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A Rage in Harlem by Chester Himes

A Rage in Harlem (1957)

by Chester Himes

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Harlem Cycle (1)

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5352328,406 (3.79)63



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» See also 63 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
A much-needed change of pace for me, and a book which (unusually for me) I finished in a day. Himes wrote the novel while in Paris, escaping from his bitter experience of racism in '50s Hollywood. He was asked to write a crime novel for the French market, and choose Harlem as his setting, despite never having lived there, as he felt it would be most recognisable to his audience as a tough African-American neighbourhood.

Judging by the book's longevity in print, Himes did his job well, and I certainly enjoyed immersing myself into his milieu of petty criminals, con artists, casual murderers, crooked cops and tough detectives. Himes's darkly humorous tone is just right, and he delivered a couple of shock twists that had my jaw dropping.

I'm definitely up for exploring the other books in the series. A solid 4/5🌟 ( )
  Michael.Rimmer | May 5, 2019 |
Some books don't age well. For me,this is one of them. ( )
  abycats | May 11, 2018 |
“Outrageous, shocking, wonderful”, “…best black American novelist writing today!”

First let me say that the above blurbs, on the cover of “For Love of Imabelle”, aka “A Rage in Harlem”, are ascribed to the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune respectively. Now let me further describe the cover of my copy of the book. A very young woman wearing a very small, provocative red dress is sitting on a large black truck, modestly trying to cover her assets with her left hand. She is joined by a black, barefoot nun, leaning on a raised left foot which also rests on said trunk. In the right hand the nun is holding not a rosary, but a long barreled 45 caliber cannon aimed at sweet Imabelle. The book is a paperback, somewhat beatup; on an edge is stamped the publisher’s name, Dell, and the price, 75 cents. The copyright inside says 1965, but fantasticfiction.com lists the date as 1957.

I read a lot of crime fiction, mysteries if you will, maybe forty per year. Last year I got a bit interested in “classical” crime fiction, early stuff that not only helped establish the new genre, e.g., Poe, Conan Doyle, Christie but also the books which broke away from the mold and developed new styles, new subjects, eg Chandler, Hammett. Eventually I discovered Chester Himes, author of “Imabelle” – an interesting character in his own right. In 1928 at the age of 19, Himes was sentenced to twenty to twenty-five years for armed robbery and paroled after serving eight. “Imabelle” is the first of eight novels in his series about two black Harlem detectives, Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones. At least three of the books were made into fims; “Cotton Comes to Harlem” is the best known.

You have never rad a book anything like “For Love of Immabelle”.

And for that reason alone it is probably worth your time to read it. It is funny, some of the lines are just hilarious, as when late night taxi driver is forced to haul some mean, heavily-armed, bad dudes uptown: “Even the back of the driver’s head looked scared”. Violence erupts unexpectedly, and it’s usually very bloody – lots of knives in this book. And finally, it is very, very politically incorrect. But Himes doesn’t discriminate at those he insults, both black and white take a lot of shots seldom heard in the 21st century.

The plot is a bit slapstick, lots of running all over the place. There’s a big con going on involving a trunk full of gold ore. And there are dupes all over the place, including a guy who drives a hearse for the local funeral parlor, and his twin brother who dresses as a nun and spends her (his) days dispensing suspect quotes from the Bible in exchange for coin, e.g., “And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, the sixth angel said.” Sometimes Sister’s patron’s take her quotes as divine suggestions for which numbers to play that day. Lots of characters, in every sense of the word. Interestingly, Coffin Ed and Grave Digger play small roles in this first book of the series.

Will I read another Coffin and Grave Digger? I think so, maybe “Cotton”, should be easier to find than this one…. ( )
  maneekuhi | Apr 7, 2018 |
"She held him at arms’ length, looked at the pipe still gripped in his hand, then looked at his face and read him like a book. She ran the tip of her red tongue slowly across her full cushiony, sensuous lips, making them wet-red and looked him straight in the eyes with her own glassy, speckled bedroom eyes.

The man drowned."

This is the perfect pairing of story and narrator - like all fabulous audiobooks, the narrator here elevates the reading experience. This was written in the late fifties and is set (as the title tells us) in Harlem. Himes does a very good job of establishing a sense of place, but more than that he establishes a sense of atmosphere - we can feel the undercurrents of anger and frustration in a community where equality is a very distant dream. The tale is dark and gritty with a definite noir feel, and yet it is loaded with humor. A very tricky act, and Jackson pulls it off with ease - his voice seems born to the story. He brings every character and every nuance to life. I just cannot recommend this version highly enough. ( )
  Crazymamie | Mar 28, 2018 |
A firecracker of a novel. Thoroughly enjoyed it.
  picklefactory | Jan 16, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Chester Himesprimary authorall editionscalculated
Jackson, Samuel L.Narratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sante, LucIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679720405, Paperback)

A Rage in Harlem is a ripping introduction to Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones, patrolling New York City’s roughest streets in Chester Himes’s groundbreaking Harlem Detectives series. 
For love of fine, wily Imabelle, hapless Jackson surrenders his life savings to a con man who knows the secret of turning ten-dollar bills into hundreds—and then he steals from his boss, only to lose the stolen money at a craps table. Luckily for him, he can turn to his savvy twin brother, Goldy, who earns a living—disguised as a Sister of Mercy—by selling tickets to Heaven in Harlem.  With Goldy on his side, Jackson is ready for payback.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:39 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

For the love of fine and wily Imabelle, Jackson loses his life savings to a con man who knows the secret of turning ten-dollar bills into hundreds and steals from his boss, only to lose the stolen money at a crap table. Luckily for him, Jackson has a savvy twin brother, Goldy, who, disguised as a Sister of Mercy, earns a living by selling tickets to Heaven in Harlem.… (more)

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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