Sam Greenlee (born July 13, 1930) is an African-American writer, best known for his controversial novel The Spook Who Sat by the Door, which was first published in London by Allison & Busby in March 1969, and was chosen as The Sunday Times Book of the Year. The novel was subsequently made into the 1973 movie of the same name, directed by Ivan Dixon and co-produced and written by Greenlee.
Life and work
Born in Chicago, Greenlee attended the University of Wisconsin (BS, political science, 1952) and the University of Chicago (1954-7). He is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity. He served in the military (1952-4), earning the rank of first lieutenant, and subsequently worked for the United States Information Agency, serving in Iraq (in 1958 he was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal for bravery during the Baghdad revolution), Pakistan, Indonesia, and Greece between 1957 and 1965. Leaving the US foreign service after eight years, he stayed on in Greece. He undertook further study (1963-4) at the University of Thessaloniki, and lived for three years on the island of Mykonos, where he began to write his first novel. That was eventually published in 1969 as The Spook Who sat by the Door, the story of a black man who is recruited as a CIA agent and having mastered the skills of a spy then uses them to lead a black guerrilla movement in the US. In 2011, an independent documentary film entitled Infiltrating Hollywood: The Rise and Fall of the Spook Who Sat by the Door was filmed by Christine Acham and Clifford Ward, about the making and reception of the Spook film.
Other works by Greenlee include Baghdad Blues, a 1976 novel based on his experiences traveling in Iraq in the 1950s, Blues for an African Princess, a 1971 collection of poems, and Ammunition (poetry, 1975). In 1990 Greenlee was the Illinois poet laureate. He also wrote the screenplay for a film short called Lisa Trotter (2010), a story adapted from Aristophanes' Lysistrata.
- The Spook Who Sat by the Door, London: Allison & Busby, 1969.
- Baghdad Blues, New York: Bantam, 1976.
- Blues for an African Princess, Chicago: Third World Press, 1971.
- Ammunition!: Poetry and Other Raps (introduction Andrew Salkey), London: Bogle-L'Ouverture, 1975.
- Be-Bop Man/Be-Bop Woman, 1968-1993: Poetry and Other Raps, Cambrea Heights, NY: Natiki, 1995.
- Chris Routledge, "Sam Greenlee Biography - Novel Became Cult Favorite, Enjoyed Brief Revival, Selected writings"
- IMDb (Internet Movie Database).
- Contemporary African American Novelists: A Bio-Bibliographical Sourcebook, ed. Emmanuel S. Nelson, Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1999.
- Rosaling Cummings, "Local Lit: the relaxed rage of Sam Greenlee", Chicago Reader, April 14, 1994.
- DeWayne Wickham, "Sam Greenlee's Book Is Still Making a Statement", ChickenBones: A Journal for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes.
- "Infiltrating Hollywood: The Rise and Fall of the Spook Who Sat by the Door", IMDb.
- Lisa Trotter page at IMDb.
- Sam Greenlee website.
- IMDb (Internet Movie Database) Sam Greenlee page.
- Biography of Greenlee from Greenwood Press' reference book Contemporary African-American Novelists.
- "Sam Greenlee Biography".
- Sam Greenlee page, Artmakers, The History Makers.
- Tambay A. Obenson, "Sam Greenlee Has A Few Things To Say About What We Call 'Black Cinema'...", IndieWire, February 24, 2013.
- Sam Greenlee video interview, 22 December 2012.