Himes's first novel, finished after his release from prison in 1937, wasn't published until 1952, and then in much altered form, as Cast the First Stone. In this original version (the first hardcover in the Old School Books imprint), Himes reveals the dark and twisted reality of life behind bars long before Genet or Eddie Bunker. The story now also includes the origin of the hero's life in crime. From as far back as he can remember, Jimmy Monroe couldn't satisfy an inner restlessness. With his preacher father and snobby mother, he moved throughout the South and Midwest, along the way managing accidentally to blind his younger brother and get expelled from a number of schools. An on-the-job accident leads to a nice settlement, which finances his short time at college, where he majors in carousing and is soon thrown out. His taste for the streets, cheap women, and easy thrills takes him to Chicago and the larceny that gets him 20 years hard labor. The bulk of the narrative chronicles the day-to-day horrors of prison in the '30s- -corrupt guards, virulent racism, casual violence, and bizarre courting rituals between men starved for affection and sex. Jimmy's depression sinks to its lowest after a prison fire, described with a lyric intensity, releases a jailhouse anarchy that ends only with a brutal crackdown. Jimmy's few pleasures evaporate until a friendly guard allows gambling to resume and organizes a softball team. Much of the story concentrates on the ``girl-boy'' culture behind bars, and Jimmy, with the beautiful young Rico, indulges in a romance of ``fantasy and frenzy and delirium.'' Just as the pair's dangerous friendship threatens Jimmy's future in jail, he's transferred to farm duty, the last step before parole. Jimmy's sexual confusion, and his moment of ``blackness'' during the fire, suggest the course of his own redemption, which finds ultimate expression in his first attempts as a writer. Himes captures it all in his inimitable, far from pulpy, prose. A revelation for Himes fans.
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