Chester Himes is a name that may not be familiar to everyone, but he was a talented author who deserves more recognition for his contributions to the literary world. Born in Missouri in 1909, Himes was an American novelist and short story writer who is best known for his detective novels set in Harlem. While his written works were quite popular in the 1940s and 1950s, he was not widely recognized as a literary genius during his lifetime. In this blog post, we will explore Himes’ life and work, and why he deserves to be remembered as a great author.
Himes had a difficult upbringing. He was born to a middle-class family, but his father was a strict disciplinarian who reportedly abused him and his brother. When he was just 12 years old, Himes witnessed a group of white boys murder a black youth. This event had a profound impact on him and sparked an interest in race relations that would manifest in his writing throughout his life. After high school, Himes attended Ohio State University but was expelled for a prank that he played. He then moved to Los Angeles, where he worked a variety of odd jobs while trying to make a name for himself as a writer.
Himes’ early works were not very successful, and he struggled financially. However, in 1945, he published his first novel, “If He Hollers Let Him Go,” which was based on his experiences as a black man in a racist society. The book was a critical success and helped establish Himes as an important voice in American literature. He went on to write several detective novels set in Harlem, featuring the black detectives’ Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones. These novels were praised for their vivid descriptions of the Harlem community and their gritty realism.
Himes continued to write throughout the 1960s and 1970s, but his work received less attention. It was not until after his death in 1984 that he began to receive the recognition he deserved. In 1991, a collection of his short stories was published, titled “The Collected Stories of Chester Himes.” This book helped renew interest in Himes’ work and introduced him to a new generation of readers.
Today, Himes is remembered as an important figure in African American literature and a trailblazer for black detective fiction. His works tackled themes of race relations, police brutality, and poverty, and he was unflinching in his portrayal of the hardships faced by black Americans. Himes’ influence can be seen in the works of later writers such as Walter Mosley and Richard Wright, and his legacy is still felt today.
Despite facing numerous obstacles throughout his life, he persevered to become a writer whose works continue to be studied and enjoyed today. His vivid descriptions of black life in America are as relevant today as they were when they were first published, and his legacy serves as an important reminder of the struggles and triumphs of black Americans throughout history. If you have not yet read Himes’ work, I highly recommend that you do so. He is a truly great author who deserves more recognition for his achievements.