RARA-AVIS: Cotton Comes to Harlem

From: Robison Michael R CNIN ( Robison_M@crane.navy.mil)
Date: 30 Jul 2002

hi everybody!

Just finished Chester Himes's great classic, _Cotton Comes to Harlem_. This is a fantastic book. Out of the last dozen or so hardboiled/noir novels I've read, this was a breath of fresh air. Chester Himes is a rare breed. While dealing out some truly hardboiled action, he made me laugh, again and again. And this is not the absurd slapstick humor of a Carl Hiaasen, but instead perhaps closer to the insightful, satir- ical and wise humor of Mark Twain, with a delightfully wicked twist.

"Her hips were pitching like a rowboat on a stormy sea, but her cold, aloof face said: Your eyes may shine and your teeth may grit, but none of this fine ass will you git."

Alright, maybe we are talking a little bit of Hiaasen here. ;-)

The plot involves two black New York City detectives, Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones, following a trail of murder and mayhem involving a back-to-Africa scam foisted off on the poor Harlem residents by a con artist named Deke O'Hara. A bloody armed robbery switches ownership of the swindled money, which is promptly lost in a bale of cotton. The story follows a great host of characters in the search for the lost cotton bale.


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