Thursday, July 19, 2007

Happy birthday, Chester Himes.

A former prison inmate and a writer for the Works Progress Administration (WPA), Chester Himes, the creator of Harlem detectives Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones, was born today in Jefferson City, Missouri, in 1909. He died in 1984.

Johnson and Jones were introduced in A Rage in Harlem (aka For Love of Imabelle; winner, Grand Prix de Littérature Policière) in 1957, followed by The Crazy Kill (1959), The Real Cool Killers (1959), All Shot Up (1960), The Big Gold Dream (1960), Cotton Comes to Harlem (1965), The Heat's On (1966), Blind Man with a Pistol (1969), and Plan B (1983).

"I put the slang, the daily routine, and complex human relationships of Harlem into my detective novels, which I prefer to call 'domestic novels' for that reason. This is a world of pimps and prostitutes who don't worry about racism, injustice, or social equality. They're just concerned with survival." -- Chester Himes (1983; qtd. in Conversations with Chester Himes 129)

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