Richard Abraham Spade (aka “Superspade”)

Created by B. B. Johnson
Pseudonym of Joe Greene
(1915-86)

Here’s another fellow who is not technically a private eye, but I swear this cat could give John Shaft a run for his money.

Can you dig it?

RICHARD ABRAHAM SPADE was a strapping 240-pound fellow who went from the ghetto to UCLA, where he made All-American as an offensive tackle, acquiring the interesting nickname of “Superspade” in the process.  He was headed for a pro-football fame, but was sidetracked for two years in Vietnam.  Returning stateside, forty-three pounds lighter, a lieutenant with a Silver Star and a Purple Heart; he wasted no time in turning his attention back to pro-ball, only to have his career cut short by a serious injury.

At the start of his first case, he is 33 years old and has been working at Greene College in Santa Barbara for three years, as the black studies lecturer and part-time football coach, while pursuing his masters in political science.  But this is just the calm before the storm.  When his buddy is killed for political reasons, Spade finds himself “in the middle of a deadly blitz of bullets, broads and burning revolution…”

Each of these six men’s adventures paperback originals are billed as “a tough novel by B. B. Johnson,” which we’re told is “a pseudonym for one of Hollywood’s most talented and creative black personalities.”  Resonant with black power relevance, and full of typical “out there” plots for the time, such as Mother of the Year (1970), which features Spade protecting a black beauty queen marked for death by a group of militant black feminists.

But the stories were fast-paced and entertaining, and Paperback Library thought enough of them to hire ace illustrator  Mitchell Hooks for the covers–which is just another reason for the relatively high prices the books–long out of print–are now going for.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

The books claimed “B.B. Johnson” was the pseudonym for “one of Hollywood’s most talented and creative black personalities,” and they may just have been right, for once. B.B. was actually the pen name of Joe Greene, a very successful singer, songwriter, author, record producer, composer and conductor. He started as a singer on the radio in San Francisco, before becoming a record producer for RCA Victor, as well as an arranger and songwriter. His songs were recorded by the likes of Stan Kenton, Ella Fitzgerald, Carmen McRae, Julie London, Fats Waller, Nat King Cole, Ray Charles, Dinah Washington, Billy Preston, Jackie DeShannon, and Paul McCartney, and included such old-timey hits as “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Cryin’” (not the Gerry and the Pacemakers song),  “All About Ronnie,” “And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine,” “Across the Alley from the Alamo,” “Make Me a Present of You,” “Soothe Me” (not, alas, the Sam Cooke song), “A Ting A Ling,” “Chicken Road,” “Softly,” “Dusky January,” “Let Your Love Walk In,” “Tender Touch,” and “Annabelle.” Always ambitious, he became involved in film, composing score, and in the late sixties he was approached by Paperback Library to write the Superspade series under the B.B. Johnson pen name. ‘B.B. Johnson. He also tried his hand at writing scripts. He ended up being credited with writing the screenplay for Together Brothers (1974), a (rejected) first draft of Shaft’s Big Score (1972, and some uncredited rewrites on Christopher St. John’s film Top of the Heap (1972)–all Black-themed films.

UNDER OATH

  • “If memory serves, Superspade’s super power was that he gave off a hyper pheromone that made a woman go weak in the knees for him. No, really.”
    — Gary Phillips

NOVELS

Respectfully submitted by David Nobriga. Cover illustration from “Mother of the Year” by Mitchell Hooks.

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