The Collected Stories of Chester Himes Summary

Chester Himes


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Until The Collected Stories of Chester Himes was published, Himes’s writings in this genre were largely unknown and difficult to find. Thus, his achievements in this field suffered the kind of neglect that plagued Himes throughout most of his life. It is difficult to account for this neglect. The market for the short story peaked in the 1930’s and 1940’s, and as his stories were picked up by leading magazines, he would seem a prime candidate for anthologizing and collecting. Yet he gained less exposure than most writers of the period, many of whom are still celebrated for limited production. Himes published thirty-four major stories between 1934 and 1948, but he was ignored. In comparison, J. D. Salinger had gained a national reputation by 1953 on the basis of nine stories.

The easy explanation for this disregard would be to conclude that it was racially motivated. Yet many other black writers found print during this time, and some, such as Countée Cullen, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and Gwendolyn Brooks, had national followings. Himes, of course, was sometimes strident, but he was certainly not alone in this. Still, the short story has been a form for which black writers in general have achieved little recognition, even during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920’s and the Black Power movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s. Even after Himes’s detective novels gained wide circulation, his stories remained unappreciated.


(The entire section is 505 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Fabre, Michel, et al. “Chester Himes: An Annotated Primary and Secondary Bibliography.” MELUS 20, no. 3 (Fall, 1995): 137.

Fabre, Michel, and Robert Skinner, eds. Conversations with Chester Himes. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1995.

Himes, Chester. The Autobiography of Chester Himes. 2 vols. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1972-1976.

Lundquist, James. Chester Himes. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1976.

Margolies, Edward. “Chester Himes’s Black Comedy: The Genre Is the Message.” In Which Way Did He Go? The Private Eye in Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Chester Himes, and Ross Macdonald. New York: Holmes & Meier, 1982.

Margolies, Edward. “Race and Sex: The Novels of Chester Himes.” In Native Sons: A Critical Study of Twentieth-Century Negro American Authors. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1968.

Margolies, Edward, and Michael Fabre. The Several Lives of Chester Himes. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1997.

Milliken, Stephen. Chester Himes: A Critical Appraisal. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1976.

Sallis, James. Chester Himes: A Life. New York: Walker, 2000.

Sallis, James. Difficult Lives: Jim Thompson, David Goodis, Chester Himes. New York: Gryphon, 1993.

Soitos, Stephen F. The Blues Detective: A Study of African-American Detective Fiction. Amherst: University Press of Massachusetts, 1996.