Crime and Violence in Chester Himes’s Blind Man with a Pistol
Chester Himes wrote successfully in many genres, including short stories, protest novel,
autobiographies and detective novels. Drifting into a life petty crime, he was arrested for armed
robbery in less than a year and sentenced to twenty-five years at hard labor in Ohio state
penitentiary. There Himes witnessed beating, killing, riots, and a fire that took the lives of over
three hundred convicts. He began to write his novels and short stories based on these experiences
that were soon accepted for publication in African-American newspapers and in Esquire
magazine, where they appeared signed with Himes’s name and prison identification number.
Some critics view Himes’s prison experience as pivotal to his development as an author. H.
Bruce Franklin wrote in Prison Literature in America: “Himes’s achievement as a writer of
fiction, indeed, his very existence as an author, comes directly from his experience in prison,
which shaped his imagination and determined his outlook on American society.