Fun Facts Friday: Chester Himes

July 29, 2016

Chester Himes (29 July, 1909 – 12 November, 1984) was a writer known for his series of Harlem detective novels.

Left panel shows two hand prints, handwritten name Chester Himes, and block text "Missouri USA, Moraira." Right panel shows bust of muscular shirtless man with little hair, graying mustache, bare chest, dark skin, holding siamese cat. Italic text is "created by R. Mendorfer & Paco."
By Michael Law – E-mail to,
Public Domain,

Books by Chester Himes*

1)      As a youth, Mr. Himes misbehaved and his mother made him sit out a gunpowder demonstration he was supposed to do with his brother during an assembly. The gunpowder exploded and his brother was refused treatment due to the Jim Crow laws. That tragedy has profoundly shaped the author’s view on race in America.

2)      In 1928 Mr. Himes was arrested for armed robbery. He was sentenced to 20 to 25 years of hard labor.

3)      Mr. Himes started writing short stores in prison and had them published in national magazines.

4)      He credits writing in prison and being published to earn him respect from the guards, fellow inmates and avoid violence.

5)      In April 1934, Mr. Himes was released on parole. He continued to write while working part time jobs

6)      Mr. Himes met poet, novelist and activist Langston Hughes who helped him with contacts in the literary world.

7)      In the 1940s, Mr. Himes spent time working as a screenwriter in Los Angeles. He was fired when Jack Warner found out an African-American was working on the lot.

8)      In the 1950s Mr. Himes decided to settle in France, where he was popular in literary circles.

9)      Lesley  Packard became his second wife, even though they faced many obstacles as a mixed race couple, their loved prevailed.

10)   In 1958 he won France’s Grand Prix de Littérature Policière.

Books by Chester Himes*

Zohar — Man of la Book
*Ama­zon links point to an affil­i­ate account

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