Remarkable Receptions

Marc Olden, a prolific, largely unknown novelist -- ep. by Howard Rambsy II

December 21, 2022 Howard Rambsy II Season 8 Episode 3
Remarkable Receptions
Marc Olden, a prolific, largely unknown novelist -- ep. by Howard Rambsy II
Show Notes Transcript

A short take on Marc Olden -- a prolific,  less well-known novelist. 

Written by Howard Rambsy II

Read by Kassandra Timm.

We often focus on authors whose books received an amazing response. Numerous reviews in newspapers and magazines. Extensive examinations by scholars. And more. 

But sometimes, it’s worth acknowledging a novelist like Marc Olden who produced more than three dozen novels but remains largely unknown. 

You’re listening to Remarkable Receptions – a podcast about popular and critical responses to African American novels. 

In 1973, Marc Olden published two nonfiction books—one about political activist Angela Davis and another one about the activities of drug dealers related to cocaine. 

Researching and writing the book on illegal drugs aligned with Olden’s artistic interests, because in 1973, Olden also published the first novel in his Narc series about criminals and narcotics agents. Between 1973 and 1975, Olden published nine books in the Narc series. And, he was just getting started. 

In 1974, Olden launched his Black Samurai series. The first novel in the series served as the basis for a 1977 film, also entitled Black Samurai, starring the well-known black martial arts actor, Jim Kelly. Olden’s Black Samurai series included 8 novels published between 1974 and 1978.  

Between 1977 and 1979, Olden published five standalone novels. For those keeping score, Olden published 25 novels between 1973 and 1979. 

During the 1980s, Olden slowed down just a bit by publishing only 8 novels, and he published 5 novels during the 1990s. 

So overall, Olden published a total of 38 novels. That’s an extraordinary level and pace of artistic output. 

Olden died in 2003. Like most novelists, his books did not receive much scholarly attention.  In 2012, the Mysterious Press produced several e-book versions of Olden’s novels, and in 2015 the press re-released a physical book version of Olden’s 1978 novel, entitled Poe Must Die.

One of the main characters in the novel is the poet and detective fiction author Edgar Allan Poe. Olden and his book Poe Must Die gained some media attention in 2015, when it was announced that plans were in the works to adapt the novel into a trilogy for television. 

In 2022, media outlets announced that Netflix was producing a new film version of Olden’s Black Samurai. 

When and if any of those adaptations of his novels are produced, Marc Olden might receive the kind of remarkable reception that eluded him during his lifetime.    


This episode was written by Howard Rambsy. The episode was edited by Elizabeth Cali.


This podcast, Remarkable Receptions, is part of the Black Literature Network, a joint project from African American literary studies at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and the History of Black Writing at the University of Kansas. The project was made possible by the generous support of the Mellon Foundation.  For more information, visit