His wisdom flowed from the tip of a pen, his soul enraptured by prose.
"Dopefiend" was, and remains, his masterpiece, but he gave birth to other timeless tales: "Black Girl Lost," "Daddy Cool" and "Black Gangster" are all among his literary children. Decades after his last words were written, men with names like 50 Cent, Ludacris and Nas, who once rapped, “My life is like a Donald Goines novel,” still celebrate his influence.
Donald Goines, most critics agree, was one of the greatest storytellers ever produced by the ‘hood – that’s any ‘hood. Anywhere in the world. His 16 books about the hell of drug addiction, the trials of street-hustling and what Marvin Gaye once called “Inner City Blues” influenced a whole new class of urban fiction writers who’ve helped the genre expand into a multi-million-dollar industry.
It was on this day, Oct. 22, in 1974, when Mr. Goines and his common-law wife Shirley Sailor were found shot to death in their Detroit-area home. The murders remain unsolved, not even a memory to most in the neighborhood where the residence once stood. But now, 10 years after I started research for my book Low Road: The Life and Legacy of Donald Goines, a group of young filmmakers has taken up the cause of examining Mr. Goines’ memory and murder in a production based on the 2004 biography.
"Deep Blue Pictures" is excited to bring one of the greatest stories never told to the screen,” says Eddie Rubin, co-president of Deep Blue. “We plan to use Low Road to help shed light on the tragic, unsolved mystery that cut Donald Goines’ life and career short.”
Like a good number of today’s urban fiction authors, Mr. Goines knew his subject matter from personal experience. In and out of prison in the ‘60s, he both treaded water and flailed at it wildly while trying to find his purpose and direction.
By the time he hit his 30s, the hunt was over – he was a writer on a mission, not just to tell the street’s truth, but to warn his children, their children and all of our children of its danger. It was a job well-done. A job incomplete.
It is a job that must continue.