Donald Goines

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Donald Goines
File:Donald goines.jpg
Born (1936-12-15)December 15, 1936
Detroit, Michigan
Died October 4, 1974(1974-10-04) (aged 37)
Detroit, Michigan, United States
Occupation Novelist
Nationality American
Literary movement Black literature
Notable works Black Gangster
Crime Partners
Death List
Kenyatta's Escape
Kenyatta's Last Hit
Never Die Alone

Donald Goines (pseudonym: Al C. Clark) (December 15, 1936 – October 21, 1974) was an African-American writer of urban fiction.[1] His novels were deeply influenced by the work of Iceberg Slim.


Goines was born in Detroit, Michigan on December 15, 1936. His parents were a middle-class black couple that ran a laundry business, with his mother Myrtle Goines telling Goines that her family was descended from Jefferson Davis and a slave.[2] At 15 Goines lied about his age to join the Air Force, where he fought in the Korean War.[3] During his stint in the armed forces, Goines developed an addiction to heroin that continued after his honorable discharge from the military in the mid-1950s. In order to support his addiction Goines committed multiple crimes, including pimping and theft, and was sent to prison several times.[2] He began writing while serving a sentence in Michigan's Jackson Penitentiary. Goines initially attempted to write westerns, but decided to write urban fiction after reading Iceberg Slim's autobiography Pimp: The Story of My Life.[1]

Goines continued to write novels at an accelerated pace in order to support his drug addictions, with some books taking only a month to complete.[2] His sister Joan Goines Coney later said 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.[4]

In 1974 Goines published Crime Partners, the first book in the Kenyatta series under the name "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's work suffer due to too many books releasing at once.[3] 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's other works, with the character of Kenyatta symbolizing a sense of liberation for Goines.[3]

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.[4] Both Goines and Sailor had sustained multiple gunshot wounds to the chest and head.[3] The identity of the killer or killers is unknown, as is the reason behind the murders.[3] 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.[3]

Goines was later buried with his mother placing several of his books in his coffin.[4]


Kenyatta series

  1. Crime Partners (1974) [as Al C. Clark]
  2. Death List (1974) [as Al C. Clark]
  3. Kenyatta's Escape (1974) [as Al C. Clark]
  4. Kenyatta's Last Hit (1975) [as Al C. Clark]

Stand alone novels


Goines's 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".[2] Ludacris mentions Goines in his 2006 song Eyebrows Down.[5] 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. The New York rap trio Cru had a song called "Goines Tale" where all of Donald's book titles were incorporated into the song's lyrics. Rapper Jadakiss also references Goines in the Sheek Louch song "Mighty D-Block (2 Guns Up)" with the lyrics "Yo, the revolve' or the mati's cool, Knife game like Daddy Cool's, since Bally Shoes". Goines' books are also utilized in several prison literacy programs and his novel Dopefiend has been taught in a Rutgers University class.[2]



Some of Goines's 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.[6]

Graphic novel

In 2006 a graphic novel adaptation of the book Daddy Cool was released by Holloway House.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Liukkonen, Petri. "Donald Goines". Books and Writers ( Finland: Kuusankoski Public Library. Archived from the original on 10 February 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 "Credentials for Pulp Fiction: Pimp and Drug Addict". New York Times. Retrieved 16 December 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 Allen, Eddie (2003). Low Road: The Life and Legacy of Donald Goines. MacMillan. ISBN 0312383517.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Allen, Eddie (2004-03-24). "Detroit-sploi-tation". Metro Times. Retrieved 16 December 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. . genius Missing or empty |title= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "FILM REVIEW; Dying Without Remorse, A Bad Guy Who's Lonely". New York TImes. Retrieved 16 December 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • Allen, Eddie B., Jr. Low Road: The Life and Legacy of Donald Goines. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2004.
  • Nishikawa, Kinohi. "Donald Goines." Encyclopedia of Hip Hop Literature. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2009. 102-6.
  • Stone, Eddie. Donald Writes No More. Los Angeles: Holloway House, 1974.