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“The Strict Domain of Whitey”

Chester Himes’s Coup
  • Megan E. Abott
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Abstract

Chester Himes’s 1959 crime novel Run Man Run charts a book-long chase between white New York City police detective Matt Walker and black porter Jimmy Johnson, an eyewitness to Walker’s murder of two other porters.1 Walker exhibits the familiar characteristics of hardboiled detectives like Mike Hammer, whose name his echoes. Hard-drinking, angry, embittered and quick to violence, Walker is the white man alone in urban space presented both from his own perspective (to which readers are accustomed) and, far more fully and exceptionally, from the perspective of the black men he terrorizes. He is seen, not just seeing. He is “othered” rather than merely navigating the foreign space of those whom he “others.” The novel begins from Walker’s viewpoint and in the conventional, clipped hardboiled style: “Here it was the twenty-eighth of December and he still wasn’t sober. In fact he was drunker than ever” (7).2 But within a few sentences, the subjective viewpoint shifts and readers are given Walker from the outside: “His lean hawk-shaped face had turned blood-red in the icy wind. His pale blue eyes looked buck wild. He made a terrifying picture, cursing the empty air” (7).

Keywords

Black Woman Black Masculinity Police Detective Black Character Femme Fatale 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 2.
    Chester Himes, Run Man Run (New York: Carroll & Graf, 1995). Hereafter, this work is cited parenthetically in the text.Google Scholar
  2. 9.
    Chester Himes, My Life of Absurdity: The Autobiography of Chester Himes Volume II (Garden City New York: Doubleday, 1976), 102, 105. Hereafter, this work is cited parenthetically in the text.Google Scholar
  3. 10.
    Chester Himes, Conversations with Chester Himes, eds. Michael Fabre and Robert E. Skinner (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1995), 84, 108.Google Scholar
  4. 15.
    Edward Margolies, Native Sons: A Critical Study of Twentieth Century Black American Authors (Philadelphia: J. B. Lipincott, 1968), 69. Hereafter, this work is cited parenthetically in the text.Google Scholar
  5. 16.
    Chester Himes, The Real Cool Killers (New York: Berkley Medallion, 1966), 28–29.Google Scholar
  6. 18.
    George Kennan, “The Sources of Soviet Conduct,” Foreign Affairs 25 (1947): 575.Google Scholar
  7. 20.
    See Andrew Ross, No Respect: Intellectuals and Popular Culture (New York: Routledge, 1989)Google Scholar
  8. and Elaine Tyler May, Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era (New York: Basic Books/HarperCollins, 1988). Hereafter, these works are cited parenthetically in the text.Google Scholar
  9. 23.
    Mary Beth Haralovich, “Sitcoms and Suburbans,” in Private Screenings: Television and the Female Consumer, eds. Lynn Spigel and Denise Mann (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1992): 118.Google Scholar
  10. 25.
    Willfried Feuser, “Prophets of Violence: Chester Himes,” African Literature Today 9 (1978): 60.Google Scholar
  11. 26.
    Quoted in Stephen E Soitos, The Blues Detective: A Study ofAfrican American Detective Fiction (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1996), 156. Hereafter, this work is cited parenthetically in the text.Google Scholar
  12. 28.
    Chester Himes, The Real Cool Killers (New York: Berkley Medallion, 1966). Hereafter, this work is cited parenthetically in the text.Google Scholar
  13. 40.
    Chester Himes, Blind Man with a Pistol (New York: Vintage Press, 1989), 29. Hereafter, this work is cited parenthetically in the text.Google Scholar
  14. 42.
    Robert E. Skinner, Two Guns from Harlem: The Detective Fiction of Chester Himes (Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1989), 22.Google Scholar
  15. 52.
    John M. Reilly, “Chester Himes’ Harlem Tough Guys,” Journal of Popular Culture 9.4 (Spring 1976): 938. Hereafter, this work is cited parenthetically in the text.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Megan E. Abott 2002

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  • Megan E. Abott

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