SPOTLIGHT ON AFRICAN AMERICAN AUTHOR DONALD GOINES

DONALD GOINESAfrican American author, Donald Goines was born in Detroit, Michigan on December 15, 1936. He came from a middle-class background, where his parents ran a laundry business. According to stories told to him by his mother—Myrtle Goines—the family was descended from a sexual encounter between Jefferson Davis and a slave. At age 15, Goines lied about his age in order to join the Air Force, where he fought in the Korean War. During his service, Goines developed a heroin addiction which he continued after his being honorably discharged from the military during the mid-1950’s. In order to support his addiction Goines committed multiple crimes, including pimping and theft, and was sent to prison several times. While serving time in Michigan’s Jackson Penitentiary, he began writing. He initially attempted to write westerns, but decided to write urban fiction after reading Iceberg Slim’s autobiography “Pimp: The Story of My Life”.

Goines continued to write novels at a fast-tracked pace to support his drug addictions, with some books taking only a month to complete. His sister Joan Goines Coney later stated that Goines wrote at such an accelerated pace in order to avoid committing more crimes and based many of the characters in his books on people he knew in real life.
In 1974 Goines published Crime Partners, the first book in the Kenyatta series under the pseudonym, “Al C. Clark”. Holloway House’s chief executive Bentley Morriss requested that Goines publish the book under a pseudonym in order to avoid having the sales of Goines’ work suffer due to too many books releasing at once. The book dealt with an anti-hero character named after Jomo Kenyatta that ran a Black Panther-esque organization to clear the ghetto of crime. In his book The Low Road, Eddie B. Allen remarked that the series was a departure from some of Goines’ other works, with the character of Kenyatta symbolizing a sense of liberation for Goines.

“Inner City Hoodlum”, which Goines had finished before his death, was published posthumously in 1975. The story, set in Los Angeles, was about “smack”, money and murder.
On October 21, 1974 Goines and his common-law wife were discovered dead in their Detroit apartment. The police had received an anonymous phone call earlier that evening and responded, discovering Goines in the living room of the apartment and his common-law wife Shirley Sailor’s body in the kitchen. Both Goines and Sailor had sustained multiple gunshot wounds to the chest and head. The identity of the killer or killers is unknown, as is the reason behind the murders. Popular theories involve Goines being murdered due to his basing several of his characters on real life criminals as well as the theory that Goines was killed due to his being in debt over drugs.
Goines was later buried with his mother placing several of his books in his coffin.

DOPEFIEND
PERSONAL NOTE:

The highest selling genre among African Americans is Urban Fiction or Urban Lit. As a fan of Goines’ work, he was the first author in this genre I read. His work(s) have helped to shape and influence many of today’s Urban Fiction authors. It is my shared opinion that Donald Goines’ is the quintessential “Father” of Urban Fiction/Urban Lit.

 

BIBLIIOGRAPHY

Kenyatta series
• Crime Partners (1974) [as Al C. Clark]
• Death List (1974) [as Al C. Clark]
• Kenyatta’s Escape (1974) [as Al C. Clark]
• Kenyatta’s Last Hit (1975) [as Al C. Clark]

STANDALONE NOVELS

Dopefiend (1971)
Whoreson (1972)
Black Gangster (1972)
Street Players (1973)
White Man’s Justice, Black Man’s Grief (1973)
Black Girl Lost (1974)
Eldorado Red (1974)
Swamp Man (1974)
Never Die Alone (1974)
Cry Revenge (1974) [as Al C. Clark]
Daddy Cool (1974)
Inner City Hoodlum (1975)

MUSICAL INFLUENCES
Goines’ writing has had an impact upon several people, with several rappers inserting mentions of Goines and his writing into their lyrics. In his 1996 song “Tradin’ War Stories”, rapper 2Pac writes “Machiavelli was my tutor, Donald Goines my father figure”. Ludacris mentions Goines in his 2006 song “Eyebrows Down”. AZ compares himself to Donald Goines’ work in “Rather Unique,” with the line, “Your mind’s boggled but I’m as deep as Donald Goines’ novels.” Nas also named the song “Black Girl Lost” on his sophomore album It Was Written after the book by Goines. Goines’ books are also utilized in several prison literacy programs and his novel “Dopefiend” has been taught in a Rutgers University class.

FILMS
Some of Goines’ works have been adapted into film. His book “Crime Partners” was turned into a 2001 film starring Ice-T, Snoop Dogg, and Ja Rule, and in 2004 his book “Never Die Alone” was also released as a film starring DMX.

GRAPHIC NOVEL
In 2006, a graphic novel adaptation of the book “Daddy Cool” was released by Holloway House.

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