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Cotton Comes to Harlem (Harlem Cycle #7)

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  843 ratings  ·  68 reviews
Deke O'Hara is no sooner out of Atlanta 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 Harlem rally producing a big collection - for his own private charity. But the take is hijacked by white gunmen and hidden in a bale of cotton that suddenly everybody wants to get their hands ...more
Hardcover, 159 pages
Published 1965 by Allison & Busby (first published 1964)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,404)
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Ben Winch
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 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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.
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. ...more
Mother-raping cinematic.
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.
Srinivas Prasad Veeraraghavan
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
Στα ελληνικά «Βαμβάκι στο Χάρλεμ», εκδόσεις Αγρα.
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
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
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
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
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
Himes wrote some of the coolest novels in the genre, and Cotton Comes to Harlem is one of his best. It's a non-stop roller coaster ride of sex, violence and manic black humor that literally left me breathless at times; it's that good. In between the action Himes sneaks in a few telling comments on race relations and race politics, but this is by no means a cultural polemic posing as a thriller: it's the real deal. Check out A Rage in Harlem as well (the second best of his Harlem novels) then pic ...more
Himes strikes an electrifying balance between anger, humour and pulp thrills in 'Cotton Comes to Harlem'.

There's a genuine fury present in this book, but it very rarely manifests itself in a didactic way. The characters are slightly cartoonish, but this serves the heightened tone of the book perfectly and throws the moments of pathos into sharp relief.

The book's main character is argubly Harlem itself, as Himes will often have the book's lucidly realised supporting cast offer interjections upon
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
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
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
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
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
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
Everyone's tough, wised up, and has lots of angles - in other words, a classic noir novel. The female characters are pretty much just straight guy wet dreams, and a few of the angles are completely unrealistic, but I guess that's classic noir, too. Lacks the fun wordplay of Raymond Chandler, but I liked it better than Dashiell Hammett.
Adam  McPhee
Inspired by Marcus Garvey, a fresh-out-of prison con artist poses as a minister to start a back-to-Africa scam to rip off poor Black families, to the tune of $87,000. But his money is stolen in broad daylight. Meanwhile there's a colonel from Alabama in Harlem up to no good, and it's up to Coffin Ed and Grave Digger Jones to get to the bottom of it all.
Keith LaFountaine
"Cotton Comes to Harlem" is interesting in many different respects. Its incredulous, quick paced story is overwhelming at times, and its incredibly short length can be a bit off-putting as plot points and scenes seem to whip by without much description or resolution. However, the novel itself is well written, and there are some great comments made about race relations during the time period the novel is set (which can be related to today's society).
Mary Schneider
Thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is a sophisticated mystery with characters/personalities that would be -- were and are -- overlooked by authors with a mainstream perspective. Can't wait to Google Earth all the locations in Harlem.
Marty Babits
As is often the case, the book is much better than the movie. The book highlights absurdity and comic verve rolled into a hair-brained, get-rich-quick Ponzi scheme that takes all manner of unpredictable twists and turns.
John  Sullivan
I read this because of the class I'm taking. The major strong parts to me were the sense of place and time which the author described. The story was plotted well. Be prepared to face and inside out look at racal bias. Some of the humor was very good.
Lil' Grogan
Himes is the kind of writer who I suspect that while making his readers laugh was also having his laugh at us. It's not often that an author can make me laugh while equally tickled, offended and sad. It's possible that it's actually getting more painful reading Himes. Not sure how else to describe this...this beauty and poetry in violence and struggle. Maybe it hurts so much because it's about race and poverty. Maybe it's simply absurd truth. I don't know, but I'm in damned awe.

The reductionist
Michael A
Black detectives in Harlem use street smarts and big guns to try to keep the peace. Lots of humor and inside jokes from the period and the city make this just the thing for a movie.
This was a time trip to read. Dial back to the early 1960's and think about what is being told and how dialog is depicted. This sort book was recommended to the book club. The book tells the story of two Harlem detectives and the craziness of criminals creating and implementing a fraudulent plan for fleecing citizens by offering the chance to move back to Africa. I believe I saw the movie of this many years ago and now I want to rent it to see if it compares at all to the book.
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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
  • 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)
A Rage in Harlem If He Hollers Let Him Go The Real Cool Killers (Harlem Cycle, #2) Blind Man with a Pistol (Harlem Cycle, #8) The Heat's On (Harlem Cycle, #6)

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