The novel Howard Street was written by Nathan C. Heard, who was born and raised in Newark, New Jersey near the Howard Street area.
Heard once described himself as an unsuccessful criminal who took up writing in prison. At the age of thirty, after spending almost half of his life in various jails, he was able to change his life around after giving a searingly realistic peek into the ghetto way of life.
Heard began writing in prison after being dissatisfied with the choices of books to read. Not only did he want to pass the time, but he saw how much writers were being paid and figured he could do a better job.
After writing many pieces of literature, Heard shared the Howard Street manuscript with his mother, Blues singer Gladys Heard Johnson (nee' Pruitt), who took the manuscript to his attorney to show how intelligent he was. After the attorney shared the manuscript with a literary agent, Heard was signed. Upon the release and notoriety of Howard Street, Heard was released early from prison and his life changed forever.
Howard Street was first published in hard copy in 1968 by Dial Press. The paperback version was published the same year by Signet. Howard Street has been performed as a stage play and optioned five times since, for consideration as a feature-length film.
The powerful novel was written about life in the ghetto of Newark, New Jersey. The patterns and people of Howard Street would be much the same in any urban city. The novel is a shocking insight into the lives of prostitutes, their Johns, drug dealers, drug addicts and other lost souls who have never known any other way to live.
Howard Street tells the in-depth story of a multitude of fully developed characters. Gypsy Pearl is described as the most beautiful whore on Howard Street, which is a high social and professional position in this community. She hustles for her pimp, Hip, and proudly gives him her money. Hip has a very expensive drug habit. Both Hip and Pearl are mutually dependent and accept one another in this loveless partnership.
Franchot, who is Hip's brother, is an outsider on Howard Street because he chooses to work for a living at what the deem to be a corny job. However, it is Franchot that Hip turns to when his luck runs out, and it is also Franchot that Pearl dreams of when envisioning another way of life.
Jackie, one of the few who were able to escape from Howard Street, leaves as a promising athlete, but returns as a broken man. Jimmy, the boy who had idolized the former basketball star, is destroyed by Jackie's downfall, because Jackie was the only hope he had for a better life.
Howard Street is described as one of the true best traditional books about ghetto life, and is often placed in the genre with other literary classics as 'Down These Mean Streets' and 'Manchild In the Promised Land'.
The San Francisco Sun-Reporter called Howard Street, "...the raw shocker of the year...you must read it."
Howard Street is listed among the 101 Great New Jersey Books List: http://discovernjhistory.org/101-great-new-jersey-books-li…/