I’d been meaning to read Chester Himes for a while now (on the recommendation of Ishmael Reed, who cites Himes as a major influence), so I picked up a copy of A Rage in Harlem, the first of his Coffin Ed and Grave Digger detective stories. I was expecting hardboiled crime fiction—and sure, there are elements of it here—but Himes’ 1957 novel was far zanier and more ecstatic than I expected. A Rage in Harlem pops along with wild energy, spinning out into strange directories, donning artful disguises, always on the run. Absolutely loved it. Here’s the blurb:
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.