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

4.2 out of 5 stars 46 customer reviews

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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 (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 286,239 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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 Inside Flap

For the love of fine and wily Imabelle, hapless 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. Now for the big payback... --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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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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Format: Paperback
With its hip characters, inventive double crosses and evocative images of Harlem, this book is an absolute classic in crime fiction. Clearly an influence on films like Shaft, the action is hard and fast, the division between the worlds of black and white people is defined as a symptom of the age in which it was written and the cast are defined perfectly; like Elmore Leonard would later attempt to emulate, each character is trying to climb up the social ladder just one more rung by any means necessary and in the end, who can blame them?
Coffin Ed and Gravedigger Jones are relatively minor characters here. The focus of the book, rather, is the patsy Jackson, who finds his life spiralling out of control when a scam artist convinces him he has the secret of "raising" ten dollar bills into hundred dollar bills. Each choice Johnson makes throws him further into a maelstrom of trouble and the final, violent confrontations are intensely gripping, exciting and emotionally affecting.
Sometimes, when people call a book a classic, the term is bandied about loosely and innapropriately. But a rage in Harlem is a true classic: a reflection of the age of its conception and not only that but a darn fine, intensely exciting crime thriller which no doubt influenced many crime writers to follow.
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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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Format: Kindle Edition
I re-read this as my contribution to a book club discussion on crime novels - and decided I made a good choice. I'd previously read this, and the rest of the Harlem detective series back in the 90s and my recollection of them as compelling, gruesome stories featuring great characters laced with black humour proved correct. It's a great read - but also an important one as a landmark novel in black American literature.
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