Published in 1945, If He Hollers Let Him Go is the first novel published by Chester Himes and the launch of a career spent examining the corrosive effects of racism. The novel came about as a result heeding advice to head to Hollywood in search of success writing movies only to wind up working factory jobs dedicated to helping the war effort while also publishing short stories. Those short stories snagged Himes a Rosenwald Fellowship in 1944 to provide him with the opportunity to pursue the completion of a novel. The novel that became If He Hollers Let Him Go.
California plays a role in the fictional world of Robert Jones as well, primarily through the revelation that racist suspicions that all black men want to rape white women was not limited to the openly prejudiced denizen of the American southeast. The storyline is relatively simple, but the connotations and inferences run deep as the novel examines themes related to the black experience touching upon aspects stretching from “passing” as white by light-skinned negroes to a systemic racism so entrenched with law enforcement and the judicial system that even when an innocent black man actually is presume innocent by the cops investigating the case, he will still be railroaded.
In addition, the novels offers insight gained from the real life interests of its author of the often overlooked connection between the American Communist Party and disenfranchised blacks. Communist activism and the threat that could arise from being associated with that activism is pervasive throughout the novel.
An infamously badly-reviewed film adaptation sharing the title If He Hollers Let Him Go appeared in 1968 and was notable for full frontal nudity and the fact that the story Himes tells in the novel is almost nowhere to be found in the movie.