#Review A Rage In Harlem by Chester Himes #ModernClassics #Iconic #DiverseLiterature @PenguinUKBooks

A Rage In Harlem by Chester Himes
A dark and witty work of hardboiled detective fiction set in the mean streets of New York, Chester Himes’s A Rage in Harlem includes an introduction by Luc Sante in Penguin Modern Classics.

Jackson’s woman has found him a foolproof way to make money – a technique for turning ten dollar bills into hundreds. But when the scheme somehow fails, Jackson is left broke, wanted by the police and desperately racing to get back both his money and his loving Imabelle. The first of Chester Himes’s novels to feature the hardboiled Harlem detectives ‘Coffin’ Ed Johnson and ‘Grave Digger’ Jones, A Rage in Harlem has swagger, brutal humour, lurid violence, a hearse loaded with gold and a conman dressed as a Sister of Mercy.

My review:

I am a huge fan of Penguin modern classics, I love the glimpse into a world of literature long before I was born. This time it was the turn of Chester Himes and his novel released in 1957. So here goes, my thoughts on, A Rage In Harlem…..

Firstly, I should state that the writing, dialogue and setting make this novel exceptionally iconic. The plot is intriguing, and you never fully know where the author is going to take it. Or what new fascinating characters will be drawn into the storyline.

The novel opens with Jackson, whom is desperately in love with his girlfriend Imabelle. So much so, he is willing to risk breaking the law, to give her everything she requires. The criminal endeavour is clever. However, the members carrying out the act, not so much! The idea is to ‘launder’ or ‘cook’ $10 notes effectively changing them into $100 notes. Making the gang rich beyond their wildest imagination.
It doesn’t go to plan and Jackson is left staring at the long face of the law; in the shape of a marshal.

“Let this be a lesson Jackson, crime doesn’t pay” – Marshal

Having been ripped off by the marshal to the tune of $200 and stealing from his employer Mr Hh Exodus Clay the undertaker. Jackson has himself, in a whole world of bother. Not only that, Imabelle is missing…….

There are a variety of background characters that are added into scenes. They add to the depth of the novel and create an insight into life in Harlem, in the era. There is Reverend Gaines, trying to do his best to help the struggling local community. Abie the Jew, whom Jackson plays dice with. But it isn’t them who Jackson turns to in his desperate hour of need. It is his twin brother Goldy!

‘There were pictures of three colored men wanted in Mississippi for murder. That meant they had killed a white man because killing a colored man wasn’t considered murder in Mississippi’

There is a strong theme of racial injustice and mistreatment. I think, this is done to highlight the truth of the situation. Sometimes with specific novels, you have to know when to separate the fact from the fiction. Chester Himes created a fictional plot and fictional characters. But the facts of the societal situations that created the injustice are laid bare. It is for the individual reader to interpret Himes’s intentions.

‘Colored folks in Harlem didn’t want to get caught by the police whether they had done anything or not’

The plot develops, and we learn of a local con involving a gold mine. Enter Harlem cops ‘Coffin’ Ed Johnson and ‘Grave Digger’ Jones. No nonsense, tough cops! Then the story and twists in the tale really begin to flourish……..

Chester Himes
Chester Himes (1909-1984) was born in Jefferson City, Missouri and grew up in Cleveland. Aged 19 he was arrested for armed robbery and sentenced to 20 to 25 years in jail. In jail he began to write short stories, some of which were published in Esquire. Upon release he took a variety of jobs from working in a California shipyard to journalism to script-writing while continuing to write fiction. He later moved to Paris where he was commissioned by La Série Noire to write the first of his Harlem detective novels, A Rage in Harlem, which won the 1957 Grand Prix du Roman Policier, and was adapted into a 1991 film starring Forest Whitaker and Danny Glover.

Iconic Book characters: Admiration, aspirations and infatuation! All time Favourites

It occurred to me lately whilst reviewing a book, how some characters can be so iconic they get stuck in your head. They can cause a wide variety of emotions such as admiration, desire or even out & out hatred! I noticed that: admire them, wannabe them or down right love them seemed to be very popular topics amongst readers.

It covers characters in all the Genres and even real people in non-fiction, after all if the autobiography/ memoir doesn’t bring the person to life……….what will? I’ve often seen popular characters mentioned from the Mr Darcy to the Christian greys of female admiration. With some novels like George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones you could debate which ones you love/hate/admire/relate to into the small hours! After all who doesn’t want to be Daenerys Targaryen aka the mother of dragons!!!

It’s not just women readers or female characters either. I noticed that novels, that are aimed at male readers (I am huge fan of this genre also!) often feature macho characters or male characters with superior intellect. The female characters of Game of Thrones are also very diverse yet they are all overtly beautiful etc. Melisandre is my husband’s favourite lol



One thing I absolutely love about this, is you can admire people from all walks of life and throughout any era in history. When I started this blog, I immediately named it after Anne Bonny the female pirate. Due to me childhood love for Treasure island! Anyway here are some of my other favourites let me know what you think?

(and I would love to hear the favourites of other people on comments on fb, twitter or the blog itself)

Here goes, in no particular order:


1) Ezekiel ‘easy’ Rawlins – Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlins series – Cool Character.

Easy Rawlins is a WW2 veteran turned private eye. The novels start in 1950’s LA. What I love about Easy is that everything about him, from his name, dialogue, attitude etc is just so cool! I think he’s one of thee most iconic characters I’ve ever read.


2) Cersei Lannister -George RR Martin – Game of Thrones – evil genius Character

If I had to pick a favourite Game of Thrones character………surprisingly mine would be…..Cersei! I love her! I know she is mean, nasty, vicious and an all out book bitch! But I love her! I loved her in the books & I love the character played out by Lena Headey in the TV series too.


3) Kunta Kinte – Alex Haley – Roots –

When I first read roots by Alex Haley I found it to be heart breaking reading. I couldn’t stop talking about the novel, so much so that my husband got the new version of the TV series to watch himself. Kunta Kinte is incredibly moving, in that he was a real person. Captured as a young man, forced into a harsh life of slavery. This is an incredible real of an even more incredible person. I’m not sure if iconic is the right wording but I simply feel this will be one persons life story……..I will never forget!


4) Leo Demidov – Tom Rob Smith – Child 44 trilogy – Heart throb Character

Wow! Don’t even know where to start! Lets just say that for me personally…………..before there was Ross Poldark……….there was Leo! I’d like to be able to shrug it off as a Tom Hardy thing, but it really isn’t. I read the entire trilogy in a weekend and have only recently seen the movie! I was absolutely hooked on Leo. I was all set to pack my bags for communist Russia lol Even now, with all the books I’ve read recently………….Sadly no one has ever compared to Leo 😦


5) Anne Bonny –

Slightly cheating, as she’s not a book character, she was a real life female pirate! Black sails the TV series loosely based around Treasure Island, has adapted her character & other real life Pirates into their series!  ‘AHAR ME HEARTIES’

Please le me know your favourites
Loves, hate, icons, memorable, factual, fiction, your Top 5!  🙂