Wednesday, June 13, 2012

“Martyrs are needed to create incidents. Incidents are needed to create revolutions. Revolutions are needed to create progress.”

Our second author for this week is Chester Himes (1909-1984).  In academia, Himes is better recognized for his works concerning social and political issues for African Americans, but I came to know him for his series of detective novels featuring Coffin Ed and Gravedigger.  Depicting Harlem in the 1950's, the novels fit in the hard-boiled style but feature outlandish characters and situations that border on the cartoonish, while also delving into the same serious racial issues that Himes other books dealt with.  For Love of Imabelle (aka. A Rage in Harlem, 1957) and Cotton Comes to Harlem (1965) are perhaps the best known, though I enjoyed them all.  A note of caution, Himes' last Ed and Digger book, Plan B, is not the place to start. The novel was left unfinished and features an apocalyptic race revolution, not unlike Sam Greenlee's 1969 novel, The Spook Who Sat By the Door, that requires the context of the previous books.

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