Cover image for Chester Himes
Chester Himes
Wilson, M. L. (Matthew Lawrence), 1960-
Publication Information:
New York : Chelsea House, [1988]

Physical Description:
111 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.
A biography of the black novelist renowned for his series of detective stories.
General Note:
Includes index.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3515.I713 Z93 1988 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



A biography of the black novelist renowned for his series of detective stories.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Biographies of two twentieth-century black writers, profusely illustrated with photographs, introduce the men, their work, and their involvement in the issues of their times. The Johnson volume is pedestrian in style, dully chronicling one event after another, with little sense of Johnson's personality or inner conflicts. Nevertheless, his life is a fascinating one: born of educated, prosperous parents, Johnson worked as a lawyer, a school principal, and a diplomat as well as a writer and a political activist. Always concerned about the conditions of blacks during a time of hardening racism, he was actively involved with the NAACP for 14 years. Readers will also be interested in the description of the Harlem Renaissance and of Johnson's achievements in the arts, including his writing, his anthologies of poetry and spirituals, and especially his ``Lift Every Voice and Sing,'' which is regarded as the black national anthem. The Himes volume is livelier, not only because Himes led a highly dramatic life (he began writing during a seven-year prison term for armed robbery, suffered several periods of drug and alcohol abuse, had various love affairs, spent many years abroad, and was part of the expatriate group in Paris in the 1950s), but also because Wilson tries to relate that life to Himes' grim, violent stories, which grew out of his sense of his people's oppression and his own anger. Wilson discusses this protest fiction and also Himes' detective stories in which a tough black duo fight crime in the harshness and brutality of Harlem. Both biographies include contemporary photographs of people and places, a chronology, index, and very brief bibliography; but there is no documentation. Gr. 9-12. HR.

School Library Journal Review

Gr 9-12 From a ``pain-filled childhood,'' ``abortive academic career,'' ``short-lived crime spree,'' and seven-year prison term, Himes emerged a protest writer. Although his action-packed, violent novels exposed the tension between the races and revealed his literary talent, American reviewers were often critical. Disheartened by publishing frustrations and racial oppression, Himes went to Europe, joining other expatriate black authors like James Baldwin and Richard Wright. Experimenting with the popular genre of French detective fiction, Himes at last found sporadic success. Nonetheless, he persisted in vividly portraying the plight of the black man in America. The detailed, informative text is supplemented by many black-and-white photographs. Although the explicit language of Himes' novels may be too strong for young adult collections, the life story of this troubled author offers a poignant contrast to often glamorized accounts of American heroes. Gerry Larson, Chewning Junior High School, Durham, N.C. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.