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La reine des pommes

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A dark and witty work of hardboiled detective fiction set in the mean streets of New York Chester Himes's A Rage in Harlem includes an introduction by Luc Sante in Penguin Modern ClassicsJackson's woman has found him a foolproof way to make money a techniue for turning ten dollar bills into hundreds But when the scheme somehow fails Jackson is left broke wanted by the police and desperately racing to get back both his money and his loving Imabelle The first of Chester Himes's novels to feature the hardboiled Harlem d. Speaking of rage it surprises me that Himes wasn't consumed with rage against America even sooner Not as a little boy in Arkansas when he watched his injured older brother refused admittance to an all white hospital Not in Cleveland when he fell down an elevator shaft and was refused by a white hospital too Not in Columbus when—in spite of his high I—he was expelled from Ohio State for one stupid harmless prank Not even when at the age of nineteen the police suspended him in chains—upside down—and beat him until he confessed to armed robbery did Himes give into bitterness Instead he used his time in the Ohio State Penitentiary to hone his writing skills and emerged on parole eight years later with four stories in Esuire to his credit and a growing reputationIt was only later after he moved to LA to seek his fortune after he had published the novel If He Hollers Let Him Go 1945 to considerable acclaim catching even Frantz Fanon's attention after he was hired as a screenwriter by Warner Brothers that his rage against America got the better of him Jack Warner learning of his hiring said “I don't want no niggers on this lot” He was fired and not long after Himes moved to France never to return to the USAThe “Harlem Detective” series featuring Coffin Ed Johnson and Gravedigger Jones consists of novels Himes wrote in Paris to make money He never considered them to be on a level with his “serious novels” but on the basis of the first book A Rage in Harlem I believe that this series deserves a place of honor all its own So did the French who honored him with the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière in 1958The novel is about an undertaker's assistant named Jackson—“Coffin” and “Gravedigger” are only minor characters in this first adventure—who along with his brother a cross dressing panhandler and police informant goes looking for Jackson's girlfriend Imabelle and her “husband” Slim who have bilked Jackson out of a good deal of money money that he stole from his undertaker boss Mr H Exodus Clay Misunderstandings complications and some really good chases ensue The whole thing spiced with sleazy sex and brutal violence is leavened with a large dose of the darkest comedy And all the time Himes is creating a vivid portrait of an improbable—but believable—Harlem painted in vivid prose Looking eastward from the towers of Riverside Church perched among the university buildings on the high banks of the Hudson River in a valley far below waves of gray rooftops distort the perspective like the surface of a sea Below the surface in the murky waters of fetid tenements is a city of black people who are convulsed in desperate living like the voracious churning of millions of hungry cannibal fish Blind mouths eating their own guts Stick in a hand and draw back a nubThis is Harlem

REVIEW æ THARROWEBDESIGN.CO.UK Ó Chester Himes

Ript writing while continuing to write fiction He later moved to Paris where he was commissioned by La Série Noire to write the first of his Harlem detective novels A Rage in Harlem which won the 1957 Grand Prix du Roman Policier and was adapted into a 1991 film starring Forest Whitaker and Danny GloverIf you enjoyed A Rage in Harlem you might like Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep and Other Novels also available in Penguin Modern Classics'The greatest find in American crime fiction since Raymond Chandler' Sunday Tim. 910 Looking eastward from the towers of Riverside Church perched among the university buildings on the high banks of the Hudson River in a valley far bellow waves of gray rooftops distort the perspective like the surface of the sea Below the surface in the murky waters of fetid tenements a city of black people who are convulsed in desperate living like the voracious churning of millions of hungry cannibal fish Blind mouths eating their own guts Stick in a hand and draw back a nubThat is Harlem The story could have been funny with its screwball comedy plot and its cast of colourful characters like the huge coloured man dressed up in nun habit but what is left in my memory is a bitter aftertaste of a world that shouldn't exist so close to the soaring towers of glass and steel of Manhattan with their luxury penthouses and sophisticated cocktail bars I believe the current title is appropriate than the original For Love of Imabelle because it serves to underline the social injustice that a large part of the population of New York is still dealing with Of course part of the blame for their misery can be laid at their own doorstep I thought Jackson was abismally stupid but the lack of jobs of education of any hope at a decent living will drive a man to crime as much as his inner natureImabelle is a typical 'femme fatale' driving men crazy with her lush body and pouting lips Jackson is an easy prey naive and insecure overweight and pious he falls for one of the most obvious tricks in the business a friend of Imabelle claims he can turn 10 dollar bills into 100 dollar bills using a special catalyst and some oven heat In the ensuing explosion Jackson loses all his life's savings and his hot wife Instead of going to the police Jackson gets drunk and steals some money from the funeral home he works at money that he uickly suanders in a gambling den Jackson still refuses to believe that Imabelle is in league with the men who robbed him and all too gullibly falls for another confidence scheme a Mexican Gold Mine but he lacks the funds Desperate he appeals to his brother Goldy for help Goldy is himself one of the crooks of Harlem a drug addict and a wastrel who feels in his element in the middle of this predatory jungle No one who noticed it thought it strange for a Sister of Mercy to kick a cur dog in the ribs enter a dope den and uote enigmatic Scripture to reefer smoking delinuents I had little sympathy for the plight of Jackson and even less for the shifty Goldie There are no heroes in Harlem not even the local police officers Coffin Ed Johnson and Gravedigger Jones who are alternately closing their eyes to minor infractions and are trigger happy with other types of crooks Despite the fact that they are the nominal protagonists of the Harlem series the detectives were mostly circumstantial and passive witnesses to the unfolding events view spoiler admitttedly they fire the closing shots in a bloody showdown with the original confidence tricksters hide spoiler

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Etectives 'Coffin' Ed Johnson and 'Grave Digger' Jones A Rage in Harlem has swagger brutal humour lurid violence a hearse loaded with gold and a conman dressed as a Sister of MercyChester Himes 1909 1984 was born in Jefferson City Missouri and grew up in Cleveland Aged 19 he was arrested for armed robbery and sentenced to 20 to 25 years in jail In jail he began to write short stories some of which were published in Esuire Upon release he took a variety of jobs from working in a California shipyard to journalism to sc. Preface It's taking me a couple of weeks since I finished A Rage in Harlem to decide the tone to take in writing my review To frame it in a way that calmly invitingly properly in a scholarly fashion metaphorically smacks every reader upside the head and once I've gotten hisher attention communicate persuasively that this is one of the best most overlooked most mis read American novels Ever And it's a masterpiece And you need to read it So much for calm persuasive invitation I also sought to write a review that was less than blunt and didn't reveal my personal politics and perspective on issues of race and literature in America So much for that tooWarning this isn't the usual social media me that endeavors to smooth the edges hang around the already converted and not make folks uncomfortable because after all this is entertainment for most users and I acknowledge that few seek to be made uncomfortable when they seek entertainment First about Chester Himes He was born in 1909 into a middle class academic black family His father was a tradesman and Himes described him as “raised in the tradition of the Southern Uncle Tom” Prior to marriage his mother light skinned enough to pass for white taught at an elite seminary in North Carolina At 19 Himes was arrested for a few things did 8 years in the Ohio State Penitentiary and – in the early 1930s began writing for the most part short stories for magazines and later semi autobiographical protest novels He also was a protege of Richard Wright Like Wright he self exiled in the 1950s to Paris where he received an offer to write a detective series for a publication that had published works of Raymond Chandler Dashiell Hammett etc and Himes was the first black author included in the series A Rage in Harlem published in 1957 when Himes was 46 years old is the first of his 9 book Harlem Cycle According to a 2001 NYTimes review of a biography of Himes Chester Himes A Life Himes influenced John A Williams Ishmael Reed Clarence Cooper Jr Melvin Van Peebles and Donald Goines Walter Mosely calls Himes “one of the most important American writers of the 20th century A uirky American genius” All of which collectively makes one wonder why so few of us who consider ourselves well read in African American literature and also mid century detective novels have heard of him Doesn’t itThe ostensible protagonist of A Rage in Harlem is Jackson a naive man not too bright in love with a faithless light skinned this part of her description matters to Himes greatly – getting back at his mama perhaps young lady who borrows without permission cash from his undertaker boss in order to take advantage of a get rich uick scheme gets ripped off by a couple of ex cons a couple of times is duped into committing a couple of crimes and is racing against the clock to get his money and a hearse back before he’s arrested by black Harlem cops Grave Digger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson The only reason Jackson makes it to the end of his novel is that he is blessed with a twin brother – Goldy who is as savvy as Jackson is naive and knows everybody in Harlem Goldy is married a snitch and earns money to support himself and his daily drug habit by dressing up as a Sister of Mercy – standing on a street corner selling tickets to Heaven His brother doesn’t know where he lives Goldy is easily the most fascinating character I’ve encountered in a novel in the last several years Goldy sat across the table silently staring at him Goldy’s huge black pupiled eyes were hypnotic They looked like glinting black pools of evil Jackson tried to tear his gaze away but couldn’t Finally Goldy stood up and put on his wig and bonnet He still hadn’t said anything yet The cops Jones and Johnson They slap a woman around “with such savage violence it spun her out of the chair to land in a grotesue splay legged posture on her belly on the floor the red dress hiked so high it showed the black nylon panties she wore” No that slap wasn’t in self defense There are several police witnesses All watch No one intervenes They arrest several black men regardless of any evidence just to make a point and losing them jobs in the process Their sole importance is to confirm for contemporary readers that black folk have been being arrested had evidence planted on them and been killed by police officers of all races for at least 60 years if there was some uestion about that fact To be clear Jones and Johnson don’t respect black folk any than their white peersThe real focus and star though of A Rage in Harlem is Harlem and its residents in the aggregate Himes puts the reader there in 1955 on the street going through the dark alleys listening to the trains from blocks away and to conversations from 2 – 3 feet away understanding the poverty darkness desperation and ugliness and its toll on folks trying to consider themselves as people to whom the American Dream is available but not seeing any evidence of that possibility in their immediate community Whatever happens to Jackson Goldy and the gang everyone in Harlem will be getting up tomorrow and trying to get by and stay alive Just like the day before and the day after This novel has as much of a sense of place and community as any work written by Thomas Wolfe or William FaulknerHere’s a sampleLooking eastward from the towers of River


10 thoughts on “La reine des pommes

  1. says:

    Speaking of rage it surprises me that Himes wasn't consumed with rage against America even sooner Not as a little boy in Arkansas when he watched his injured older brother refused admittance to an all white hospital Not in Cleveland when he fell down an elevator shaft and was refused by a white hospital too Not in Columbus when—in spite of his high I—he was expelled from Ohio State for one stupid harmless prank Not even when at the age of nineteen the police suspended him in chains—upside down—and beat him until he confessed to armed robbery did Himes give into bitterness Instead he used his time in the Ohio State Penitentiary to hone his writing skills and emerged on parole eight years later with four stories in Esuire to his credit and a growing reputationIt was only later after he moved to LA to seek his fortune after he had published the novel If He Hollers Let Him Go 1945 to considerable acclaim catching even Frantz Fanon's attention after he was hired as a screenwriter by Warner Brothers that his rage against America got the better of him Jack Warner learning of his hiring said “I don't want no niggers on this lot” He was fired and not long after Himes moved to France never to return to the USAThe “Harlem Detective” series featuring Coffin Ed Johnson and Gravedigger Jones consists of novels Himes wrote in Paris to make money He never considered them to be on a level with his “serious novels” but on the basis of the first book A Rage in Harlem I believe that this series deserves a place of honor all its own So did the French who honored him with the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière in 1958The novel is about an undertaker's assistant named Jackson—“Coffin” and “Gravedigger” are only minor characters in this first adventure—who along with his brother a cross dressing panhandler and police informant goes looking for Jackson's girlfriend Imabelle and her “husband” Slim who have bilked Jackson out of a good deal of money money that he stole from his undertaker boss Mr H Exodus Clay Misunderstandings complications and some really good chases ensue The whole thing spiced with sleazy sex and brutal violence is leavened with a large dose of the darkest comedy And all the time Himes is creating a vivid portrait of an improbable—but believable—Harlem painted in vivid prose Looking eastward from the towers of Riverside Church perched among the university buildings on the high banks of the Hudson River in a valley far below waves of gray rooftops distort the perspective like the surface of a sea Below the surface in the murky waters of fetid tenements is a city of black people who are convulsed in desperate living like the voracious churning of millions of hungry cannibal fish Blind mouths eating their own guts Stick in a hand and draw back a nubThis is Harlem


  2. says:

    ”Looking eastward from the towers of Riverside Church perched among the university buildings on the high banks of the Hudson River in a valley far below waves of gray rooftops distort the perspective like the surface of a sea Below the surface in the murky waters of fetid tenements a city of black people who are convulsed in desperate living like the voracious churning of millions of hungry cannibal fish Blind mouths eating their own guts Stick in a hand and draw back a nubThat is Harlem” For Love of Imabelle paperback first editionThis book was originally published in a paperback original under the title For Love of Imabelle The original title is very apt because the book is all about one man's crazy obsession with a woman named Imabelle In the 1980s an English publisher named Allison Busby decided to reprint the Harlem Cycle in hardcover They used the artwork of Edward Burra for the covers and for a collector like me the great covers make adding them to my book collection that much fun Savoy Ballroom by Edward BurraChester Himes was born in Jefferson City Missouri in a middle class family Both of his parents were teachers He was accepted and expelled from Ohio State University In 1928 he was sent to prison for armed robbery Instead of sitting around staring at four walls worrying about his next trip to the showers he started writing short stories He sent them out for publication and they were published For those struggling writers out there a stint in prison seems to lend focus to your work Publisher’s still like writers with a checkered past Not that I’m advocating prison but maybe a monastic stint will heat up your keyboard Himes was originally given 25 years for his crime but was released early in 1936 into the custody of his mother ”There were pictures of three colored men wanted in Mississippi for murder That meant they had killed a white man because killing a colored man wasn’t considered murder in Mississippi Chester HimesIn the 1950s Himes moved to Paris and embraced the Bohemian lifestyle This was a productive period for him; in fact this book was part of that era with a publication date of 1957 His circle of friends in Paris included Langston Hughes Richard Wright Malcolm X Carl Van Vechten Picasso Jean Miotte Ollie Harrington Nikki Giovanni and Ishmael Reed When the group decided to move on to Spain Himes went with them where he died from Parkinson’s Disease in 1984 I can only imagine how inspiring it was to be around such talent and creativity They were also the type of people who wouldn’t judge him for having a white wife ”Imabelle was Jackson’s woman She was a cushioned lipped hot bodied banana skin chick with the speckled brown eyes of a teaser and the high arched ball bearing hips of a natural born amante Jackson was as crazy about her as moose for doe” In the movie version from 1987 Forest Whitaker plays Jackson and Robin Givens plays ImabelleJackson was a short stumpy round man with limited intelligence and for him to get time with a high yella woman like Imabelle was like being in heaven on earth The problem is having a woman like that makes a man ambitious and make him worry about how much money he makes Jackson was a prime candidate for a sting He is introduced to a man an acuaintance of Imabelle who has this special paper that when baked with a ten dollar bill in an oven will turn that ten dollar bill into a hundred dollar bill Before you get excited and start looking for this magical paperit didn’t work If you think it is crazy to even think that a scheme like that would work that is simply because you haven’t met Imabelle Goldy made the cover of a later editionOne of the fascinating characters in the book is Jackson’s twin brother Goldy who makes his living masuerading as a nun under the moniker Sister Gabriel He walks the streets selling “tokens to heaven” and keeping his eye peeled for any business that might be going down that could prove to be profitable for a Sister of Mercy ”There were bars on his itinerary than on any other comparable distance on earth In every one the jukeboxes blared honeysuckle blues voices dripped stickily through jungle cries of wailing saxophones screaming trumpets and buckdancing piano notes; someone was either fighting or had just stopped fighting or was just starting to fight or drinking ruckus juice and talking about fighting”Goldy has another problem that keeps him NEEDING money Jackson on the run from schemers and cops comes to his brother for help ”Goldy there’s something I want to ask youI got to feed my money firstJackson looked about for the monkeyHe’s on my back Goldy explainedJackson watched him with silent disgust as Goldy took an alcohol lamp teaspoon and a hypodermic needle from the table drawer Goldy shook two small papers of crystal cocaine and morphine into the spoon and cooked a C and M speedball over the flame He groaned as he banged himself in the arm while the mixture was still warm It’s the same stuff as Saint John the Divine used Goldy explained”Now mixed up in all of this trying to make heads or tails out of what exactly is going on are two cops who are the focus of the Harlem Cycle although in this book they are only in a few key scenes ”Grave Digger and Coffin Ed weren’t crooked detectives but they were tough They had to be tough to work for Harlem Colored folks didn’t respect colored cops But they respected big shiny pistols and sudden death It was said in Harlem that Coffin Ed’s pistol would kill a rock and that Grave Digger’s would bury it”And when they have suspects lined up under their guns they always offer them some really down home advice ”Don’t make graves” The Scarlet WomanJackson gets separated from Imabelle and spends most of the novel trying to find her never once doubting her motives She has had a bit of a rough time herself hanging around with those scheming criminals trying to avoid church going men wanting to solicit her charms and keeping out of the hands of the police ”Jackson had just time to see that she was dressed in a red dress and a black coat before she fell into his arms She smelled like burnt hair grease hot bodied woman and dime store perfume Jackson embraced her holding the iron pipe clutched against her spine She wriggled against the curve of his fat stomach and welded her rouge greasy mouth against his dry puckered lips”I think I need a shower after just reading about that hug Do you suppose that scarlet dress has any significance? hmmm I can guarantee you significant or not Jackson doesn’t care This book really surprised me I thought it was going to be one thing and turned into something different The plot is so convoluted you might need to draw a chart with rainbow colored arrows and overlapping circles Don’t let that worry you Himes will bring it all together for you I laughed out loud several times and these days a writer really has to sneak up on me to do that The descriptions as you can see from the few bits I shared are purple; and yet shaded with so much originality they are a pleasure to go back and read several times The drug use and a transvestite nun had to make this book a bit of a controversy in 1957 When I talked about it with a buddy of mine on the phone who had read it as well I could hear the grin on his face and there was an eually wide smile on my face as well If you wish to see of my most recent book and movie reviews visit also have a Facebook blogger page at


  3. says:

    Read by Samuel Jackson this was an absolute auditory treat keeping me transfixed on the drive from Georgia to KentuckyExpecting something of the snoozy literary bent I discovered a tight little story of the dark comedy thriller school set in Harlem in the 1950s Jackson has scraped together every last cent to get his money 'raised up' from 10 bills to 100 bills Though he has a job in a funeral home he would like to make a good life for his new girlfriend at least once she gets divorced from her missing husband As the money 'cooks' the stove blows up and a FBI agent raids the kitchen Jackson finds himself holding the bag and driven to contact his twin brother who operates in the fringes of the criminal world What follows is a bunch of escalating craziness as everyone tries for a cut of the action and poor ol' Jackson the character is the simpleton pivot on which it all turnsIt turns out that hidden beneath the rather madcap plotting is a great deal of social commentary I loved Himes' sly insinuations through rich characterization and setting Instead of the it was this way we were so poor that way racial ineuity was terrible that way he uses solid and emotionally powerful examples to demonstrate various realities For instance at one point someone is being chased by a white policeman and there's a bit of back and forth about what it means to give any information to the police from the perspective of a black manI was a little exhausted by the escalating insanity by the end driving as much as listening I expect as the audio comes in under 6 hours but the voice acting by Jackson the actor was effing a ma zing He voiced an indigent landlady a stiff white detective a black reverend a junkman slick con men and doper transvestites without missing a beat I loved his drunk 'Fats' voice at the railway station and his pompous Reverend voice The acting was excellent and brought a flavor to it that I would have missed reading on my own There was a time or two when uality of the recording changed between chapters but it soon resumed enjoyable Himes' writing is very descriptive evoking the flavor of a time period in Harlem and the lives of various residents Himes makes various points about 'black dialect' country versus city and the 'educated' voice The skill of the voice acting absolutely added to the uality of the experienceFive stars for the audioA large chunk of gold for Kemper for reviewing the audio and bringing it to my attention Just check under the coal chute


  4. says:

    Preface It's taking me a couple of weeks since I finished A Rage in Harlem to decide the tone to take in writing my review To frame it in a way that calmly invitingly properly in a scholarly fashion metaphorically smacks every reader upside the head and once I've gotten hisher attention communicate persuasively that this is one of the best most overlooked most mis read American novels Ever And it's a masterpiece And you need to read it So much for calm persuasive invitation I also sought to write a review that was less than blunt and didn't reveal my personal politics and perspective on issues of race and literature in America So much for that tooWarning this isn't the usual social media me that endeavors to smooth the edges hang around the already converted and not make folks uncomfortable because after all this is entertainment for most users and I acknowledge that few seek to be made uncomfortable when they seek entertainment First about Chester Himes He was born in 1909 into a middle class academic black family His father was a tradesman and Himes described him as “raised in the tradition of the Southern Uncle Tom” Prior to marriage his mother light skinned enough to pass for white taught at an elite seminary in North Carolina At 19 Himes was arrested for a few things did 8 years in the Ohio State Penitentiary and – in the early 1930s began writing for the most part short stories for magazines and later semi autobiographical protest novels He also was a protege of Richard Wright Like Wright he self exiled in the 1950s to Paris where he received an offer to write a detective series for a publication that had published works of Raymond Chandler Dashiell Hammett etc and Himes was the first black author included in the series A Rage in Harlem published in 1957 when Himes was 46 years old is the first of his 9 book Harlem Cycle According to a 2001 NYTimes review of a biography of Himes Chester Himes A Life Himes influenced John A Williams Ishmael Reed Clarence Cooper Jr Melvin Van Peebles and Donald Goines Walter Mosely calls Himes “one of the most important American writers of the 20th century A uirky American genius” All of which collectively makes one wonder why so few of us who consider ourselves well read in African American literature and also mid century detective novels have heard of him Doesn’t it?The ostensible protagonist of A Rage in Harlem is Jackson a naive man not too bright in love with a faithless light skinned this part of her description matters to Himes greatly – getting back at his mama perhaps? young lady who borrows without permission cash from his undertaker boss in order to take advantage of a get rich uick scheme gets ripped off by a couple of ex cons a couple of times is duped into committing a couple of crimes and is racing against the clock to get his money and a hearse back before he’s arrested by black Harlem cops Grave Digger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson The only reason Jackson makes it to the end of his novel is that he is blessed with a twin brother – Goldy who is as savvy as Jackson is naive and knows everybody in Harlem Goldy is married a snitch and earns money to support himself and his daily drug habit by dressing up as a Sister of Mercy – standing on a street corner selling tickets to Heaven His brother doesn’t know where he lives Goldy is easily the most fascinating character I’ve encountered in a novel in the last several years Goldy sat across the table silently staring at him Goldy’s huge black pupiled eyes were hypnotic They looked like glinting black pools of evil Jackson tried to tear his gaze away but couldn’t Finally Goldy stood up and put on his wig and bonnet He still hadn’t said anything yet The cops Jones and Johnson? They slap a woman around “with such savage violence it spun her out of the chair to land in a grotesue splay legged posture on her belly on the floor the red dress hiked so high it showed the black nylon panties she wore” No that slap wasn’t in self defense There are several police witnesses All watch No one intervenes They arrest several black men regardless of any evidence just to make a point and losing them jobs in the process Their sole importance is to confirm for contemporary readers that black folk have been being arrested had evidence planted on them and been killed by police officers of all races for at least 60 years if there was some uestion about that fact To be clear Jones and Johnson don’t respect black folk any than their white peersThe real focus and star though of A Rage in Harlem is Harlem and its residents in the aggregate Himes puts the reader there in 1955 on the street going through the dark alleys listening to the trains from blocks away and to conversations from 2 – 3 feet away understanding the poverty darkness desperation and ugliness and its toll on folks trying to consider themselves as people to whom the American Dream is available but not seeing any evidence of that possibility in their immediate community Whatever happens to Jackson Goldy and the gang everyone in Harlem will be getting up tomorrow and trying to get by and stay alive Just like the day before and the day after This novel has as much of a sense of place and community as any work written by Thomas Wolfe or William FaulknerHere’s a sampleLooking eastward from the towers of Riverside Church perched among the university buildings on the high banks of the Hudson River in a valley far below waves of gray rooftops distort the perspective like the surface of a sea Below the surface in the murky waters of fetid tenements a city of black people who are convulsed in desperate living like the voracious churning of milions of hungry cannibal fish Blind mouths eating their own guts Stick in a hand and draw back a nubThat is HarlemThe farther east it goes the blacker it gets East of Seventh Avenue to the Harlem River is called The Valley Tenements thick with teeming life spread in dismal sualor Rats and cockroaches compete with mangy dogs and cats for the man gnawed bones Up there in Harlem Park Avenue is flanked by cold water dingy tenement buildings brooding between junk yards dingy warehouses factories garages trash dumps where smart young punks raise marihuana weedIt is a truck rutted street of violence and danger known in the underworld as the Bucket of Blood See a man lying in a gutter leave him lay he might be deadDescribing Harlem residentsColored people passed along the dark sidewalks slinking cautiously past the dark dangerous doorways heads bowed every mother’s child of them looking as though they had trouble Colored folks and trouble Jackson thought like two mules hitched to the same wagonand another passageHis overcoat was torn the buttons missing the sleeve slashed he was covered wtih black muck dropping dirty slime; his mouth was swollen his eyes were red and he looked half dead But the other people didn’t look much better The sound of pistol shooting and the screaming of the patrol car sirens had brought them rushing from their beds to see the cause of the excitement It sounded like a battle royal taking place and shootings and cuttings and folks dead and dying were a big show in Harlem Men women and children had piled into the street wrapped in blankets two and three overcoats pyjama legs showing over the tops of rubber overshoes towels tied about their heads draped with dusty rugs snatched hastily from the floor Alongside some of the apparitions Jackson looked like a man of eleganceHimes wasn’t interested in writing mere detective novels per se not that there’s anything wrong with that as they say While the plot of A Rage in Harlem superficially fits the detective novel framework and the publishers’ marketing of the novel is determined to make A Rage in Harlem fit that genre and Himes was smart enough to write what the publisher was willing to pay him to write A Rage in Harlem is the story of a place and a people writ large Roughly 4 generations after the end of the Civil War and instant freedom with little if any education zero resources and no sense of family parents and siblings were sold elsewhere many black folk took themselves north to Chicago Detroit and New York anticipating a better life and opportunity Here in A Rage in Harlem the reader sees how that plan for betterment and freedom worked out for those who selected New York Himes paints a picture that is almost devoid of white people This novel is about the community into which blacks have been warehoused together and how they interact on a daily basis Himes invites the reader to consider whether Harlem up through at least the 1980s was fit for Americans to raise their children work jobs live their lives pursue happiness Is Flint? To read A Rage in Harlem and focus only on the plot and what happens next seeing it only as a detective novel is to enjoy perhaps 65% of its charm but inevitably results in getting frustrated with Jackon’s naivete as – even to the very end – he stands by his woman’s faithfulness There’s no traditional detective novel hero in A Rage in Harlem No Spenser PI No washed up but honest cop But everyone’s real Especially Goldy Heart be stillOn the other hand if all you want is a well written detective novel and you're okay with a certain amount of violence and you don’t care about Harlem or tenements or ugliness or police brutality or social criticism? You’re invited to enjoy A Rage in Harlem too Literature doesn’t get any better than thisGoldy’s scream mingled with the scream of the locomotive as the train thundered past overhead shaking the entire tenement city Shaking the sleeping black people in their lice ridden beds Shaking the ancient bones and the aching muscles and the tb lungs and the uneasy fetuses of young girls Shaking the plaster from the ceilings mortar from between the bricks of the building walls Shaking the rats between the walls the cockroaches crawling over kitchen sinks and leftover food; shaking the sleeping flies hibernating in lumps like bees behind the casings of the windows Shaking the fat blood filled bedbugs crawling over black skin Shaking the fleas making them hop Shaking the sleeping dogs in their filthy pallets the sleeping cats the clogged toilets loosening the filthFinally to those who consider A Rage in Harlem to be absurd and unrealistic here is Hime’s perspective on his own work “I thought I was writing realism It never occurred to me that I was writing absurdity Realism and absurdity are so similar in the lives of American blacks one cannot tell the difference'' Himes is one of the most important and best American writers you’ve never heard of and A Rage in Harlem is likely a book you haven’t read Change that ps Notwithstanding the myriad of references to Raymond Chandler on the cover of A Rage in Harlem which is almost impossible to find available in public libraries – whether it’s the use of “colored” or the occasional n word uoted as part of song lyrics of the day the Himes’ Harlem Cycle appear to be subject to a national blacklist there’s no Raymond Chandler here pss if you want to read about A Rage in Harlem as ‘not a detective novel’ here are 2 blogs I recommendhttpwwwcrimesegmentscom201503httptherapsheetblogspotcom2013


  5. says:

    I’ve been wanting to read Chester Himes for a while so when I saw this available as an audio book and that Samuel L Jackson narrated it I downloaded it so fast that smoke was coming out of my laptopSet in Harlem in the 1950s it features a hard working church going man Jackson whose girlfriend Imabelle has hooked him up with shady characters who can ‘raise’ money by taking ten dollar bills and turning them into hundreds Jackson gathers all the cash he can for the conversion but when a cop shows up in the middle of the raising process Jackson has not only lost his life savings he has to steal from his boss at a funeral home to bribe the cop Desperate to locate Imabelle who he thinks must be in danger and on the run from the police after this theft Jackson goes to his brother for help You've probably guessed that Jackson isn't the sharpest knife in the drawerGoldy is Jackson’s twin but the two couldn’t be different While Jackson is a trusting rube who can’t figure out when he’s being scammed Goldy is a small time street hustler who disguises himself as a nun and collects money for ‘charities’ while selling tickets to heaven to the relatives of dying people When Jackson tells Goldy about some valuables in a trunk of Imabelle’s Goldy starts trying to play his own angles Goldy also has a sideline as a stoolie for Harlem’s toughest cops Black detectives Gravedigger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson keep the peace through intimidation and regular use of their pistols and when Goldy tips them off to the con men who scammed Jackson all hell breaks loose in HarlemThis is a top notch crime story with a dark sense of deadpan humor Himes makes you feel as if you’re running the streets of Harlem with a bunch of shady characters My favorite bits were the ones with Gravedigger Jones and Coffin Ed and Himes did several books with them that have instantly moved up my To Read listSamuel Jackson’s narration added a lot of flavor to the story and he did a nice job of creating distinct voices and personalites to each character It was worth listening to this just for the way he repeatedly says ‘mother raper’ as the ultimate profanity


  6. says:

    Colored folks and trouble Jackson thought like two mules hitched to the same wagon Chester Himes A Rage in HarlemFunny as hell Brilliant Absurd Subversive This shit was published in 1959 Some of the best AAVE I've ever read and the imagery Himes pulls out kills me This is my first Himes but definitely not my last I think I'll read 'The Real Cool Killers' and 'If He Hollers Let Him Go' I spent a couple days in Harlem earlier this year with my wife I love recognizing the geography Himes describes Its been 60 years but somethings apparently in New York don't change much Here's a good example of his fluency Looking eastward from the towers of Riverside Church perched among the university buildings on the high banks of the Hudson River in a valley far below waves of gray rooftops distort the perspective like the surface of a sea Below the surface in the murky waters of fetid tenements a city of black people who are convulsed in desperate living like the voracious churning of millions of hungry cannibal fish Blind mouths eating their own guts Stick in a hand and draw back a nub That is Harlem


  7. says:

    A Rage in HarlemChester HimesMajor CharactersJackson patsyImabelle – Jackson’s womanHank CrookJodie CrookBilly Crook Goldy – Jackson’s brother Sister GabrielH Exodus Clay – Funeral Director Jackson’s bossCoffin Ed Johnson DetectiveGrave Digger Jones – DetectiveHimes did a great job in describing Harlem and the characters in the book For example Jackson is described as “a short black fat man with purple red gums and pearly white teeth” Imabelle is “a cushioned lipped hot bodied banana skin chick with speckled brown eyes of a teaser and high arched ball bearing hips of a natural born amante” Himes summarizes all the characters in the same fashionThe period of the story was probably early 1950s and starts out with Jackson Imabelle Hank and Jodie in Jackson’s apartment The confidence team which includes Imabelle has convinced Jackson that Hank can turn Jackson’s one hundred and fifty 150 ten dollar bills into hundreds Out of the fifteen thousand 15000 dollars to be raised Hank will get ten 10 percent for producing the bills with his special paper and Jodie will get five 5 percent for putting the deal together Jackson has seen them perform this trick before and has scraped together all his money for this deal Well they put the tens in a tube a put the tube in the oven to accomplish the change You guessed it the oven explodes and everyone scatters In the mean time a US Marshall appear and the only one left in the apartment is Jackson who he puts under arrest Jackson bribes the Marshall with two hundred 200 dollars which he does not have and has to steal from his boss in order to pay him So Jackson has now been fleeced out of seventeen hundred 1700 dollars He actually steals five hundred 500 dollars and tries to use the other three hundred 300 dollars to gamble and get his money back He has no idea that he has been conned and that Imabelle was part of the con He stays true to her throughout the storyThe rest of the story centers on Jackson trying to get his money and his woman back He enlists his brother Goldy who has hisher own confidence game to help him with both these goals Many twists and turns take place; however Jackson remains the patsy throughoutI recommended to all fans of detective crime and mystery fiction The book has a considerable amount of violence The story also is humorous


  8. says:

    This was the first book I read by Chester Himes and I loved it It was exciting well written darkly comic and unexpectedly absurd while still being noir to its core Because of his love for his sexy lady friend the loose conniving high yellow Imabelle “She smelled of burnt hair grease hot bodied woman and dime store perfume” simple and suare working man Jackson loses all of his money to some con men setting off a chain reaction that leads to a funeral home robbery acid throwing a runaway hearse and a plot involving a trunk full of 18 karat gold ore In order to navigate this dangerous terrain Jackson gets the help of his resourceful twin brother Goldy who makes his living impersonating a Sister of Mercy nun soliciting bogus charity donations and selling tickets to heaven on the streets of Harlem Sounds awesome doesn't it? It gets even betterHere's a sample She held him at arms’ length looked at the pipe still gripped in his hand then looked at his face and read him like a book She ran the tip of her red tongue slowly across her full cushiony sensuous lips making them wet red and looked him straight in the eyes with her own glassy speckled bedroom eyesThe man drownedWhen he came up he stared back passion cocked his whole black being on a live wire edge Ready Solid ready to cut throats crack skulls dodge police steal hearses drink muddy water live in a hollow log and take any rape fiend chance to be once in the arms of his high yellow heart” As you can see this book is a blast to read with writing like none other and should be considered a noir classicAnd how crazy is the cover of this early edition? A sex and soul novelawesome


  9. says:

    910 Looking eastward from the towers of Riverside Church perched among the university buildings on the high banks of the Hudson River in a valley far bellow waves of gray rooftops distort the perspective like the surface of the sea Below the surface in the murky waters of fetid tenements a city of black people who are convulsed in desperate living like the voracious churning of millions of hungry cannibal fish Blind mouths eating their own guts Stick in a hand and draw back a nubThat is Harlem The story could have been funny with its screwball comedy plot and its cast of colourful characters like the huge coloured man dressed up in nun habit but what is left in my memory is a bitter aftertaste of a world that shouldn't exist so close to the soaring towers of glass and steel of Manhattan with their luxury penthouses and sophisticated cocktail bars I believe the current title is appropriate than the original For Love of Imabelle because it serves to underline the social injustice that a large part of the population of New York is still dealing with Of course part of the blame for their misery can be laid at their own doorstep I thought Jackson was abismally stupid but the lack of jobs of education of any hope at a decent living will drive a man to crime as much as his inner natureImabelle is a typical 'femme fatale' driving men crazy with her lush body and pouting lips Jackson is an easy prey naive and insecure overweight and pious he falls for one of the most obvious tricks in the business a friend of Imabelle claims he can turn 10 dollar bills into 100 dollar bills using a special catalyst and some oven heat In the ensuing explosion Jackson loses all his life's savings and his hot wife Instead of going to the police Jackson gets drunk and steals some money from the funeral home he works at money that he uickly suanders in a gambling den Jackson still refuses to believe that Imabelle is in league with the men who robbed him and all too gullibly falls for another confidence scheme a Mexican Gold Mine but he lacks the funds Desperate he appeals to his brother Goldy for help Goldy is himself one of the crooks of Harlem a drug addict and a wastrel who feels in his element in the middle of this predatory jungle No one who noticed it thought it strange for a Sister of Mercy to kick a cur dog in the ribs enter a dope den and uote enigmatic Scripture to reefer smoking delinuents I had little sympathy for the plight of Jackson and even less for the shifty Goldie There are no heroes in Harlem not even the local police officers Coffin Ed Johnson and Gravedigger Jones who are alternately closing their eyes to minor infractions and are trigger happy with other types of crooks Despite the fact that they are the nominal protagonists of the Harlem series the detectives were mostly circumstantial and passive witnesses to the unfolding events view spoiler admitttedly they fire the closing shots in a bloody showdown with the original confidence tricksters hide spoiler


  10. says:

    A Rage in Harlem is a novel that should NOT be read just for plot Let's face it the plot in this story is kind of a comical farce that combines humor with violence a scam that backfires and leads to all sorts of mayhem complete with reuisite crazy chase scene throughout Harlem a naive central character named Jackson and his brother who tries to protect him from some very bad people who are completely out of his league Sadly I'm discovering that few people who read this book care about what's going on outside of the plot and in my opinion this is a freakin' travesty In all honesty the plot is just so so; the focus should really be on Harlem of the 1950s the people in this place and above all race I think reading it as a photograph of Harlem of the time is of what Chester Himes had on his mind although I realize I'm not a medium who can speak to the dead and pick his brain All anyone would have to do is to google Chester Himes and find even the briefest biographical reference and come up with something like thisChester Himes was born on this date in 1909 in Jefferson City Missouri He was an African American writer whose novels and autobiographies explore the absurdity of racismabsurdity as in daily life played out in streets of Harlem as the theatre of the absurd as he notes realism and absurdity are so similar in the lives of American blacks one cannot tell the difference”But no Reviews from a large number of readers come back to a must for Chandler enthusiasts or parroting the back blurb by John Edgar Wideman re surreal grotesue comic hip etc I can't begin to count the number of reviews I've read that use the word surreal without any explanation as why the reader thought so or how Himes is like Chandler Again another cover blurb parroted this time from Newsweek Then there are the readers who bring up the movie as if the book was an afterthought or those who can't find anything original to say so they just stuff a bunch of uotations into a reviewPeople you are missing the boat big time hereThis is Himes' HarlemP93Looking eastward from the towers of Riverside Church perched among the university buildings on the high banks of the Hudson River in a valley far below waves of gray rooftops distort the perspective like the surface of a sea Below the surface in the murky waters of fetid tenements a city of black people who are convulsed in desperate living like the voracious churning of millions of hungry cannibal fish Blind mouths eating their own guts Stick in a hand and draw back a nubThat is HarlemThat is Harlem So why are readers not talking about Himes' cynical approach to Harlem? About writing about Harlem from the point of view as an exile in Paris? About the borders between the white world and the black world and about how the few exemplified in the character of Goldy's wife who we never see who cross the border on a regular basis do so only as domestic servants to wealthy white people? About the violence the scamming the people feeding like sharks on each other preying especially on the naive folks like Jackson or the religious minded people who buy fake tickets to Heaven for their deceased relatives or themselves? About the alcoholism the drug use about a reality that in itself is something as even Himes notes stranger than fiction? About how some of these people lived in places virtually unfit for habitation? Where are the mentions of police violence being okay when directed at African Americans? And above all what about a brief mention concerning the message running throughout the entire novel that things are not what they seem to be on the surface in this little slice of the city? How a 5 star review can include absolutely NONE of these elements is just beyond my scope of comprehension A Rage in Harlem is an incredibly important novel of its time but no one seems to care and that is just a shame A genuine shame