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Cotton Comes to Harlem (Harlem Cycle #7)

3.81  ·  Rating Details ·  1,099 Ratings  ·  85 Reviews
Black film-flam man Deke O'Hara is no sooner out of Atlanta's state penitentiary than he's back on the streets working the scam of a lifetime. As sponsor of the Back-to-Africa movement he's counting on the big Harlem rally to produce a big collection-for his own private charity. But the take-$87,000-is hijacked by white gunmen and hidden in a bale of cotton that suddenly e ...more
Paperback, 160 pages
Published November 28th 1988 by Vintage Crime/Black Lizard (first published 1964)
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Ben Winch
Jun 26, 2011 Ben Winch rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american, pulp, anglo, 5-stars
Chester Himes is the bomb, he's the shit, he's a genius. You're into crime and you ain't read him, you're missing out. You're into the African-American experience and you ain't read him, you're really missing out. You think some lowly thriller-writer's beneath you? Chester Himes can write. The style is half the fun: baroque hip gritty black humour ramped up to eleven in the service of thrills and satire. Check this:
With a flourish like a stripteaser removing her G-string, she took off one shoe a
Richard Vialet
I was really in the mood for more of Chester Himes's Harlem Cycle books and this was the easiest one I could get my hand on at the moment. I'd read the first two books, A Rage in Harlem and The Real Cool Killers, and loved them. I had gathered that they don't need to be read completely in order, so I decided to jump into this one! In this installment, ace Harlem detectives Grave Digger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson rush to track down a slimy con man, who's been swindling hard-working Harlem famili ...more
Jun 23, 2011 Andy rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Adam West & Andre Williams
Recommended to Andy by: The Dealer, The Peeler & The Stealer
Shelves: hardboiled-dicks
Another manic cartoony excercise in eyeball-popping, jaw-dropping Tex Avery psychosis. This time our favorite badass behemoths Coffin Ed and Grave Digger Jones step in between two huckster ops in old Harlem, Back to Africa (black) and Back to The South (white), the BS group led by a fake Southern plantation colonel type. Avoid the lousy movie adaptation at all costs and pick up some solid pulp, my brother.
Mar 16, 2017 Rhys rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gravedigger Jones and Coffin Ed are two of the most original detectives in crime fiction. And a perfect opportunity for them to demonstrate their talents is provided by this caper, an extraordinary blast of mayhem, dark humour, social insight, perversion, irony and simmering sensuality, as conman Deke O'Malley persuades families to hand over their savings in order to buy passage on board ships going back to Africa. But the ships are fictions. The money scammed from the families is stolen by the ...more
Srinivas Veeraraghavan
Jan 05, 2012 Srinivas Veeraraghavan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
Magic is a hugely abused word and can be as elusive as a loutish runt, trying to lose himself in a Mardi Gras crowd.

Very rarely, it manifests itself in some obscure form or the other. Himes wrote some ground-breakin',spine tinglin',nerve janglin' classics but here, he reaches the zenith.

GOD (He is black by the way) decided to put pen to paper one day and this macabre,bawdy,freak Masterpiece was the result.

If ever I dream of writing a novel, I only pray to GOD (That nigga again!) that it turns ou
Aug 22, 2014 Katherine rated it really liked it
Shelves: police, mystery, 2014
This is the first book by Chester Himes Chester Himes that I have read. This book is one of the 8 Harlem Detective mysteries that he published between 1957 and 1969. The detectives, Coffin Ed Johnson and Gravedigger Jones fit in with the Harlem milieu, and use this to solve the crimes. Reading the books now gives me a taste of what life was like in Harlem in the 50's and 60's.
Maria Altiki
Oct 29, 2015 Maria Altiki rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: borrowed
Ευκολοδιάβαστο βιβλίο που μαζί του περνάς ευχάριστα διαβάζοντας τις περιπέτειες των δύο ντετέκτιβ στο σκληρό μαύρο Χάρλεμ. Γλαφυρή η αφήγηση του Himes γεμάτη χρώματα, μυρωδιές, αίμα, σφαίρες, αραπίνες μαύρες ερωτιάρες, ευκολόπιστους μαυρούληδες, μια μπάλα απο μπαμπάκι και 87.000 δολλάρια.
Aug 30, 2007 Keach rated it it was amazing
Mother-raping cinematic.
Daniel Polansky
really don't know why this guy isn't more famous. First, you've got the pedigree – so far as I can tell the only black crime writer during the golden age of noir, friend of James Baldin, etc. – which alone would get him a peek. And on that whole end of things, he holds up nicely, offering an unflinching, indeed brutal, view on racial politics in New York during the tumultuous years of the 1960's. Himes's is a world in which everyone is pretty terrible, white or black (though the blacks have a b ...more
I read A Rage in Harlem a couple of years ago and enjoyed it, and this 7th book in the series featuring hard-boiled black police detectives Grave Digger and Coffin Ed is a good read too. Written a few years later in 1964, its Harlem setting has acquired a "Back-to-Africa" movement, a competing "Back to the Southland" movement led by a sinister white Southern colonel, and some Black Muslims who hold a tense rally. Kind of a cross of Raymond Chandler and blaxploitation films. The women characters ...more
Lisa Ciarfella
Mar 21, 2016 Lisa Ciarfella rated it it was amazing
Mr. Himes is a classic detective fiction writer who I will takes notes from, from here on out!

Himes writes fast, furious, independent unique characters with oh so vivid details jumping off the page!
His detective names are the bomb, Coffin Ed and Grave Digger Jones, and they scoff and scour and dance their way through the gritty streets of Harlem with enough savvy sarcasm, wit, irony and humor to make both Sam Spade and Phillipe Marlowe take notice....

The mean and lean streets of 1960's Harlem,
Jul 28, 2015 Daniel rated it really liked it
A short take:

Chester Himes wrote fantastic crime fiction and it is wrong that he is omitted from the frequent praise that mentions Chandler et al.

More thoughts:

Himes concocts a crazy story and then sets Digger and Ed loose to solve the case. The characters are lusty, violent and crafty. Himes is an excellent writer and his stories are bizarre and toothsome. I want everyone who likes crime fiction to read his work and experience its greatness.
Sep 01, 2015 Surbhi rated it liked it
Read this for school and I have to say it was interesting. Not too shabby and good mystery read with focus on the African Americans!! Great to see other point of views of history.
Dec 27, 2014 ΠανωςΚ rated it really liked it
Στα ελληνικά «Βαμβάκι στο Χάρλεμ», εκδόσεις Αγρα.
Mariano Hortal
Publicada en

Con la ingente cantidad de novelas policíacas que se están sacando en la actualidad, tendemos a olvidar de dónde venimos; es decir, quiénes son los padres del género; este post busca que no se pierda la perspectiva en este aspecto, entre otras cosas porque un buen gusto literario se construye desde el pasado, desde las verdaderas fuentes originales.
Y digo esto porque no puedo evitar enervarme al comprobar el montón de medianías que se hacen co
Dec 08, 2016 Edward rated it really liked it
This classic hard-boiled detective novel set in Harlem was one of several books shown in the recent Luke Cage series. While I've read a few of the other works from the show's "reading list," I had never heard of Chester Himes before, an author now known for his crime dramas starring the recurring character of Grave Digger Jones.

I'm normally not a big fan of crime stories, but Himes does an amazing job evoking the time and setting of his narrative, which is roughly sometime in the 1960s. The ebb
Feb 19, 2017 Jessica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good. Moves quickly. A tad convoluted, but that's part of its charm.
Robbie Bruens
Cotton Comes to Harlem, is an enjoyable and fast-paced detective thriller that reads almost like a screenplay due to its taut plotting, constant action, and a near constant focus on visuality. Of course, Himes does not sacrifice any of his sharp perspective the racial politics of America in the mid-twentieth century in service of genre approachability, though he takes a more vaudevillian, high entertainment approach when compared to the seething psychology of If He Hollers Let Him Go. For the re ...more
Michelle Boyer
Get ready for a lot of mother-raping and cotton bale seduction.

This is an interesting African-American crime/detective novel that reads similar to pulp fiction of the 1920s. The story involves Deke, a criminal pretending to take money from African-American families so that they can buy passage on a ship back to Africa, where they'll become farmers. Clearly, he just wants to steal their money and bail (pun intended). However, before he can run off with the money, it gets stolen by a Colonel that
Lucas Miller
Jun 26, 2016 Lucas Miller rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At 160 pages Cotton Comes to Harlem is about as boiled down as any crime fiction I've ever read. Written in a noir meets blaxploitation cadence, the story of flim flam man Deke O'Hara, double double crosses, back to Africa campaigns, thinly veiled racial tension and glorious descriptions of barbecue all tumble across the page at a decidedly quick clip. The violence, sexuality, and attitude of the book finds an impressive balance between the classic hard boiled noir world of Chandler and Hammett ...more
Larry Piper
So, while I was reading Mosley, Easy Rawlins and a friend of his get into a discussion as to who is the greatest African American novelist, Chester Himes or Ralph Ellison. One or the other of them opts for Himes because he wrote more books and also because he wasn't afraid to show all society's shit. Whatever, I figured I should check out Chester Himes. I think he might be the African American equivalent of Raymond Chandler, i.e. a writer of hard-boiled detective fiction, albeit from an African- ...more
With the creation of his big city black detectives, Coffin Ed Johnson and Gravedigger Jones, Chester Himes achieved something singular and grand. Hard boiled genre fiction was nothing new in the 1950’s, but populating a landscape with sharply detailed black characters was new and still reads fresh today half a century later. The detectives work for a police department mostly at odds with the community they serve and serve a community distrustful of the department that they work for. Often this p ...more
May 14, 2013 Lemar rated it it was amazing
Chester Himes once again mines the street life of mid century Harlem for the setting in which to unspool a great thriller. Like all writers who endure beyond their time, Himes' observations are about human traits, frailty and strength, greed and generosity, here emerging from the crucible of poverty and violence. His writing is gripping, eloquent and funny. Himes captures a moment and renders it immortal as he conveys the moment and puts us there.

Here is how he describes the music at a the Cott
Nasty, brutish, and short.

Also: surprisingly - and often satisfyingly - violent, carnal, and lurid. You can just about picture old Chet Himes grinning like a dog as he wrote some of this stuff.

Also: rough-shod - which is maybe a polite way of saying amateurish - convoluted, and grotesque. Every face mentioned is described with a list of attributes - such-and-such a nose, such-and-such kind of hair - and almost every face, without fail, becomes "distorted" or "contorted" with rage or some strong
Oct 24, 2012 William rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another slick entry in 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 hum
Oct 20, 2009 Sarah rated it liked it
This book takes place 6 years after the first, Rage in Harlem. The tone is more militant than the past ones have been and confronts racism in a more direct manner, as shown through the Back to Africa movement & the Back to the South movement. Although it's usually easy to see who the "bad guys" are, here we have a Colonel Sanders look-alike who want to take the blacks from Harlem to work the cotton fields of the South again; and the Back-to-Africa movement leader who is scamming working-clas ...more
Jul 07, 2014 Martin rated it it was ok
I keep a list on my phone of books I'd like to read. I don't add the reason I chose to put the book on the list and I often, as in the case of "Cotton Comes to Harlem," don't remember what directed me to a book when I finally do come to read it. Someone somewhere said or wrote they loved this book and did so in a way that made me think I might as well. Maybe there was a Walter Mosley reference; can't remember.

It was OK, just fine, maybe even a 3-star, but I've given only three to books I've enjo
Jan 10, 2015 Rob rated it it was amazing
Himes at his best. He writes about Harlem, and crime and cops and swindlers, people on the edge on both sides of the law. The star cops, Gravedigger and Coffin Ed, are definitely on both sides of the law, because that's the only way to keep order in these stories. Himes may write the fastest great action scenes in the history of crime fiction, yet his ability to describe the city from which he was exiled is also nonpareil. The comedy is laugh out loud, the people are fascinating and in some case ...more
Elyce Strong
Feb 13, 2015 Elyce Strong rated it really liked it
From the start of the novel, Himes grabs the reader’s attention with strong, vibrant dialogue. The reader not only gets a sense of the charisma of one of the main characters, Reverend Deke O’Malley, but it also sets up what is happening in the story without being expository. The reader very quickly learns that Deke is a Harlem-based pastor who is leading a movement to take Black families back to Africa, very similar to Marcus Garvey’s Back-To-African movement in the 1920’s. Deke is speaking at a ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Incorrect book description 2 22 May 03, 2013 12:03AM  
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Chester Bomar Himes began writing in the early 1930s while serving a prison sentence for armed robbery. From there, he produced short stories for periodicals such as Esquire and Abbott's Monthly. When released, he focussed on semi-autobiographical protest novels.

In 1953, Himes emigrated to France, where he was approached by Marcel Duhamel of Gallimard to write a detective series for Série Noire,
More about Chester Himes...

Other Books in the Series

Harlem Cycle (9 books)
  • A Rage in Harlem (Harlem Cycle, #1)
  • The Real Cool Killers (Harlem Cycle, #2)
  • The Crazy Kill (Harlem Cycle, #3)
  • The Big Gold Dream (Harlem Cycle, #4)
  • All Shot Up (Harlem Cycle, #5)
  • The Heat's On (Harlem Cycle, #6)
  • Blind Man with a Pistol (Harlem Cycle, #8)
  • Plan B (Harlem Cycle, #9)

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“You bring the list to me at midnight. I’ll be waiting down by the Harlem River underneath the subway extension to the Polo Grounds in my cah, and I’ll pay you right then and there. It will be dark and deserted at that time of night and nobody’ll see you.” Barry” 0 likes
“Two days later they got a verification from Air France that they had flown a very old colored man with a passport issued to Cotton Bud of New York City by way of Paris to Dakar. They” 0 likes
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