Two-tone detectives: cross-cultural crime in Chester Himes' Harlem Cycle novels [and] Black Bush City Limits
This thesis comprises a dissertation, ‘Two-Tone Detectives: Cross-Cultural Crime in Chester Himes’ Harlem Cycle Novels’; and Black Bush City Limits, a novel set amongst the ‘murphoisie’ of Irish London. \ud \ud The focus of the dissertation is an exploration of Himes’ expansion of the terms of the crime novel to countenance the broader theme of crimes against humanity, specifically slavery and its legacy in the United States of America following Emancipation in 1865. The dissertation argues that Himes takes a subaltern genre and by means of resisting the formulaic limitations of crime fiction introduces discourses not usually associated with the genre, such as folk tales, the Absurd, aspects of comedy derived from Elizabethan theatre, carnival, and the historical novel. The dissertation argues that Himes does not consistently manage to blend all of these elements successfully, and that his final unfinished novel, Plan B, fails to realise the potential of Himes’ subaltern genre.\ud My novel, Black Bush City Limits, is an attempt to create a novel in the subaltern genre I argue Himes experiments with in the Harlem Cycle. In Black Bush City Limits a series of murders take place in and around the Dolmen Irish Centre in North London. Mick Kavanagh, a worker at the Centre, investigates these murders. \ud His story is interrupted by extracts from a tranche of letters sent to him by his dying uncle in Ireland. These are by his Victorian forebear, Margaret Kavanagh, alive at the time of the Famine in Ireland. As the novel progresses the significance of these letters becomes apparent, and the two stories are gradually brought together. My dissertation contains a concluding chapter in which I trace where my own novel applies lessons learned from Himes’ example, and where I depart from him.
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