by Chester Himes (1957)
It’s a shame that the name Chester Himes is not as well know as Raymond Chandler or Elmore Leonard. His colorful mix of humor, poetic despair, violence, and action put him on par with the best noir writers. A Rage in Harlem is my first Himes read but definitely won’t be my last.
It concerns a gullible square named Jackson who’s been had by some no good swindlers and a dame. In a half brained frenzy to put things right, he only spirals into deeper and deeper trouble leading him to seek help from his doped up street smart brother Goldy who makes his way by impersonating a nun and selling tickets to heaven.
The book is packed with wild, intriguing characters like Goldy ( including two hard ass cops named Grave Digger and Coffin Ed) but Harlem itself plays the biggest role.
Vivid and taut, this book is both gruesome and absurdly funny. While reading, I kept thinking what a great movie it would make and was surprised to learn there already is one from the early 90′s starring Forrest Whittaker. It’s said to be pretty good so I look forward to watching it.
PS – the book as also released under the name For Love of Imabelle and I’d love to get my hands on those photo cover Panther editions!