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March 25, 2004

Donald Goines Rediscovered

As one of his books is brought to the big screen by DMX and Juice director Ernest Dickerson, Lola Ogunnaike introduces Times readers to Donald Goines, the godfather of Black pulp fiction who should be familiar to any hip-hop listener. The best coverage of Goines I've seen was in FEDS magazine, where they scored interviews with a bunch of his family members, I wish that was online somewhere. This Times piece is cool although the headline annoys me for some reason:

Credentials for Pulp Fiction: Pimp and Drug Addict

His was undoubtedly the path least traveled toward literary
achievement: Pimp. Armed robber. Convict. Heroin addict. In
his abbreviated time on this earth, Donald Goines, murdered
in 1974 at 36, was all of the above. And yet he became one
of the most popular black pulp-fiction writers of the
1970's, producing 16 paperback novels in under five years.

Tomorrow the movie "Never Die Alone," adapted from
Goines's 1974 book of the same name, is to open across the
country. It is the first Goines work to become a major
motion picture. (In 2001 the movie version of his "Crime
Partners" went straight to DVD.) Starring the rapper and
actor DMX as King David, a ruthless drug dealer, and David
Arquette as Paul, a reporter whose fortunes are suddenly
changed by a chance encounter with King David, the film is
told in flashbacks and is a dark look at one man's
fruitless search for redemption.

"Never Die Alone" comes at a time when Goines's novels are
experiencing a resurgence in popularity, fueled by prison
literacy programs, hip-hop music and now academia. In Crime
and Punishment in American Literature, a course at Rutgers
University this spring, Goines's debut novel, "Dopefiend,"
will be taught alongside classics by Upton Sinclair, Herman
Melville and Frederick Douglass. His books, which
painstakingly explore society's sordid underbelly, are
must-reads for prison inmates across the country.

"Donald Goines is across the board our most requested
writer," said Mary Driscoll, an outreach librarian who
works with the Dane County Jail in Wisconsin. "Because he
lived the life, his books really speak to that population..."

The film, meanwhile, is getting trashed by AP and Hollywood Reporter, but Newsday and the Times' own Elvis Mitchell give a thumbs up. Mitchell's penchant for random pop-culture allusions has become a running joke, but he kept it to a minimum here unless you count the Big Daddy Kane reference.

Posted by jsmooth995 at March 25, 2004 5:54 PM

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