book Club.
Other books by Fleming included: After Hours (2002), Intimacy (2004), Havoc After Dark (2004), Fever In The Blood (2006), Gift Of Faith (2012), Gift Of Truth (2014), Gift of Revelation (2015), Free Jazz (2016), and Rasta, Babylon, Jamming (2017).
My poetry, essays and short stories have appeared in such books as UpSouth, Brotherman: The Odyssey of the Black Man in America, Sacred Fire, In Search of Color Everywhere, Dark Matter, Brown Sugar, Gumbo, and Proverbs For The People. In the works are a memoir, a book on prison reform, and a collection of short fiction, Evil Never Sleeps.
Recently, I came upon a quote from the Senegalese writer Aminata Sow Fall that sums up my goals as a writer:
The African writer cannot and must not take pen in hand merely to offer pretty expressions and phrases. As the product of a society that has its problems, he must create work so that each person becomes completely aware of them, so that people think of them, and look for their solutions, for that is what it means to be a committed writer, then that is what I am. Our literature must raise issues that summon me to devise solutions to problems that are specifically ours, problems which, although existing in other places, take on a special dimension in our country.”
This is what I’ve tried from the moment I first started submitting my work to publishers and will continue to do until I no longer write, which I hope is never.
Robert Fleming has Written 60 Book Review(s) for AALBC.com
- African Rhythms: The Autobiography Of Randy Weston (Refiguring American Music) by Randy Weston and Willard Jenkins
- Am I Not A Man - The Dred Scott Story by Mark L. Shurtleff
- Beasts Of No Nation: A Novel by Uzodinma Iweala
- Black Pulp by Walter Mosley, Christopher Chambers, Michael Gonzales, Gar Anthony Haywood, Ron Fortier, Joe R. Lansdale, Gary Phillips, Mel Odom, Tommy Hancock, D. Alan Lewis, Derrick Ferguson and Kimberly Richardso
- City Son: Andrew W. Cooper’s Impact On Modern-Day Brooklyn by Wayne Dawkins
- Conversations With Octavia Butler by Conseula Francis
- Cowards And Angels by Aileen Muhammad
- Darkest America: Black Minstrelsy From Slavery To Hip-Hop by Yuval Taylor and Jake Austen
- Delightfulee: The Life And Music Of Lee Morgan (Jazz Perspectives) by Jeff Mcmillan
- Digging: The Afro-American Soul Of American Classical Music by Amiri Baraka
- Eight Minutes Of Heaven by Travis English
- Flesh: The Disappearance Of Portia Barrington by Keith Lee Johnson
- For the Sake of Soul by Frederick K. Foote, Jr.
- Going Home In Chains by Glenville Lovell
- In The House Of The Interpreter: A Memoir by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o
- In The Words Of Nelson Mandela by Jennifer Crwys-Williams
- Ingleside: Based on a True Story by Laura Jackson
- It Was The Devil All Along by Avalon Soulette Brown
- It’s All Love: Black Writers On Soul Mates, Family And Friends by Marita Golden
- Kabu Kabu by Nnedi Okorafor
- Kingston Noir (Akashic Noir) by Colin Channer
- Legend of the Orange Scepter by M. Haynes
- Love Bones by Ron Oliphant
- Malcolm X: A Life Of Reinvention by Manning Marable
- Mary Wells: The Tumultuous Life Of Motown’s First Superstar by Peter Benjaminson
- Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward
- My Song: A Memoir by Harry Belafonte and Michael Shnayerson
- No Surrender: Poems by Ai Ogawa
- Oil And Water...And Other Things That Don’t Mix by Nicky Wheeler Brown and Zetta Brown
- Poetic Perceptions by D Phil
- Raceball: How The Major Leagues Colonized The Black And Latin Game by Rob Ruck
- Reversal of Trends: A Black Man’s Journey across the Mason-Dixon Line by Leroy Wilson
- Russell Atkins: On the Life & Work of an American Master by Kevin Prufer
- Seaside Stories by S. R. Martin Jr.
- Sellout by James W. Lewis
- Something Like Beautiful: One Single Mother’s Story by asha bandele
- Squirrels & Puppies: Dark Morality Tales by Russell A. Mebane
- The Bedroom: An Everlasting Love Story by Sonya Dunn
- The Black Clergy’s Misguided Worship Leadership: Petition: No More Idol Gods for Black People by Christopher C. Bell Jr.
- The Chitlin’ Circuit: And The Road To Rock &rsquoN&rsquo Roll by Preston Lauterbach
- The Darkling by Keoni Anderson
- The Gem Connection by Michael R. Lane
- The Gods of the Bacteria: The World Before Darwin by Billy Z. Earley
- The Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Reader by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
- The Last Love Letter by Amanda Easton
- The Love Ethic: The Reason Why You Can’t Find and Keep Beautiful Black Love by Akilah Butler and Kamau Butler
- The Manual: A Guide To Achievement & Enlightment In The Urban Community by James Bennett Jr.
- The Monkeybars Of Life by Ted Pittman
- The Sons Of Shea by Dame DaVohn
- The Summer of my Fifteenth Year by Geri Spencer Hunter
- The Wake Up Call: Financial Inspiration Learned from 4:44 by Ash Cash
- Thelonious Monk: The Life And Times Of An American Original by Robin Kelley
- Three Days Before The Shooting… by Ralph Ellison
- Well Considered by Richard Morris
- What Love Feels Like by F. Y. Dawn
- When Frogs Grow Feet by G. Louis Jackson
- When I Left Home: My Story by Buddy Guy
- With Billie by Julia Blackburn
- Z-Rated: Chocolate Flava 3 by Zane
- Zone One: A Novel by Colson Whitehead