A Rage in Harlem
A Rage in Harlem by Chester Himes 1957
Chester Himes writes Chandleresque thrillers whose heroes are tough black detectives: Coffin Ed
Johnson and Grave Digger Jones, Violent, surreal, fast paced set in 1950s Harlem, the two
detectives are always sent on the really difficult jobs because they are black and because they scare
the life (literally) out of the gangsters and bad guys. Coffin Ed has an acid-scarred face and this has
made him rather violent. Shoot outs, grisly deaths and car chases are plentiful and gangsters,
prostitutes, pimps, con men, and drug dealers line the streets.
In A rage in Harlem Jackson surrenders his life savings to a con man who knows the secret of
turning ten-dollar bills into hundreds—and then he steals from his boss, only to lose the stolen
money at a craps table. Luckily for him, he can turn to his savvy twin brother, Goldy, who earns a
living—disguised as a Sister of Mercy—by selling tickets to Heaven in Harlem.
The picture of Harlem life is vivid and the pace is manic. Dialogue is deadpan, fast and funny. The
detectives are both totally honest but readily break police rules- that is if any exist. They keep
the peace through fear, intimidation and their guns. The violent bad guys are always made to pay
the rest are tolerated and good guys and girls are saved. On their return to the precinct they never
get any thanks but they always solve the crime.
Mad, bad and full of black (sic) humour, the Harlem detective series are quite addictive.