Black History Month: A Rage In Harlem by Chester Himes

A Rage in HarlemA Rage in Harlem
by Chester Himes
Rating: ★★★★
Series: Harlem Cycle #1
Publication Date: January 1, 1957
Genre: crime, mystery
Pages: 160
ReRead?: No
Project: a century of crime

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.

This is the last of my Black History Month reads, and was also the Appointment with Agatha side read for February. Chester Himes was an African American novelist whose novels included the Harlem Detectives series, featuring two black police officers, Gravedigger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson.

This book has a definite noir flavor, and is also completely bonkers. It starts off with a bang, and continues to explode periodically throughout the entire experience. Non-stop action from start to finish, with a lot of twists and turns, and some extremely unexpected murders along the way. It’s an extremely violent book.

On my GR group, it has had a bit of a polarizing effect. There are several people who really liked it, but others who DNF’d early on because they couldn’t connect to the story or style. I’m in sort of middling position – I liked it, but it was really violent. Himes certainly did surprise me several times. I think it’s unlikely that I’ll continue with the series, even though I found it to be worth reading as an example of early crime fiction written by a Black author.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.