Jesse Robinson wakes from his nightmare to dirty, fitful real life in a Harlem slum.
In 1953, Himes, an important, provocative, yet largely forgotten African American novelist, left America for France in a deep depression over a lifetime of hardship to write this racially conscious roman noir. Himes (If He Hollers, Let Him Go) relates the story of two lonely, angry people in racially troubled McCarthy-era America whose lives intersect briefly in New York, an encounter that results in sex, violence and death. One character is an infertile, divorced white woman named Kriss Cummings (pun intended) who considers black men sexual trophies, of which she has many (" `Kriss is solving the Negro Problem in bed.' "). The other, Jesse Robinson, is a black writer rooming in Harlem who is on the outs with his publisher (his latest work is " `too sordid.... Why don't you write a black success novel?' ") The two, who met previously in Chicago, reconnect to smoke, swear, drink endless amounts of bourbon, and cut each other down. Their oddly sheltered world is one of sexual frustration, racial injustice and total despair. Himes's plot line is deceptively simple; the complex racial and sexual issues raised by this deliberately unshapely narrative are ugly and unresolved. Part of the Old School Books series of reprinted pulp fiction by black authors, the book has a hardboiled style with a racial twist that is both unsettling and addictive: "Black son of a bitch has got to have some means of joining the human race. Old Shakespeare knew. Suppose he'd had Othello kiss the bitch and make up. Would have dehumanized the bastard." (Jan.)