Chester Himes, the son of a teacher, was born in Jefferson City, Missouri, on 29th July, 1909. Himes attended Ohio State University but in 1929 he was arrested and found guilty of armed robbery. The following year he witnessed a prison fire that killed 320 convicts.
While in prison he began writing fiction. This included, To What Red Hell? (1934), a story about a prison fire. Over the next few years his stories appeared in the Pittsburgh Courier, Atlanta Daily World, Bronzeman, Esquire and Abbott's Monthly Magazine.
On his release in 1936 Himes joined the Federal Writers' Project and became friendly with the poet, Langston Hughes. Himes first novel, If He Hollers Let Him Go, appeared in 1945. This was followed by Lonely Crusade, a novel about racism in the trade union movement, and Cast the First Stone (1952).
After the publication of The Third Generation (1954) and The End of a Primitive (1955), Himes moved to Paris where he joined a group of black writers and artists that included James Baldwin, Richard Wright and Ollie Harrington. While living in France he concentrated on writing a series of books about two Harlem detectives, Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones. This included For Love of Imabelle (1957), The Real Cool Killers (1959), All Shot Up (1960), Cotton Comes to Harlem (1965), The Heat's On (1966) and Blind Man with a Pistol (1969).