Pulp Friday: A Rage in Harlem

Today’s Pulp Friday offering is A Rage in Harlem by Chester Himes.

Himes is a difficult author to categorise. He’s wrote a number of excellent, fast paced, darkly humorous crime novels, of which the so-called “Harlem Domestic” series featuring the black police detectives ‘Coffin’ Ed Jones and ‘Grave Digger’ Johnson, are the best known.

He also wrote a large number of short stories, as well as polemical and literary works focusing on his experience of racism in the US.

Born into a poor family in Kansas in 1909, by the age of 19 he’d been sentence to 25 years in jail for armed robbery. He started to write in jail. Upon his parole he made attempts to start a writing career, financing his efforts through a myriad of jobs. But success eluded him until the early fifties when he moved to France, where the translations of his early novels had met with critical acclaim.

A Rage In Harlem was the first of Himes’s seven novels featuring ‘Coffin’ and ‘Grave Digger’, who spent as much time racism in the police force as they did crime in Harlem. The story revolves around a man who scraps together money to pay for an abortion for his girlfriend. Everything goes terribly wrong, however, and she disappears with the funds. Besotted, he enlists the aid of a group of conmen and criminals to go after her.

A Rage in Harlem was filmed in 1991 (starring Forest Whitaker and Gregory Hines) and Cotton Comes to Harlem was made into a movie in 1970.

Panther Crime published this version of Rage in 1969.  No details are provided about who took the glorious cover photo. The back cover is also pretty cool.



2 Responses

  1. I’m a huge crime reader fan and I can’t believe I haven’t taken the time to read this when its considered such a classic. I heard that they just re-issued the audio book with Samuel L. Jackson narrating it — sounds very cool. It’s actually a featured audio book being reviewed next week on The Book Report — I stumbled on the literary AM talk radio show when I was driving thru Miami last year and I’ve been keeping up with the show online. The host, Elaine Charles, is really funny and offers lots of great insight so I’m really interested in this one.

    • Patrice,
      Thanks for stopping by.

      Agree that an audio book of this narrated by Jackson is very cool.

      If you have not read Himes, you should definitely get into him. Unlike a lot of sixties crime fiction which comes across now as a bit dated and didactic, books like A Rage in Harlen still feel fresh and exciting.


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