Home | Reviews | Blog | Daily | Glossary | Orrin's Stuff | Email

    The white folks had sure brought their white to work with them that morning.
        -Robert Jones, If He Hollers...

As near as I can tell, the only thing that separates this novel from Native Son and Invisible Man is that Chester Himes's later success with the Coffin Ed Johnson/Grave Digger Jones police procedurals got him pigeonholed as a genre writer, and not a particularly reputable genre at that : pulp fiction.  Himes developed an interest in hard-boiled prose by reading Dashiell Hammet and Raymond Chandler while he was serving time in the Ohio State Penitentiary.  He brings a noir sensibility and a direct and punchy writing style to this protest novel, which serve the story well.

The anti-hero of the book is Robert Jones, a black shipyard worker, who has prospered thanks to the shortage of white workers during WWII.  He's the leader of his own work gang, drives a new Buick Roadster, has an upper middle class girlfriend, and because of the importance of his job has a draft deferment.  But even with white America dependent on blacks (and women) to supply the armaments to fight the War, one false move can still bring the weight of the system crashing down around a black man's head, and Bob is sufficiently proud and sensitive to guarantee that such a confrontation will surely come.  In this instance, everything hits the fan when a sluttish white coworker--with whom he as had several near violent, aggressively sexualized disputes--accuses Bob of rape.

Like the crime novels that influenced it, this book is briskly paced and very much driven by dialogue.  But like the novels of Ellison and Wright it burns with a righteous indignation at the treatment of blacks in America.  The combination is powerful and lively and the book deserves a much wider audience and a greater reputation.


Grade: (B+)


See also:

Chester Himes (3 books reviewed)
African American Literature
Chester Himes Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Chester Himes
    -INTERVIEW: LAWRENCE P. JACKSON, CHESTER HIMES' BIOGRAPHER, ON THE ICONIC HARLEM DETECTIVE SERIES: "They take no prisoners. There are no heroes. Everybody is exposed for who they are at their least desirable or least beautiful moments." (HOPETON HAY, 4/15/21, Crime Reads)
    -ESSAY: A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE HEROES OF BLACK PULP: Finding inspiration and representation in the slam-bang cool of Black Pulp, past & present. (MICHAEL GONZALES, 6/27/19, Crime Reads)
-REVIEW: of The Essential Harlem Detectives: by Chester Himes (Reed Jackson, Spectrum Culture)
    -REVIEW: of The Essential Harlem Detectives: by Chester Himes (Bruce Riordan,. CrimeReads)

Book-related and General Links:
-Chester Himes (1909-1984)  (kirjasto)
    -ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA : Your search: "chester himes"
    -Chester Himes (Spartacus)
    -Chester Himes (
    -Chester Himes : Author of The End of a Primative (WW Norton Co.)
    -The San Antonio College LitWeb Chester Himes Page
    -Chester Himes (Stop You're Killing Me)
    -ESSAY : Introduction to Chester Himes' Letter (Mary Pagano)
    -ESSAY :  The Skeptical Reader:  Chester Himes' Lonely Crusade and Its Place in Postmodernism
    -ARCHIVES : "himes" (NY Review of Books)
    -REVIEW : of YESTERDAY WILL MAKE YOU CRY By Chester Himes (Peter Bricklebank, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of YESTERDAY WILL MAKE YOU CRY. By Chester Himes (H. Bruce Franklin, the John Cotton Dana Professor of English and American Studies at Rutgers University, Newark)
    -REVIEW : of POLITICAL PARABLE PLAN B By Chester Himes. Edited, with an introduction, by Michel Fabre and Robert E. Skinner (David Traxel, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Library of America : Crime Novels Volume I: American Noir of the 1930's and 40's Volume II: American Noir of the 1950's.  (Walter Kirn, NY times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of A Rage in Harlem by Chester Himes (Murderism ezine)
    -REVIEW : of Michel Fabre and Robert E. Skinner, eds. Conversations with Chester Himes (Bernard Bell, African American Review)
    -REVIEW : of Chester Himes by James Sallis (Courttia Newland, The Observer uk)
    -REVIEW : of Chester Himes: A Life by James Sallis (Margaret Busby, The Guardian uk)
    -REVIEW : of  Chester Himes: a life by James Sallis (John Williams, Independent UK)
    -REVIEW : of Chester Himes : A Life by James Sallis (Tom Nolan, San Francisco Chronicle)
    -REVIEW : of Edward Margolies and Michel Fabre. The Several Lives of Chester Himes and  James Sallis. Chester Himes: A Life.  (Champa Patel , 49th Parallel)
    -REVIEW : of Edward Margolies and Michel Fabre. The Several Lives of Chester Himes (Mark Sanders, African American Review)
    -Murder They Write : One Hundred Masters Of Crime (The Times & The Irish Times)
    -REVIEW : of If He Hollers Let Him Go by Chester Himes (Eddie Duggan, CrimeTime Online)

    -FILMOGRAPHY : "Chester Himes" (
    -INFO : Come Back, Charleston Blue (1972)(Imdb)

    -African American Mystery Page
    -Can You Dig It? The Original Black Eyes (Thrilling Detective)
    -Can You Dig The New Breed? The New Black Eyes (Thrilling Detective)
    -REVIEW : of EXILED IN PARIS Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Samuel Beckett and Others on the Left Bank By James Campbell (Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of EXILED IN PARIS Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Samuel Beckett, and Others on the Left Bank. By James Campbell (Deirdre Bair, NY Times Book Review)
    -ESSAY : Chez Tournon: A Homage (Paule Marshall, NY Times Book Review, October 18, 1992)