Chester Himes – Collected Stories, or not?


Sommaire : Pense à découvrir l’œuvre de Chester Himes à travers sa série de polars infernaux où figurent les détectives Coffin Ed Johnson et Gravedigger Jones.

Well, uh, here’s yet another in my series of “don’t read this book” blog posts! I seem to have bad luck picking books these days. But my loss is (potentially) your gain.

“The Collected Stories of Chester Himes” is 450 (rather large) pages of good, workmanlike short stories. It traces his career and the development of his style, spotlighting his remarkable imagery, unmatched rhythm and forceful, detailed descriptions of mid 20th century Black culture, especially in its freakish or shocking aspects, but also his political assertions and subtexts – remarkably strong for their time – about the social circumstances of Blacks in America.

In the 1950’s, Himes moved to France, as did numerous other Black American writers, artists and musicians. Ironically, that country welcomed them with a particular enthusiasm, despite its own grave problems of racism toward its “own” immigrant Africans.

Unfortunately, this short story collection does not give me the same buzz as Himes’ hellishly good crime fiction, written from 1957-1969 (at the insistence of his French publisher), starring Harlem detectives Coffin Ed Johnson and Gravedigger Jones. I therefore recommend that you read, for example:

A Rage in Harlem (a.k.a. La Reine des Pommes)
The Real Cool Killers
The Heat’s On
Cotton Comes to Harlem
Blind Man with a Pistol
The Big Gold Dream (I’m in the middle of this one right now)

If you don’t like these, baby, there is nothing I can do for you!

One Response to “Chester Himes – Collected Stories, or not?”

  1. 1 My Life of Crime « Jon von Zelowitz's blog

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