The Thumbnail Book Reviews

by John Q McDonald --- 11 May 2000

The Real Cool Killers

by Chester Himes

Who better to write realistic crime stories than a person who had spent a sizeable chunk of time in jail for armed robbery? Himes came late, though, to the genre that made him most famous. This book, published in 1959, is a very hard boiled story of crime along the underbelly of Harlem street life. A white man is gunned down in the street, but the smoking gun in the hand of the man standing over the lifeless body only fires blanks. Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones, two detectives who rule the Harlem beat, swing into action hunting down the real killer. The story takes us into a seedy subculture of violence and prostitution. And it may make one wonder, considering recent events, how much the New York City police department has really changed in forty years. The book is written with dark wit. It is short and spare. The book carries intense undercurrents of racial tension, but is not weighed down by it.

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Also by Himes: [If He Hollers Let Him Go] [The End of a Primitive]

[Other Mystery Books]