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    [S]ometimes these minstrel shows play on when grand opera folds.
           -Coffin Ed Johnson, The Heat's On

There are a few things you can depend on in Chester Himes's great police procedurals featuring Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones : colorful characters, distinctive dialect, a fierce racial sensibility, and plenty of mayhem.  Meanwhile, the stories are pleasantly devoid of the kind of self-analysis and interior monologue which clutter up so much of modern fiction, even crime fiction.  The Heat's On is something of an exception.  Oh, there's more than enough mayhem and what with a giant albino junkie, a hunchback dwarf, a pony-sized attack dog, a faith healer, and various and sundry other folk about, there's certainly adequate local color.

But when, first, the detectives are suspended for treating the dwarf a tad too roughly (for instance, he dies in custody) and then Digger is shot and reported killed, Cotton Ed lets his slip show a little.  He becomes a frenzied dynamo of barely contained brutality as he tears a steaming hot Harlem apart searching for the cache of heroin that led to the whole mess.  This is a terrific entry in the series and is particularly interesting for Himes's fearsome hostility towards the drug traffic which was blighting the inner-city even then.  His attitude makes for an interesting contrast with the permissive modern attitude of many black leaders, who decry harsh prison sentences for drug dealers.  It's awfully hard to see Coffin Ed, Grave Digger, or Chester Himes arguing that pushers are victims of an unjust drug war.


Grade: (A)


See also:

Chester Himes (3 books reviewed)
Chester Himes Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Chester Himes
    -INTERVIEW: LAWRENCE P. JACKSON, CHESTER HIMES' BIOGRAPHER, ON THE ICONIC HARLEM DETECTIVE SERIES: "They take no prisoners. There are no heroes. Everybody is exposed for who they are at their least desirable or least beautiful moments." (HOPETON HAY, 4/15/21, Crime Reads)
    -ESSAY: A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE HEROES OF BLACK PULP: Finding inspiration and representation in the slam-bang cool of Black Pulp, past & present. (MICHAEL GONZALES, 6/27/19, Crime Reads)
-REVIEW: of The Essential Harlem Detectives: by Chester Himes (Reed Jackson, Spectrum Culture)
    -REVIEW: of The Essential Harlem Detectives: by Chester Himes (Bruce Riordan,. CrimeReads)

Book-related and General Links:
-Chester Himes (1909-1984)  (kirjasto)
    -ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA : Your search: "chester himes"
    -Chester Himes (Spartacus)
    -Chester Himes (
    -Chester Himes : Author of The End of a Primative (WW Norton Co.)
    -The San Antonio College LitWeb Chester Himes Page
    -Chester Himes (Stop You're Killing Me)
    -ESSAY : Introduction to Chester Himes' Letter (Mary Pagano)
    -ESSAY :  The Skeptical Reader:  Chester Himes' Lonely Crusade and Its Place in Postmodernism
    -ARCHIVES : "himes" (NY Review of Books)
    -REVIEW : of If He Hollers Let Him Go by Chester Himes (Eddie Duggan, CrimeTime Online)
    -REVIEW : of YESTERDAY WILL MAKE YOU CRY By Chester Himes (Peter Bricklebank, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of YESTERDAY WILL MAKE YOU CRY. By Chester Himes (H. Bruce Franklin, the John Cotton Dana Professor of English and American Studies at Rutgers University, Newark)
    -REVIEW : of POLITICAL PARABLE PLAN B By Chester Himes. Edited, with an introduction, by Michel Fabre and Robert E. Skinner (David Traxel, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Library of America : Crime Novels Volume I: American Noir of the 1930's and 40's Volume II: American Noir of the 1950's.  (Walter Kirn, NY times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of A Rage in Harlem by Chester Himes (Murderism ezine)
    -REVIEW : of Michel Fabre and Robert E. Skinner, eds. Conversations with Chester Himes (Bernard Bell, African American Review)
    -REVIEW : of Chester Himes by James Sallis (Courttia Newland, The Observer uk)
    -REVIEW : of Chester Himes: A Life by James Sallis (Margaret Busby, The Guardian uk)
    -REVIEW : of  Chester Himes: a life by James Sallis (John Williams, Independent UK)
    -REVIEW : of Chester Himes : A Life by James Sallis (Tom Nolan, San Francisco Chronicle)
    -REVIEW : of Edward Margolies and Michel Fabre. The Several Lives of Chester Himes and  James Sallis. Chester Himes: A Life.  (Champa Patel , 49th Parallel)
    -REVIEW : of Edward Margolies and Michel Fabre. The Several Lives of Chester Himes (Mark Sanders, African American Review)
    -Murder They Write : One Hundred Masters Of Crime (The Times & The Irish Times)

    -FILMOGRAPHY : "Chester Himes" (
    -INFO : Come Back, Charleston Blue (1972)(Imdb)

    -African American Mystery Page
    -Can You Dig It? The Original Black Eyes (Thrilling Detective)
    -Can You Dig The New Breed? The New Black Eyes (Thrilling Detective)
    -REVIEW : of EXILED IN PARIS Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Samuel Beckett and Others on the Left Bank By James Campbell (Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of EXILED IN PARIS Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Samuel Beckett, and Others on the Left Bank. By James Campbell (Deirdre Bair, NY Times Book Review)
    -ESSAY : Chez Tournon: A Homage (Paule Marshall, NY Times Book Review, October 18, 1992)

Recommended books by Chester Himes :
    -If He Hollers Let Him Go (1945) (read Orrin's review, Grade : B+)
    -A Rage in Harlem (1957)
    -The Crazy Kill (1959) (read Orrin's review, Grade : B)
    -The Real Cool Killers (1959)
    -The Heat's On (aka : Come Back Charleston Blue) (1961) (read Orrin's review, Grade : A)
    -Cotton Comes to Harlem (1965)