By Chester Himes
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Vintage; Reissue edition November 28, 1988
This is a slick entry in Chester Himes' Harlem cycle. Coffin Ed and Gravedigger Jones investigate the theft of $87,000 from a "Back-to-Africa" organization and discover white racists, black hustlers, a murderous gun moll and her lesbian squeeze, and all the other types of high-living lowlifes we've come to expect from this master of noir in the darkest shade of black.
Himes' characters hop off the page (and into your lap in a couple of cases) and his dialog is tough, believable and laced with larcenous humor. No doubt Coffin Ed and Gravedigger Jones are by-the-book detectives -- how else would they have become the aces of the Harlem precinct? -- but the book they go by has some pretty loose rules. But forget the book they go by and go buy this one: it has a surprise ending that will leave you grinning.
My recommendation? If you like tough detectives, murderous punks and even tougher women, grab a copy of Cotton Comes to Harlem, sit back, "straighten up and count off." I give this book a whopping five out of five nooses!