BLACK HISTORY MONTH SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW – VALJEANNE JEFFERS

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what does it mean to you to be a black writer in this society?
As a young girl I wrote stories and poetry. But life got in the way, and I didn’t return to writing until I was in my forties. Discovering Octavia Butler was the catalyst for my taking the journey into writing fiction. For me, being a black writer means I have two responsibilies. I have to hold up a mirror to American society, to the world, to make folks think about the problems we’re facing, and offer solutions. I am the conscience of my nation. The second one is to write a story that grips my readers and holds on tight, one that gives them everything they want, and leaves them wanting more.
Do you write full time, or do you have another full-time job? What is your educational background?
I write everyday, but I also work as a tutor/teacher. I have an MA in Psychology, which actually helps me with character development.
How do you best meet the challenge of juggling your day job (if applicable) and/or your family, against your writing career?
I’m fortunate enough to be able to set my own work hours, so I can take off if I need to attend a CON or meet a deadline.
What genre(s) do you write in, is there a favorite and which do you feel have had the most important impact on the black community? Traditionally, in mainstream media, blacks have been vastly marginalized in Speculative Fiction and fiction in general, how do you see that changing and what impact will your work have on making those changes?
I’ve written both fiction and nonfiction. I actually wrote a nonfiction book, The Story of Eve, which was never published (except as articles). But Speculative fiction (horror, fantasy, and science fiction) is my favorite genre. We stand in the midst of a Black SF/Fantasy Renaissance: black and brown folks are making huge strides in film, art, and writing. As a black female writer I am part of this movement, and writing is, in of itself, a form of political resistance.
Who are some of the major writing influences who most inspired you?
There are so many! I won’t try to list them all, but Octavia Butler, N.K. Jemison and Brandon Massey are huge influences, as well as: Tananarive Due, B. Sharise Moore, Quinton Veal, Balogun Ojetade, and Milton Davis.
Do you listen to music when you’re creating? If so, what type?
I listen to Blues, Jazz, R&B, Rock and everything in between. It just depends on what mood I’m in and what I’m writing. King Britt, for example, is my best inspiration when I’m creating a very visual and/or romantic scene.
How long does it usually take you to complete work on a book?
It varies; anywhere from a year to two years. I took two years to finish Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective III: The Case of the Vanishing Child. But, I write stories while I’m working on novels, too.
What does your writing schedule look like and how many hours a day do you write?
I don’t have a set schedule, but when I’m writing (especially if I’m in the “zone”) I may go as long as six to eight hours.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I drink too much coffee and smoke too many cigarettes!
How many books have you written?
I have written ten books. This includes: The Story of Eve, my  Immortal and Mona: Livelong series (six books), Voyage of Dreams, Colony: Ascension: An Erotic Space Opera, and The Switch II: Clockwork (includes books I and II). I also co-edited, with Quinton Veal, Scierogenous: An Anthology of Erotic Science Fiction and Fantasy, Volumes I and II.
As a black author, do you feel a personal responsibility to the black community to create content which not only entertains, but also uplifts and educates?
As I’ve said earlier, writing is a form of resistance. For black folks reading novels and stories in which they are heriones and heros is both uplifiting and empowering. As black writers, we are quintessential to this journey. No one can tell our stories the way we can. I’d like to share something I wrote several years ago, and it’s still relevant today. In the 21th century there are very still few characters like us, and out of this small pool many are post-modern “Step-and Fetchits” (stereotypes). This is why speculative fiction is so important. This genre helps us to see outside reality, to say: what if? It helps us to imagine and create spectacular, wondrous realms, step back and find the beauty and wisdom there, and then transform our own space. We need to dream, and we need our writers to help us to dream. Even if – especially if – these dreams are of fantastic, imaginary creatures and happenings. We need this because dreaming can be an escape. One should never underestimate the power of escape. Imagine a child living in squalor, and escaping into pages of a novel. Or a slave reading by lamplight and envisioning her freedom. Or a man working as a sharecropper, and at sunset telling his story with harmonica. We all need to escape, at least sometimes, into the worlds of those who dream like us, who understand us; who look like us. To paraphrase B.B. King, we need authors who get us where we live. Second of all dreaming helps us to change. If you can dream it, you can do it. You can move yourself and your corner of life forward.
Is there any particular book that you’ve written that you’re most passionate about?
I love my Immortal series, but then I also love my Mona Livelong series. I am passionate about both.
What type of research do you conduct and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
Nonfiction research typically takes longer (for me) than fiction research. But both can take hours or even weeks. When I wrote my essay for Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia Butler, I re-read Wild Seed, took notes, and watched interviews with Ms. Butler etc. It took me around a month to finish my research.
What are some of the best resources you’ve found for research?
It varies. I use the same method I used to complete my MA, which is googling a resource, reading it and then using this resource to find other articles.
What have you found to be the best marketing practices for your books to the black community?
I have found devoted readers on facebook and twitter. But, for my community, going to SF/Fantasy Cons and  author signings works best.
How important is it that black creators work together to encourage, empower and educate the black community through their work?
Collaboration and sharing resources is very important for our community to help us grow.
What does literary success look like to you?
I’m very well known, and I am humbled and honored by this. But I would like expand my audience and reach even more people. Eventually, I’d like to become a full time writer.
What legacy do you want your work to represent and resonate in the black community and the world?
I dearly hope that my legacy will be that I am talented, humanistic author who cares about the black community and the globe, and one is who is not afraid address issues like homelessness, racism, sexism and climate change in her writing, but who can so in a beautifully written and exciting novel or story.
What are some of the upcoming projects you’re working on?
 My co-editor Quinton Veal and I are working with Director Balogun Ojetade to bring my novel The Switch II: Clockwork to the screen, and possibly Scierogenous (as a series). I’m also releasing Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective III: The Case of the Vanishing Child this year.
How can the readers learn more about your work and follow your career?
Readers can visit me: www.vjeffersandqveal.com http://tehotep.wixsite.com/scierogenous and http://tehotep.wixsite.com/immortaliiiaudiobook  

Author’s Biography

Valjeanne Jeffers is a speculative fiction writer, a graduate of Spelman College, and a member of the Horror Writers Association, and the Carolina African American Writers’ Collective. She is the author of ten books, including her Immortal and her Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective series. Valjeanne has been published in numerous anthologies including: Steamfunk!;The Ringing Ear; Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia E. Butler; Fitting In; Sycorax’s Daughters; Black Magic Women, The Bright Empire, and Blerdrotica (in press).Readers can also preview or purchase her novels at: www.vjeffersandqveal.com.

BLACK HISTORY MONTH SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW – BALOGUN OJETADE

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what does it mean to you to be a black writer in this society?
I realized I wanted to be a writer when I was five and vowed to write stories like Wild, Wild West, but with a Black protagonist.  To be a Black writer in this society is the same as being a Black man in this society—there are obstacles to overcome; there is white supremacy, covert and overt racism, and white privilege, but I continue to move forward and I write for a Black audience, although others are welcome to read my novels and watch my films.
Do you write full time, or do you have another full-time job? What is your educational background?
I write full-time.  I also own and direct a martial arts school, teach survival and preparedness classes and camps, and provide divination, counseling and other spiritual services. I attended Howard University as a Finance Major then transferred to Columbia College where I majored in film, with a concentration in screenwriting.
How do you best meet the challenge of juggling your day job (if applicable) and/or your family, against your writing career?
Since I work for myself, I set my own schedule.  I get up early and write, then drop my two youngest children at school.  Then I come home and write some more until my wife awakens and we spend time together until she leaves for her business.  I then write until I go to my martial arts school or have to meet with a client.  When the children come home, I spend some time with them and then spend time with my wife when she gets home.  Then I go to bed.  Lather, Rinse, Repeat.
What genre(s) do you write in, is there a favorite and which do you feel have had the most important impact on the black community? Traditionally, in mainstream media, blacks have been vastly marginalized in Speculative Fiction and fiction in general, how do you see that changing and what impact will your work have on making those changes?
I write science fiction, fantasy, horror, romance, comedy and action-adventure. My favorite genre to write is horror and most of my speculative fiction includes some elements of horror. I think my work in Steamfunk has had the most important impact on the Black community.  I see us creating more speculative work in film and television. That is going to be the key to getting more and more Black Speculative fiction to the masses. Starting late last year, I returned fully to my screenwriting and filmmaking roots, so I am confident my work will be seen on the big and small screens and will inspire more to create Black Speculative Fiction.
Who are some of the major writing influences who most inspired you?
Charles Saunders, Henry Dumas and Donald Goines.
Do you listen to music when you’re creating? If so, what type?
No, I do not. I listen to ASMR audios while I write—tapping and brushing sounds relax me and help me to create.
How long does it usually take you to complete work on a book?
A novel takes me about 60 days to write the first draft.
What does your writing schedule look like and how many hours a day do you write?
I write off and on from 6am until 6pm on days I don’t see clients/students for spiritual work. I write a total of eight or nine hours a day.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Listening to ASMR. I also say my dialogue out loud if no one is home.
How many books have you written?
34. Fiction and non-fiction.
As a black author, do you feel a personal responsibility to the black community to create content which not only entertains, but also uplifts and educates?
No. I just write what I enjoy. However, since I work to uplift and educate my people in everything else I do, it translates into, and is intrinsic to, my writing.
Is there any particular book that you’ve written that you’re most passionate about?
Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman and the as yet unreleased Granma’s Hand.
What type of research do you conduct and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I conduct several months of research before I write most of my books and I conduct small research throughout the writing.
What are some of the best resources you’ve found for research?
Thesauruses, Questia and Bio-Med Central. I also speak to my teachers in Ifa back in Nigeria, to my wife, a priest of Ifa and owner of a botanica who travels to Africa every six months, to students and friends that are mathematicians, scientists, computer programmers, professional basketball players and other spheres of knowledge, so my writing is as authentic as possible.
What have you found to be the best marketing practices for your books to the black community?
Combining a topic of interest with a panel discussion and the sale of books. My programs, From the Black Panthers to the Black Panther and Reading for Warriors have been huge successes.
How important is it that black creators work together to encourage, empower and educate the black community through their work?
It is very important. Collaboration brings about creativity and work that is fun, original and creative.
What does literary success look like to you?
Being able to live comfortably just from selling books.
What legacy do you want your work to represent and resonate in the black community and the world?
I want my books, films and television work to show that African/Diasporan spirituality, martial arts, romance, heroes and villains are cool, meaningful, and make for great stories and storytelling.
What are some of the upcoming projects you’re working on?
I am working on several screenplays and a teleplay. I have completed a few screenplays that will be shopped later this year and an award-winning screenplay I co-wrote with Milton Davis that is getting a lot of attention and making buzz in the film industry.
How can the readers learn more about your work and follow your career?
You can follow my career on chroniclesofharriet.com, on Facebook (facebook.com/Afrikan.Martial.Arts) and Instagram (@balogun_ojetade).

As  a former combat veteran (MOS: 18F), Master and Technical Director of the Afrikan Martial Arts Institute and Co-Chair of the Urban Survival and Preparedness Institute, Balogun Ojetade is the author of the bestselling non-fiction books Afrikan Martial Arts: Discovering the Warrior Within, The Afrikan Warriors Bible, Surviving the Urban Apocalypse, The Urban Self Defense Manual, The Young Afrikan Warriors’ Guide to Defeating Bullies & Trolls, Never Unarmed: The Afrikan Warriors’ Guide to Improvised Weapons, Ofo Ase: 365 Daily Affirmations to Awaken the Afrikan Warrior Within, Ori: The Afrikan Warriors’ Mindset, Ogun Ye! Protecting the Afrikan Family and Community, Kori O: Protecting Afrikan Children from Violence & Sexual Abuse, and SKG: The Black Man & Woman’s Guide to Sticks, Knives and Guns.

He is one of the leading authorities on Afrofuturism and Afroretroism—film, fashion or fiction that combines African and/or African American culture with a blend of “retro” styles and futuristic technology, in order to explore the themes of tension between past and future and between the alienating and empowering effects of technology and on Creative Resistance. He writes about Afrofuturism/Afroretroism—Sword & Soul, Rococoa, Steamfunk and Dieselfunk at http://chroniclesofharriet.com/.

He is author of twenty-five novels and gamebooks – MOSES: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (Books 1 & 2); The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman: Freedonia; Redeemer; Once Upon A Time In Afrika; Fist of Africa; A Single Link; Wrath of the Siafu; The Scythe; The Keys; Redeemer: The Cross Chronicles; Beneath the Shining Jewel; Q-T-Pies: The Savannah Swan Files (Book 0) and A Haunting in the SWATS: The Savannah Swan Files (Book 1); Siafu Saves the World; Siafu vs. The Horde; Dembo’s Ditty; The Beatdown; Initiate 16; Gunsmoke Blues; Malik: Confessions of a Black Identity Extremist; Malik: Confessions of a Black Identity Extremist 2: Enemy of the State; Granma’s Hand; Kill City and Steamfunkateers: The Steamfunk Role Playing Game and the Steamfunkateers adventure, The Haunting of the House of Crum—contributing co-editor of three anthologies: Ki: Khanga: The Anthology, Steamfunk and Dieselfunk and contributing editor of the Rococoa anthology and Black Power: The Superhero Anthology.

He is also the creator and author of the Afrofuturistic manga series, Jagunjagun Lewa (Pretty Warrior) and author/co-creator of the Ice Cold Carter photo-graphic novel series.

Finally, he is co-author of the award winning screenplay, Ngolo and co-creator of Ki Khanga: The Sword and Soul Role-Playing Game, both with author Milton Davis.

Reach him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Afrikan.Martial.Arts and on Instagram at @balogun_ojetade and @afrikanmartialarts. Find his books on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Balogun-Ojetade/e/B00AVEA7SU.

THE BEST IS YET TO COME

AVAILABLE NOW!

Codename: Knight Ranger Official Blog Tour Master Link List

Codename Knight Ranger Official Blog Tour Banner

KNIGHT RANGER POSTER ART 2My blog tour in support of Codename: Knight Ranger launches Monday, 2 November 2015! Check out Seventh Star’s announcement here. This blog post will serve as the master list, and I’ll add live links to the each post as soon as I know they’ve gone up.

It’s going to be an exciting week and I hope you come back frequently to check it out.  I want to thank all of the book bloggers who volunteered to be a part of the fun.

The complete blog tour is as listed:

Monday, 2 November 2015
On Cloud Eight and a Half (Guest Post)

Tuesday, 3 November 2015
Author Interview with Pete Welmerink

Wednesday, 4 November 2015
Armand Rosamilia Guest Post
RJ Sullivan Top 5 Post
Book In The Bag Author Interview/Guest Post

Thursday, 5 November 2015
Darkling Delights Author Interview

Friday, 6 November 2015
Beauty in Ruins: Science vs Superstition, Military vs Monsters? (Guest Blog)
Sheila’s Blog (Guest Blog)
Bee’s Knees Reviews

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Please check in regularly to see the list fill in, and leave a comment below as the tour progresses and to let me know what you think.

Thanks & remember TBIYTC!!!

SPOTLIGHT ON AFRICAN AMERICAN AUTHOR DONALD GOINES

DONALD GOINESAfrican American author, Donald Goines was born in Detroit, Michigan on December 15, 1936. He came from a middle-class background, where his parents ran a laundry business. According to stories told to him by his mother—Myrtle Goines—the family was descended from a sexual encounter between Jefferson Davis and a slave. At age 15, Goines lied about his age in order to join the Air Force, where he fought in the Korean War. During his service, Goines developed a heroin addiction which he continued after his being honorably discharged from the military during the mid-1950’s. In order to support his addiction Goines committed multiple crimes, including pimping and theft, and was sent to prison several times. While serving time in Michigan’s Jackson Penitentiary, he began writing. He initially attempted to write westerns, but decided to write urban fiction after reading Iceberg Slim’s autobiography “Pimp: The Story of My Life”.

Goines continued to write novels at a fast-tracked pace to support his drug addictions, with some books taking only a month to complete. His sister Joan Goines Coney later stated that Goines wrote at such an accelerated pace in order to avoid committing more crimes and based many of the characters in his books on people he knew in real life.
In 1974 Goines published Crime Partners, the first book in the Kenyatta series under the pseudonym, “Al C. Clark”. Holloway House’s chief executive Bentley Morriss requested that Goines publish the book under a pseudonym in order to avoid having the sales of Goines’ work suffer due to too many books releasing at once. The book dealt with an anti-hero character named after Jomo Kenyatta that ran a Black Panther-esque organization to clear the ghetto of crime. In his book The Low Road, Eddie B. Allen remarked that the series was a departure from some of Goines’ other works, with the character of Kenyatta symbolizing a sense of liberation for Goines.

“Inner City Hoodlum”, which Goines had finished before his death, was published posthumously in 1975. The story, set in Los Angeles, was about “smack”, money and murder.
On October 21, 1974 Goines and his common-law wife were discovered dead in their Detroit apartment. The police had received an anonymous phone call earlier that evening and responded, discovering Goines in the living room of the apartment and his common-law wife Shirley Sailor’s body in the kitchen. Both Goines and Sailor had sustained multiple gunshot wounds to the chest and head. The identity of the killer or killers is unknown, as is the reason behind the murders. Popular theories involve Goines being murdered due to his basing several of his characters on real life criminals as well as the theory that Goines was killed due to his being in debt over drugs.
Goines was later buried with his mother placing several of his books in his coffin.

DOPEFIEND
PERSONAL NOTE:

The highest selling genre among African Americans is Urban Fiction or Urban Lit. As a fan of Goines’ work, he was the first author in this genre I read. His work(s) have helped to shape and influence many of today’s Urban Fiction authors. It is my shared opinion that Donald Goines’ is the quintessential “Father” of Urban Fiction/Urban Lit.

 

BIBLIIOGRAPHY

Kenyatta series
• Crime Partners (1974) [as Al C. Clark]
• Death List (1974) [as Al C. Clark]
• Kenyatta’s Escape (1974) [as Al C. Clark]
• Kenyatta’s Last Hit (1975) [as Al C. Clark]

STANDALONE NOVELS

Dopefiend (1971)
Whoreson (1972)
Black Gangster (1972)
Street Players (1973)
White Man’s Justice, Black Man’s Grief (1973)
Black Girl Lost (1974)
Eldorado Red (1974)
Swamp Man (1974)
Never Die Alone (1974)
Cry Revenge (1974) [as Al C. Clark]
Daddy Cool (1974)
Inner City Hoodlum (1975)

MUSICAL INFLUENCES
Goines’ writing has had an impact upon several people, with several rappers inserting mentions of Goines and his writing into their lyrics. In his 1996 song “Tradin’ War Stories”, rapper 2Pac writes “Machiavelli was my tutor, Donald Goines my father figure”. Ludacris mentions Goines in his 2006 song “Eyebrows Down”. AZ compares himself to Donald Goines’ work in “Rather Unique,” with the line, “Your mind’s boggled but I’m as deep as Donald Goines’ novels.” Nas also named the song “Black Girl Lost” on his sophomore album It Was Written after the book by Goines. Goines’ books are also utilized in several prison literacy programs and his novel “Dopefiend” has been taught in a Rutgers University class.

FILMS
Some of Goines’ works have been adapted into film. His book “Crime Partners” was turned into a 2001 film starring Ice-T, Snoop Dogg, and Ja Rule, and in 2004 his book “Never Die Alone” was also released as a film starring DMX.

GRAPHIC NOVEL
In 2006, a graphic novel adaptation of the book “Daddy Cool” was released by Holloway House.

SPOTLIGHT ON AFRICAN AMERICAN AUTHOR CHESTER HIMES

CHESTER HIMESChester Bomar Himes was an African American writer born in Jefferson City, MS, on July 29, 1909. His parents were to Joseph Sandy Himes Sr. and Estelle Bomar Himes; his father was a peripatetic black college professor of industrial trades and his mother was a teacher at Scotia Seminary prior to marriage.

At age twelve, Himes’ father began teaching at Branch Normal College (now the University of Arkansas). He and his brother Joseph Jr., were made to sit out a gunpowder demonstration by their mother as punishment for bad behavior. The boys decided to conduct the experiment without adult supervision, which resulted in an explosion that blinded Joseph Jr. The aftermath of this tragedy had a profound effect on how Himes viewed race relations later in life. When Joseph Jr. was rushed to the nearest hospital, he was denied treatment due to his race.

“That one moment in my life hurt me as much as all the others put together,” Himes wrote in The Quality of Hurt:
“I loved my brother. I had never been separated from him and that moment was shocking, shattering, and terrifying….We pulled into the emergency entrance of a white people’s hospital. White clad doctors and attendants appeared. I remember sitting in the back seat with Joe watching the pantomime being enacted in the car’s bright lights. A white man was refusing; my father was pleading. Dejectedly my father turned away; he was crying like a baby. My mother was fumbling in her handbag for a handkerchief; I hoped it was for a pistol.”

A short time later, the family settled in Cleveland, Ohio. His parents’ marriage was an unhappy one which eventually ended in divorce.
Himes attended East High School while in Cleveland. Later, during his time as a freshman at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, he was expelled for playing a prank. He was arrested in 1928 for armed robbery and sent to Ohio Penitentiary. He was sentenced to hard labor for 20 to 25 years.
While in prison, Himes wrote a number of short stories, which were eventually published in national magazines. Later, he would state that his prison writings and publications were a means of earning respect from guards and fellow inmates. It also helped him to avoid personal violence.

Himes’ first stories appeared The Bronzeman magazine starting in 1931. His work later appeared in Esquire magazine in 1934. Of particular note was a story titled, “To What Red Hell”. His debut novel “Cast the First Stone”, dealt with the catastrophic 1930 prison fire Himes witnessed while serving time at Ohio Penitentiary. It was published almost ten years after it was written, most likely due to Himes’ unusually candid treatment—for that time period—of a homosexual relationship. Originally written in the third person, it was rewritten in the first person in a more “hard-boiled” style (which Himes would eventually become famous for) and posthumously republished unabridged in 1998 as “Yesterday Will Make You Cry”.

Himes was transferred to London Prison Farm that same year and in April 1936, was released on parole into his mother’s custody. He continued to write following his prison release, while working part-time jobs. It was during this period that he came into contact with author, Langston Hughes. Hughes facilitated Himes’s contacts with the world of literature and publishing.

In 1936 Himes married Jean Johnson (who he later divorced), Four years later, he moved to Los Angeles, where he worked as a screenwriter and also produced two novels, “If He Hollers Let Him Go” which contains many autobiographical elements — is about a black shipyard worker in Los Angeles during World War II struggling against racism, as well as his own violent reactions to racism. His next novel, “The Lonely Crusade” that charted the experiences of the wave of blacks who were part of the Great Migration. Himes’s novels encompassed many genres including the crime novel/mystery and political polemics, exploring racism in the United States. His work centered on African Americans in general, especially in two books that are concerned with labor relations and African-American workplace issues. He also provided an analysis of the Zoot Suit Riots for The Crisis, the magazine of the NAACP.

Hines screenwriting career came to an abrupt halt Jack Warner of Warner Brothers heard about him and said, “I don’t want no niggers on this lot.”
Himes later wrote in his autobiography:
“Up to the age of thirty-one I had been hurt emotionally, spiritually and physically as much as thirty-one years can bear. I had lived in the South, I had fallen down an elevator shaft, I had been kicked out of college, I had served seven and one half years in prison, I had survived the humiliating last five years of Depression in Cleveland; and still I was entire, complete, functional; my mind was sharp, my reflexes were good, and I was not bitter. But under the mental corrosion of race prejudice in Los Angeles I became bitter and saturated with hate.”

By the 1950s Himes had decided to leave the United States and settled permanently in France. Himes like the country in part due to his popularity in literary circles. While in Paris, Himes’ was the contemporary of the political cartoonist Oliver Harrington and fellow expatriate writers Richard Wright, James Baldwin, and William Gardner Smith.

Himes was most famous for a series of Harlem Detective novels featuring Coffin Ed Johnson and Gravedigger Jones, New York City police detectives in Harlem. The novels feature a mordant emotional timbre and a fatalistic approach to street situations. Funeral homes are often part of the story, and funeral director, H. Exodus Clay is a recurring character in these books.
The titles of the series include “A Rage in Harlem, The Real Cool Killers, The Crazy Kill, All Shot Up, The Big Gold Dream, The Heat’s On, Cotton Comes to Harlem, and Blind Man With A Pistol”; all written between 1957-1969.

COTTON COMES TO HARLEM“Cotton Comes to Harlem”, was made into a movie in 1970, which was set in that time period, rather than the earlier period of the original book. A sequel, “Come Back, Charleston Blue”, was released in 1972, and “For Love of Imabelle” was made into a film under the title “A Rage in Harlem”, in 1991.

It was in Paris in the late 1950s that Chester met his second wife Lesley Himes, née Packard, when she was assigned to interview him. She worked as a journalist for the Herald Tribune, where she wrote her own fashion column, “Monica”. He described Lesley as “Irish-English with blue-gray eyes and very good looking”. In her, he found someone who didn’t judge him for his race and he also admired her courage and resilience.

In 1958 he won France’s Grand Prix de Littérature Policière and a year later, Himes suffered a stroke, which led to Lesley quitting her job so that she could nurse him back to health. She cared for him for the rest of his life, and worked with him as his informal editor and proofreader. After a long engagement, they were married in 1978.

Lesley and Chester faced adversities as a mixed race couple living in that time period however, they were resilient and prevailed. People close to the author recalled his life with Lesley as one filled with unparalleled passion and great humor. Their circle of political colleagues and creative friends included; Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, Malcolm X, Carl Van Vechten, Pablo Picasso, Jean Miotte, Ollie Harrington, Nikki Giovanni and Ishmael Reed. Their Bohemian life in Paris eventually led them to the South of France and finally on to Spain, where they remained until Chester’s death in 1984.

Some within the publishing industry regard Chester Himes as the literary equal of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. Ishmael Reed has said, “[Himes] taught me the difference between a black detective and Sherlock Holmes” and it would be more than 30 years until another Black mystery writer, Walter Mosley and his Easy Rawlins and Mouse series, had even a similar effect.

In 1996, his widow Lesley Himes went to New York to work with Ed Margolies on the first biographical treatment of Himes’s life, entitled The Several Lives of Chester Himes, by long-time Himes scholars Edward Margolies and Michel Fabre, published in 1997 by University Press of Mississippi. Later, novelist and Himes scholar James Sallis published a more deeply detailed biography of Himes called “Chester Himes: A Life (2000)”.

A detailed examination of Himes’s writing and writings about him can be found in “Chester Himes: An Annotated Primary and Secondary Bibliography” compiled by Michel Fabre, Robert E. Skinner, and Lester Sullivan (Greenwood Press, 1992).

Himes was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.

In May 2011, Penguin Modern Classics in London republished five of Himes’ detective novels from the Harlem Cycle.

On a personal note:

Chester Himes, along with Walter Moseley and Robert B. Parker were HUGE influences on my writing in terms of both content and style. I owe these men a great debt and I honestly don’t think that I’d be a writer today, had I not experienced reading their work(s).

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

If He Hollers Let Him Go, (1945)
Lonely Crusade, (1947)
Cast the First Stone, (1952)
The Third Generation, (1954)
The End of a Primitive, (1955)
For Love of Imabelle, alternate titles The Five-Cornered Square, A Rage in Harlem, (1957)
The Real Cool Killers, (1959)
The Crazy Kill, (1959)

AUTOBIOGRAPHIES:

The Quality of Hurt (1973)
My Life of Absurdity (1976)

 

 

CELEBRATING DIVERSITY WITHIN SPECULATIVE FICTION IS NOT DIVISIVE OR SEPARATIST

WHAT WE CAN ALL LEARN FROM BLACK SPECULATIVE FICTION MONTH

 

Last month, I ran a series of blog posts spotlighting Black Speculative Fiction Month. BSFM was designed to acknowledge and spread the word about black authors and artists within the speculative fiction genre.
In and of itself, speculative fiction is mostly represented by whites and thus doesn’t usually have protagonists of color. That said, the readers of speculative fiction are mostly unaware of black authors in the genre.

One of the intentions of BSFM is to not only celebrate the achievements of black authors—which can be easily overlooked by the mainstream audience—but to also inform and educate the readers and potential reader of speculative fiction that diversity does exist and that various racial and cultural groups are being represented.

Many within the black community don’t read speculative fiction because they see it as either silly—too far removed from reality—or dominated by whites who often exclude any characters of color. So, most of the black community isn’t even aware that black speculative fiction authors exist. This is where BSFM comes into play.

The month long celebration informs those within the community and in the mainstream who don’t know, of the existence of black speculative fiction authors. This is an effort to not only inform readers of black authors, but to also bring new readers to the genre of speculative fiction as a whole.

I was confronted by an individual who felt that having BSFM was divisive and separatist. I attempted to explain that his interpretation of the celebration was not at all its intent. I tried to point out the goals I stated earlier, but unfortunately to no avail.

Sure, as you would expect most black speculative fiction writers have a predominately black cast of characters, whereas most white speculative fiction writers have a predominately white cast of characters. We write within our framework of experience and what comes natural and to me there’s nothing wrong with that. I have white characters, Asian characters, etc… in my work(s), as white authors have black characters within their work(s). But how I approach any character I create—regardless of race—is to make them human, first and foremost. I don’t get caught up in trying to make them conform to typical stereotypes in order to assert authenticity. To do this, creates a caricature of an ethnic group and does almost nothing to develop the character as an entity.

I have enjoyed books where the cast of characters were all white, but I never got particularly angry or disgruntled, nor did I urge those creators to include token blacks to make their work more balanced. I write stories with black protagonists and a predominately black cast, not in answer to my white counterparts, but because that’s what comes naturally to me. It’s not divisive or separatist to write what you know.

It wasn’t too long ago that the mainstream public refused to acknowledge, let alone publish or feature black speculative fiction authors. If we as a group wanted to be seen or heard, we had to do it for ourselves. Now, there is a slow movement to integrate black creators into the mainstream however, much more is yet to be done and  celebrations like BSFM only help to foster diversity within the world of genre fiction by spreading the word about those outside of the mainstream’s purview.

A lot of people I know within speculative fiction are coming together to explore our differences and learn something new about other people and to me that’s a good thing. It has always been my idea that when I’m reading speculative fiction, I’m looking for a bold new adventure. What could be more different than to step outside of the box you’re accustomed to and explore a more diverse take on genre fiction? I’m not sure how making people aware of diversity, exploring new cultural takes on genre fiction and authors writing within the scope of their experience is such a bad thing.