A Rage in Harlem
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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 Classics.
Jackson’s woman has found him a foolproof way to make money – a technique 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 detectives ‘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 Mercy.
Chester 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 Esquire. Upon release he took a variety of jobs from working in a California shipyard to journalism to script-writing while continuing to write fiction. He later moved to Paris where he was commissioned by La Serie 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 Glover.
If 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’
Outrageous, shocking, wonderful * New York Times Book Review * Himes wrote spectacularly successful entertainments, filled with gems of descriptive writing, plots that barely sidestep chaos, characters surreal, grotesque, comic, hip, Harlem recollected as a place that can make you laugh, cry, shudder. — John Edgar Wideman Chester Himes is one of the towering figures of the black literary tradition. His command of nuances of character and dynamics of plot is preeminent among writers of crime fiction. He is a master craftsman. — Henry Louis Gates, Jr. A fantasia with a hard brilliant core * Evening Standard * A fine crime writer of Chandlerian subtlety though in a vein of sheer toughness very much his own * The Times * Chester Himes is the great lost crime writer, as well a great American dissident novelist per se, and an essential witness to his times. Every one of his beyond-cool Harlem novels is cherished by every reader who finds it. — Jonathan Lethem Hieronymus Bosch meets Miles Davis * The New York Times * He belongs with those great demented realists … whose writing pitilessly exposes the ridiculousness of the human condition — Will Self That he could channel this pain and misery into some of the greatest crime novels ever written is a testament to his skill as a writer and his spirit as a man. If this is the first Chester Himes novel you will read then, believe me, you are in for a treat. — Noel “Razor” Smith
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