Re: RARA-AVIS: RE: Street Lit

From: Vincent F. A. Golphin (
Date: 01 Jul 2005

E. Borgers:
  The elitist tone of the message below really troubles me. I don't know what a "professional writer" is compared to what. If someone pays you for the stuff, you are professional. As for "real," that seems equally ambiguous.
  Dashiell Hammet was "real," and he wrote about the seedy side of life that was a part of his experience. Ex-cop writers like Joseph Wambaugh did the same.
  Anyway, authors of "street lit" such as Zane [The Heat Seekers], Teri Woods [True to the Game],Tracy Brown [Chyna Black], or Shannon Holmes [Never Go Home Again] are no different from John Grisham or any number of other authors who write what they know. In fact, Shannon Holmes Bad Girlz sold more than 85,000 copies. That might not mean much in France, but the average U.S. fiction author would pine for such numbers.
  As for Himes, check out his memoir, The Quality of Hurt. He did not see himself as either an expert or a guide to the "black peoples' social life and underworld." He wrote the "Harlem" novels because at that time most Americans associated black with Harlem. That is the same way most cities refer to their Asian cultural districts as "Chinatown."
  Himes was writing about America, even in the Harlem novels. Someone suggested people check out The Priimitive. I agree. The story is not a black story. The tale protrays the conditions of humans in a color-coded world.
  vincent f. a. golphin

"E.Borgers" <> wrote:

>>It seems that I've read somewhere that Hines'
>>fictional Harlem had much more in common with the
>>Cleveland that he had experience with than the real
>>Harlem. Can't remeber where I read that at the
>>moment though.

Two things about Himes. First he was rather educated (University level) and considered himself as a "real" professional writer (proof were his novels before the Harlem cycle). Even if he had some street and prison experience, I cannot see him has a "street writer", mixed in a sub-class with the occasional or
"primitive " writers basing all, or close to all, their fiction on their own street and/or underworld experience, having been themselves often at the outskirts of the law limits. Second: he came only later to crime fiction, and do not forget that he wrote most of his Harlem cycle when he was in Europe (France for the first one), so the real Harlem was really distant. Maybe he choose Harlem just to be sure that foreign readers (published in France first, in Gallimard's Serie Noire, starting in *1958*) understood that the stories were totally immersed in the world of the Blacks. On the other hand IMO it does not matter that his Harlem was fictionalized, the important thing about the cycle was that a Black writer made atypical fiction of quality- even if it was linked to mystery lit. and when compared to it- about certain aspects of the Black people's social life and underworld. Not, once more, naturalistic novels about Blacks.

E.Borgers Hard-Boiled Mysteries

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