RARA-AVIS: Re: Real Cool Killers

From: Channing ( filmtroll@sbcglobal.net)
Date: 15 Jul 2007

I'm currently re-reading the Himes books and they're a wonderful ride.
 I read in a biography about Himes that he never lived in New York or Harlem and in fact spent all of two weeks there. The descriptions of the city and people come from his fevered imagination.

There are some big differences between Himes and Spillane.

1. In Himes, Gravedigger and Coffin Ed are usually just complementary characters in the mystery and disappear for several chapters at a time.

2. Himes has at least one darkly comical action sequence in each of the books, whereas I can't remember any Spillane action scenes being played for laughs.

3. Himes' uses bleak humor and comedy in his stories. Spillane, once again, not so much with the funny.

4. Spillane's hatred is aimed at Commies and the mafia. Himes saves his venom for hypocritical religious types. There is always a con-man using false religion to bilk the poor citizens of Harlem.

5. Social commentary plays a larger part in the Himes' books. Sure they're stripped down prose written in the Hard-boiled style, but Himes still gets in some harsh digs at racist cops, black on black crime and general lawlessness in the ghetto.

These are just some observations off the top of my head, but I enjoy both Himes and Spillane.

I think "Real Cool Killers" is the best book in the series, but I highly recommend all the books to anyone who hasn't read them yet. I'm about to start reading Himes' "Plan B" which I'm expecting is a drastic change from Himes' mysteries.

Best wishes

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