Novelist and playwright Chandler Brossard's first published novel was Who Walk in Darkness, one of the most accomplished works of proto-Beat literature, and arguably the first American existential novel following in the tradition of The Stranger. Published by New Directions in 1952, this "hipster" novel is essential reading for Beat aficionados and anyone interested in American literature of the 1950s. Writing in the Village Voice, Richard Nason called the book "a handy index to the argot and obsessions of the early '50s, with its concern with pot, sexual and political identity, and the emergence of racial polarity".
One evilly attractive character in the book, Henry Porter, who leads a clique of "underground" aspiring literati, was strongly suggestive of Anatole Broyard, the well-known New York Times book reviewer and essayist, and thereby created one of the most famous literary imbroglios of that era. The narrator, Blake Williams, who maintains a controlled neutrality while exposing the inauthenticity of his milieu, can be found traipsing from prizefights to Harlem dance halls, to Greenwich Village haunts -- drinking, carousing, and working as little as possible. As pertinent today as when it was written, Who Walk in Darkness is a powerful novel of the urban counter-culture of New York from one of the twentieth century's most innovative and iconoclastic writers.