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Books for Guys


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How do we encourage more reading in young men? It might be no more complicated than pointing them toward books that describe situations and characters with whom they can identify, or which offer an aura of excitement and adventure along with solid literary content.

Authors of “street literature” have won wide acclaim in recent years for their naturalistic portrayals of urban life, and some have found themselves included in the literary canon. Under discussion will be the work of Chester Himes, Walter Mosley, and George Pelecanos.

Led by: Robert E. Skinner
Date: April 7, 2010

Published in: Education
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Books for Guys

  1. 1. Encouraging young men to read
  2. 2. Chester Himes • Themes – The inherent corruption of institutions (government and church) – Harlem as a symbolic locus of African- American life – Corruption of African-Americans by white outsiders – Lust inevitably leads to destruction
  3. 3. Chester Himes • The Harlem Domestic Series – A Rage in Harlem (1957) – The Real Cool Killers (1959) – The Crazy Kill (1959) – The Big Gold Dream (1960) – All Shot Up (1960) – The Heat’s On (1966) – Cotton Comes to Harlem (1965) – Blind Man with a Pistol (1979)
  4. 4. Chester Himes • A Rage in Harlem (1957) – A gang of con men swindle a naïve hearse driver by convincing him they can “raise” $10 notes into hundreds in a special oven.
  5. 5. Chester Himes • The Real Cool Killers (1959) – A white man is shot down in Harlem and the alleged perpetrator is kidnapped by a gang of teenagers dressed up as Arabs. Meanwhile Coffin Ed, suspended over an accidental shooting searches for his teenaged daughter, unaware that she is a member of the teen “Arabs.”
  6. 6. Chester Himes • The Crazy Kill (1959) – During a wake for a distinguished Harlemite, a man is discovered stabbed to death, lying in a basket of bread in front of an A & P store. The dead man is brother to the wife of a charismatic gambler. Meanwhile a storefront preacher accuses the wife adultery. But with whom?
  7. 7. Chester Himes The Harlem Domestic Series – The Big Gold Dream (1960) – A domestic worker comes home from a religious street demonstration to find all her furniture gone and her shiftless boyfriend missing. Coffin Ed and Grave Digger follow a tangled thread to a hoard of missing money.
  8. 8. Chester Himes • All Shot Up (1960) – A series of bizarre deaths and the kidnapping of a powerful Harlem politician leads the detectives on the hunt for mysterious killers and an embezzled political war chest.
  9. 9. Chester Himes • The Heat’s On (1966) – A white gang leader, a black conjure woman, and Coffin Ed and Grave Digger all search for missing heroin while an albino giant dyes himself purple to elude a killer.
  10. 10. Chester Himes • Cotton Comes to Harlem (1965) – – Two con men, one posing as a preacher and another posing as a southern “colonel” race Coffin Ed and Grave Digger to a bale of cotton containing $84,000 bilked from Harlemites who think they’re returning to Africa.
  11. 11. Chester Himes • Blind Man with a Pistol (1979) – Three different groups of marchers set off a violent riot in Harlem as Coffin Ed and Grave Digger search for the perpetrator of several homosexual murders.
  12. 12. Chester Himes • Stand Alone – Run Man Run (1966) – • A young black restaurant worker witnesses the execution of several other black men by a white policeman, and spends the rest of the novel trying to prevent the killer from shutting him up. – The Collected Stories of Chester Himes (1991)
  13. 13. George Pelecanos
  14. 14. George Pelecanos Themes: • Tests of loyalty between friends on different roads • The power of self-redemption • Importance of taking responsibility for your self and others • The power of bonds between fathers and sons
  15. 15. George Pelecanos • The Marcus Clay/Dimitri Karras Cycle – The Big Blowdown (1996) – Washington D. C. in the 1950s – King Suckerman (1997) - Washington in the 1960s/ode to the Blaxploitation film – The Sweet Forever (1998) – Summer of the riots – Shame the Devil (2000) – Dimitri Karras gets straight
  16. 16. George Pelecanos • The Derek Strange Cycle – Right as Rain (2001) – Hell to Pay (2002) – Soul Circus (2003) – Hard Revolution (2004) – Derek’s beginnings as a street cop during the 1970s
  17. 17. George Pelecanos • Stand Alone Novels – Drama City (2005) – The Night Gardener (2006) – The Turnaround (2008) – The Way Home (2009)
  18. 18. Walter Mosley
  19. 19. Walter Mosley Themes: • The Easy Rawlins Series – Determination in the quest of a goal – Loyalty to friends – Stoicism in the face of adversity – Importance of a stable home and family
  20. 20. Walter Mosley • The Easy Rawlins Series – Devil in a Blue Dress (1990) – Red Death (1991) – White Butterfly (1992) – Black Betty (1994) George Pelecaos – A Little Yellow Dog (1996) – Gone Fishin’ (1997) – Six Easy Pieces (2002) – Bad Boy Brawly Brown (2002) – Little Scarlet (2004) – Cinnamon Kiss (2005) – Blonde Faith (2007)
  21. 21. Walter Mosley Themes: • The Fearless Jones/Paris Minton Series – Importance of search for knowledge – Sense of community – Learning is it own reward
  22. 22. Walter Mosley • The Fearless Jones/Paris Minton Series – Fearless Jones (2001) – Fear Itself (2003) – Fear of the Dark (2005)
  23. 23. Walter Mosley • The Socrates Fortlow Series – Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned (1998) – Walkin’ the Dog (1999) – The Right Mistake (2008) • Themes: – Search for redemption – Dignity inherent in hard work – Passing on hard-won knowledge to younger generations