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A Rage in Harlem (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – 5 May 2011


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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (5 May 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141196440
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141196442
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.5 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 349,052 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

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)

From the Back Cover

To be square in Harlem is to risk your life. And Jackson is so square he can't see through the lovely Imabelle, even when she introduces him to a man who knows the 'secret' of turning $10 bills into $100s. Soon Jackson is losing his life-savings to this con man, stealing money from his boss and then blowing this 'borrowed' money on the crap tables.

So begins Chester Himes' first foray into crime fiction, the novel which was to win him massive international acclaim.

A Rage In Harlem introduces readers to Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones, Harlem's toughest cops and Himes' most memorable fictional creations. Renowned for their meanness and always armed with their legendary nickel-plated Colts, they patrol the streets of the ghetto trying to keep some semblance of order. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By carlosnightman VINE VOICE on 26 April 2012
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Hello. My first experience of Chester Himes was with If He Hollers Let Him Go, a strong book, a decent read, but one which I felt suffered due to a twist ending. That ending would have been provocative when first written but to my 21st Century mind it felt a little tacked on. However, I liked the style, the setting, the characters, and the general atmosphere and tone Himes created and I had always been interested in reading more. Within the first few pages of A Rage In Harlem I knew that I would enjoy it more- it is fast paced in a pulp fiction manner and there is violence and bloodshoot ultra-reality in those opening pages. Himes doesn't let the pace slacken once and even with the introduction of a wide cast of characters, we speed through the NY setting and the story like a taxi on a pick up from hell, and we get the near sensation that Himes may have written this in one inspired sitting. That doesn't mean the story is not well written or thoughtless, far from it, but that you will be as breathless as our hero by the end of it.
Himes does have a gift for creating sympathetic anti-heros; Jackson is just a normal guy, albeit a bit of a screw-up, whose charming naivety and misguided affections lead him into a series of mishaps, near-misses, chases, shoot-outs, punch-ups, and absurdist scenes to create a one of a kind adventure. Along the way we meet everyone's favourite buddy cop due Coffin Ed and Grave Digger whose shoot first, lob a grenade, smoke a cigarette, then ask questions attitude inspired many a movie detective in the decades to come. There are hard boiled characters, shocking carnage, and plenty of moments of darkness, but thanks to Himes's style and his wonderful creation in Jackson, the whole sorry affair feels quite 'light'.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ragnar VINE VOICE on 28 Jun. 2011
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Jackson is a poor man who works for an undertaker, H Exodus Clay. And he is the sort of person who, in trying to solve a problem, only makes it worse. His problems begin when he is taken in by con men who relieve him of what little money he has, blowing up his landlady's oven in the process. Since the con leads to him paying off a fake Federal Agent with money stolen from his employer, things quickly go from bad to worse. And his refusal to believe that his woman, Imabelle, could be involved, while touching, doesn't help much either.

Jackson is an innocent surrounded by people on the make. One of those is his brother Goldy, who dresses up as Sister Gabriel, a Sister of Mercy, and relieves shoppers entering Blumstein's store of as much change as he can. In return he is liberal with quotations from the Book of Revelation, some of them made up by himself. (He suspects the author was high on drugs when he wrote it, symptoms he can recognise from his own experience.) Goldy also has a sideline in tickets for a dollar a time - ADMIT ONE, SISTER GABRIEL. Since he doesn't say in so many words that the admission is to heaven he isn't technically committing an offence.

As Jackson's troubles multiply he turns to two people for help. One is the Reverend Gaines, with whom he prays. The other is his brother, who quickly realises that Jackson is being played for a sucker by all concerned, including Imabelle, the love of his life. Goldy also figures out that the con men are working on a second, bigger con involving the finding of a lost gold mine. Imabelle is involved in this one too.

The plot moves rapidly, and has elements of farce about it, though the comedy is hard-edged. The story is intricately plotted, but very successfully.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By H. Eaton VINE VOICE on 26 July 2011
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
A Rage in Harlem is the first in a series of nine novels that make up Chester Himes' Harlem Detective series. It is a very well-written, entertaining book, interwoven with violence, humour and farce in equal measure.

The main character, Jackson is in love with a beautiful woman called Imabelle. She introduces him to a get rich quick scheme involving turning ten dollar bills into hundreds. It's a trap, he ends up losing all his money and his tribulations escalate as he attempts to get himself out of trouble.

Racial tensions in Harlem around that time are clear from the narrative, but the story doesn't get bogged down with these. The white police are portrayed as overtly racist and black people conform to stereotypes in order to outwit them. The book certainly does throw a spotlight on the seedier side of life, with views of squalor, drug taking, gambling, desperation and hopelessness, but the humour lightens this considerably. The most entertaining moments in my opinion come from Jackson's brother, Goldy, who makes a living posing as a nun begging for alms, while passing on information to the police. When cornered, Goldy misquotes scripture to hilarious effect.

I highly recommend this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By B. Wright VINE VOICE on 11 April 2012
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Chester Himes is one of a tranche of authors to have recently been inducted into the Penguin Modern Classics range, and A Rage in Harlem is the first to feature his Harlem detectives Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones.

Jackson is a square who is ripe for fleecing - nervous, slow and superstitious, always trying to stay on the right side of the law. When his girlfriend Imabelle finds a get-rich-quick scheme though, he finds himself on the run from the cops as they aim to stop the money launderers in Harlem. He turns to his streetwise brother, who dresses as a Sister of Mercy, making money from other people's fear of God. At first he is reluctant to help Jackson, but when he discovers that money is involves he does all he can to help his brother clear his name and keep the cash.

A Rage in Harlem is a fine romp through 1950s New York, and Himes writes brilliantly, creating wonderful characters and some excellent set pieces. He has a great eye for description, and every gait, every streetwise posture and lingo is captured here, with the language very evocative. It is a fast read, but thrilling, with its chases and gun fights as Jackson tries to get away from the law. It is also very funny; from Jackson's brother in his nun get-up to how dense Jackson himself is, Himes provides plenty of laughs. The author is considered by many to be the founder of hard-boiled fiction, and it is evident here, in the language and setting primarily but also the excellently rounded characters. He also gives a balanced view of life for the black working class in 1950s New York, the struggle to make ends meet and stay on the right side of the law. It is a great book and fans of the genre will find much to enjoy here.
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