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Cotton Comes to Harlem

de Chester Himes

Séries: The Harlem Cycle (7)

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5301346,197 (3.88)29
'A bawdy, brazen rollercoaster of a novel . . . the wildest' The New York Times A preacher called Deke O'Malley's been selling false hope: the promise of a glorious new life in Africa for just $1,000 a family. But when thieves with machine guns steal the proceeds - and send one man's brain matter flying - the con is up. Now Grave Digger Jones and Coffin Ed mean to bring the good people of Harlem back their $87,000, however many corpses they have to climb over to get it. Cotton Comes to Harlem is a non-stop ride, with violence, sex, double-crosses, and the two baddest detectives ever to wear a badge in Harlem. With an Introduction by Will Self… (mais)
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Chester Himes created the perfect little world of 1960s Harlem in this book. Two black NYPD detectives with the nicknames of Coffin Ed and Gravedigger, which tells you a lot you need to know, investigate a reverend/swindler who’s taken $87k from people as part of a back-to-Africa scam.

Ed and Gravedigger are regular guys, family men, very brutal and very effective detectives. None of this seems contradictory. Although they work under white men they do it their way and are given allowances because white cops can’t do what they do in Harlem.

This is a well-written, fast-paced story with intricate plotting and great characters. I’ll look for others by Himes. ( )
  Hagelstein | Jan 15, 2024 |
Very good, entertaining tour of Harlem, circa 1965. Great lead characters (detectives) bulling their way through underworld and the police precincts. Often funny, often brutal, perhaps a bit much on sex and outrage. Good portraits of competing scams- Back to Africa and Back to Southern plantation campaigns.. though I think more could have made of this symmetry. Still, pretty entertaining short book. ( )
  apende | Jul 12, 2022 |
With the creation of his big city black detectives, Coffin Ed Johnson and Gravedigger Jones, Chester Himes achieved something singular and grand. Hard boiled genre fiction was nothing new in the 1950’s, but populating a landscape with sharply detailed black characters was new and still reads fresh today half a century later. The detectives work for a police department mostly at odds with the community they serve and serve a community distrustful of the department that they work for. Often this puts them in a vice, but also it frees them to make up their own rules. Adhering to a clear vision of right and wrong, like most hard boiled detectives, their means can swerve wildly from what would seem acceptable. Their creativity in the face of constant adversity propels the novel. The richly created world of Pimps, Madams, hustlers, grifters and work-a-day going to church every Sunday folk gives the novel a pulse and lively step. Himes achieved his stated goal of doing for Harlem what Raymond Chandler did for Los Angeles. I almost felt like I knew where all the alleys were in Harlem by the end of the book. The heist at the center of the novel is a solid mystery that snakes through every corner of Harlem and squeezes out a fresh look at race relations on several social levels. The voices and language of COTTON COMES TO HARLEM still rings in my ears—always colorful but never overdone. ( )
  KurtWombat | Sep 15, 2019 |
So, while I was reading Mosley, Easy Rawlins and a friend of his get into a discussion as to who is the greatest African American novelist, Chester Himes or Ralph Ellison. One or the other of them opts for Himes because he wrote more books and also because he wasn't afraid to show all society's shit. Whatever, I figured I should check out Chester Himes. I think he might be the African American equivalent of Raymond Chandler, i.e. a writer of hard-boiled detective fiction, albeit from an African-American perspective.

In this book, I've been introduced to Grave Digger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson. Apparently, this is the 7th book about Grave Digger and Coffin Ed, but the first I've read. Anyway, they are two New York Detectives who mostly work the Harlem beat. The only cops the people of Harlem would ever trust would be black cops. This book involves fraudsters, both black and white, robbing from each other. Grave Digger and Coffin Ed find a way to ensure justice for the defrauded poor people, in a way that doesn't involve white courts, which would likely punish the criminals without ensure reparations. Something like that. Whatever, it was rather an interesting, if rough, story and I'll likely take another fly or two at Himes. He'll teach me about a whole different world that the one in which I've lived for the last many decades.

Interesting that as I read this book, and the one by Walter Mosley that prompted me to read this book, the blow up in Ferguson, MO was going down. It seems that the African American community still can't trust white cops to protect them and provide justice to their communities. ( )
  lgpiper | Jun 21, 2019 |
I wonder if the Unknown Comic from the Gong Show ever read this book? Because this takes that act in a whole different direction.

As an aside: although I had heard of Marcus Garvey, I didn't know why I would have (you know, you hear a name in passing with no explanation as to what they're famous for). Nice to have that filled in. ( )
1 vote Jon_Hansen | Apr 4, 2017 |
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The voice from the sound truck said: "Each family, no matter how big it is, will be asked to put up one thousand dollars."
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Originally published as the French translation of "Back to Africa": Retour en Afrique, [Paris] : Librairie Plon, 1964.
1st American ed. published: New York : Putnam, 1965.
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'A bawdy, brazen rollercoaster of a novel . . . the wildest' The New York Times A preacher called Deke O'Malley's been selling false hope: the promise of a glorious new life in Africa for just $1,000 a family. But when thieves with machine guns steal the proceeds - and send one man's brain matter flying - the con is up. Now Grave Digger Jones and Coffin Ed mean to bring the good people of Harlem back their $87,000, however many corpses they have to climb over to get it. Cotton Comes to Harlem is a non-stop ride, with violence, sex, double-crosses, and the two baddest detectives ever to wear a badge in Harlem. With an Introduction by Will Self

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