The Discernment of the Reluctant Detective: Chester Himes’s If He Hollers Let Him Go

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Chester Himes, If He Hollers Let Him Go (1945) – detail from UK first edition cover

I’ve been working in earnest on Chester Himes’s 1945 novel If He Hollers Let Him Go over the last few weeks. His first published novel, If He Hollers… is set in WWII Los Angeles, and it focuses on Bob Jones, a black shipyard worker at the fictional Atlas Shipping. We follow Bob over several days as he experiences the complicated racial politics of wartime LA, and specifically the downward spiral of consequences that flow from him talking back to a southern white female colleague who abusively refuses to work alongside him.

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‘A malaise conveyed to the reader’

Edmund_WilsonEdmund Wilson (1895-1972), was a literary critic and essayist who wrote for Vanity Fair, the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books. Wilson made a few contributions to Southern California literary history — as well as editing his university friend F. Scott Fitzgerald’s posthumously published and incomplete Hollywood novel The Last Tycoon, his essay ‘The Boys in the Back Room’ (1941) was a significant early discussion of expatriate California novelists like James M. Cain and Horace McCoy.

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Unstable Identities and Irregular Distances, AKA My First Journal Article

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It’s the nature of academic publishing that after working on something a year ago that briefly took up all of my attention, I almost didn’t notice a couple of months ago when the article was actually published. But since this is officially My First Academic Publication, it’s probably worth acknowledging the milestone. (And of course although I’m being mildly flippant, I’m also quietly proud of what it represents.) Continue reading →

‘…you have to have a place…’

Approaching the end of a summer in which for various reasons I’ve been unable to concentrate on my thesis to the degree I would have liked, I’m excited to be getting back to things tomorrow, and in particular, resuming my research into South (Central) LA.

I thought I’d mark the occasion with a line I encountered during a recent re-reading of Chandler’s The Long Good-bye; it’s an apt epigraph for my thesis, and a good reminder to keep myself grounded in the material, the geographical and the historical, during the moments I’m tempted to fly a little too far into the conceptual.

No matter how smart you think you are, you have to have a place to start from; a name, an address, a neighbourhood, a background, an atmosphere, a point of reference of some sort.