Sunday, 22 February 2015

CHESTER HIMES - THE END OF A PRIMITIVE (1955)


Synopsis/blurb…..

Jesse Robinson wakes from his nightmare to dirty, fitful real life in a Harlem slum.
Kriss wakes up alone divorced, disillusioned, in her plush Manhattan apartment. They have nothing in common. Just one amazing, passionate weekend in Chicago and a desire to meet again.

Shortly before his death, Chester Himes gave an interviewer this remarkable plot summary of The End of a Primitive. "I put a sexually frustrated American woman and a racially frustrated black American male together for a weekend in a New York apartment, and allowed them to soak in American bourbon. I got the result I was looking for: a nightmare of drunkenness, unbridled sexuality, and in the end, tragedy". This new edition of Himes's most searing and controversial novel restores the cuts he was forced to make in 1955 in order to get the novel published and includes a never-before-printed foreword by Himes himself.

Well if anyone fancies a 1955 book which will rock you to the core, one that will thrill you, tease you, enthral you and have you hurrying to turn the pages, etc etc……it definitely won’t be this one.

Dull, awful, dire, boring and turgid……. that’s the highlights covered then!

Not a crime novel per se, but a novel in which a crime occurs at the end. I think maybe I have gotten my comeuppance here insofar as I have a tendency to buy an author’s back catalogue on the basis of having read one book (sometimes none) – in the case of Himes I have read one of his Coffin Ed – Gravedigger Jones books though which one escapes me at the minute.

Anyway a 1955 book for Rich Westwood’s Past Offences meme.

Just over 200 pages long and I sensed very early on I was in for a tough time reading it. Dense paragraphs that don’t serve to advance the story in anyway whatsoever……..

Across the top of the dresser was a remnant of dark upholstery fabric, ravelled at both ends, and littered with toilet articles – combs and brushes, a bar of green soap in a yellow saucer, three toothbrushes in a dirty glass, a rusty safety razor in a plastic case – a huge, vicious-looking, pearl handle clasp knife made in Denmark, a bottle of iodine, a tin of bandages, an empty hair tonic bottle, an empty sparkling water bottle, a gin bottle with three fingers of gin, a dirty drinking glass, a brown sack containing three raw eggs, and a number of half-used folders of paper matches.    

I would tell you about his kitchen inventory but I don’t think I want to spoil your own reading pleasure.

Anyway – a struggling black author obsessed with his dreams and sex, especially with white women, definitely not with members of his own sex and a white woman happy to have sex with all and sundry, most of the time, especially black men. She was duped into marrying a man who was subsequently revealed to be homosexual. 

They meet up again, drink copious amounts of alcohol, which seems to be their raison d’etre for living when not having boring moments of self-analysis. One of them dies.

A real shame they both couldn't have died on about page 3.

1 from 5 – the cover isn't too bad.

Not rushing towards my Himes autobiographies or other works which are more firmly crime orientated.



Owned copy. 

10 comments:

  1. Bummer. I'd never heard of this title, Col. His Harlem set crime novels are great fun.

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    1. Keishon, I don't think you have missed out on anything in my opinion.

      I will definitely get back to him at some point. I did enjoy the one novel I did read, A RAGE IN HARLEM - back before blogging days and my recording of dates (2009 or earlier then)

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  2. Hm. Might give this one a try . . . :)

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  3. Col, I have never read Chester Himes and when I do, it probably won't be this one.

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  4. Oh dear! Well this review made me laugh a lot, but I'm sorry it was such a bad book. You're not getting lucky with your choices for Rich's year meme are you? Better hopes for March...

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    1. Hmm, it was good for something then. I was almost wishing for a bit of Sax Rohmer as light relief.

      Yeah, I back-tracked on the years Rich had covered and there weren't too many pearls among the books I have chosen. I have done 8 of the 9 meme's and only 1 really enjoyable book - Brian Garfield.

      I'm kind of thinking it might have been a lot less painful for Rich to have popped round my house and punched me in the face a couple of times when I answered the door.

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  5. Too bad you have had such bad luck with the books for this meme. Mostly I have been happy with my choices.

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    1. I'll try and maintain a positive outlook for March!

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