Missouri-born novelist about the life of fellow blacks in the U.S., attended Ohio State University but began his literary career while in Ohio State Penitentiary (1929–36) for armed robbery. His first novel, If He Hollers Let Him Go (1945), depicts with fury the prejudice met by a black worker in California defense plants, an experience he suffered. It was followed by Lonely Crusade (1947), about a black laborer meeting discrimination in unions and the Communist party; Cast the First Stone (1952), a naturalistic novel about blacks and whites in prison; and Third Generation (1954), a saga of a black family from slavery to the mid-20th century. The year of the last publication he became an expatriate in Europe, and his next novel, The Primitive (1955), is quasi-autobiographical in its story of a black author and his white mistress. In France he published Harlem murder tales featuring black detectives. He also published Black on Black (1973), a collection of shorter works, and a two-volume autobiography, The Quality of Hurt (1972) and My Life as Absurdity (1976).