Harlem Detective Series
Published by Penguin Modern Classics | 25 March 2021
“Himes posed questions that few of his contemporaries dared to raise: What defines an “authentic” black voice?” Hilton Als, The New Yorker
A conman disguised as a nun, a preacher flogging one-way tickets to Africa, a golden Cadillac big enough to cross the ocean. Every one of Chester Himes’ ground-breaking crime novels buzzes with a barely-contained chaotic and darkly witty energy, echoed in vibrant new jackets featuring Harlem collages by Romare Bearden.
One of crime fiction’s most overlooked writers, Himes’ inimitable stories take the reader through the criminal underbelly of New York alongside hardboiled Harlem detectives ‘Coffin’ Ed Johnson and ‘Grave Digger’ Jones. His brutally comic surrealism combined with his authentic treatment of the Black Harlem underclass, more myth than reality to most white Americans of the period, earn him a unique place among crime writing giants such as Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and Jim Thompson.
Jackson's woman has found him a foolproof way to make money - a technique for turning ten dollar bills into hundreds. But when the scheme somehow fails, Jackson is left broke, wanted by the police and desperately racing to get back both his money and his loving Imabelle. The first of Chester Himes's novels to feature the hardboiled Harlem detectives, A Rage in Harlem has swagger, brutal humour, lurid violence, a hearse loaded with gold and a conman dressed as a Sister of Mercy.
The night's over for Ulysses Galen. It started going bad for the big Greek when a knife was drawn, then there was an axe, then he was being chased and shot at. Now Galen is lying dead in the middle of a Harlem street. But the night's just beginning for our detectives, because they have a smoking gun but it couldn't have killed Galen, and they had a suspect but a gang called the Real Cool Moslems took him. And as patrol cars and search teams descend on the neighbourhood, their case threatens to take a turn for the personal.
A golden Cadillac big enough to cross the ocean has been seen sailing along the streets of Harlem. A hit-and-run victim's been hit so hard she got embedded in the wall of a convent. A shootout with three heistmen dressed as cops has left an important politician in a coma - and a lot of money missing. And Grave Digger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson are the ones who have to piece it all together.
Coffin Ed and Grave Digger Jones have lost two criminals. Pinky ran off - but it shouldn't be hard to track down a giant albino man in Harlem. Jake the drug dealer, though, isn't coming back - he died after Grave Digger punched him in the stomach. This might cost them both their badges, unless they can track down the cause of all this mayhem - like the African with his throat slit and the dog the size of a lion with an open head wound.
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.