The Real Cool Killers (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard) and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more
Buy New
$12.46
Qty:1
  • List Price: $14.00
  • Save: $1.54 (11%)
FREE Shipping on orders over $35.
Only 13 left in stock (more on the way).
Ships from and sold by Amazon.com.
Gift-wrap available.
Add to Cart
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See this image

The Real Cool Killers Paperback – November 28, 1988


See all 22 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price New from Used from
Kindle
"Please retry"
Hardcover, Import
"Please retry"
$16.92
Paperback
"Please retry"
$12.46
$5.99 $1.41


Frequently Bought Together

The Real Cool Killers + A Rage in Harlem + Cotton Comes to Harlem
Price for all three: $36.50

Buy the selected items together

Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought

NO_CONTENT_IN_FEATURE

Hero Quick Promo
Browse in Books with Buzz and explore more details on selected titles, including the current pick, "The Bone Clocks" by David Mitchell.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (November 28, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679720391
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679720393
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.1 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #134,326 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

To detectives Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones, it looked like an open and shut case. After all, Sonny Pickens was still standing over the body of Ulysses Galen, smoking gun hanging from his hand. Only one problem: Sonny's gun was loaded with blanks. There were plenty of people who wanted Galen dead, but who was responsible? Sonny? A jealous husband? Or one of the street toughs from a gang calling themselves the Real Cool Moslems? Coffin Ed and Grave Digger pound the mean streets of 1950s Harlem in search of the Real Cool Killer.

Review

“The action is slapstick, preposterously violent—Hieronymus Bosch meets Miles Davis.”
    —Walter Kirn, The New York Times

“One of the most important American writers of the 20th century. . . . A quirky American genius.”
   —Walter Mosley

 
“For sheer toughness it’s hard to beat the black detectives Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones. Himes never received the recognition he deserved for his books—they combine elements of George V. Higgins, Elmore Leonard, and Richard Stark, with a bleak vision all their own.”
    —The Washington Post
 
“Himes’s Harlem detective series . . . are remarkable for their macabre comic sense and wicked and nasty wit.”
    —Ishmael Reed, Los Angeles Times

More About the Author

Discover books, learn about writers, read author blogs, and more.

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
5 star
8
4 star
8
3 star
2
2 star
2
1 star
0
See all 20 customer reviews
Great writing style.
Christopher S. Doyle
The action and the energy level are the equal of any writer in the genre, and for pure readability he's one of the most entertaining.
J. D Suggs
The many characters are vividly drawn and the plentiful dialogue is remarkably authentic.
Michael G.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By J. D Suggs on September 28, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Chester Himes stands a bit apart- and perhaps a bit above- most of the mid-century crime and suspense novelists that this re-issue series collects. The action and the energy level are the equal of any writer in the genre, and for pure readability he's one of the most entertaining. But there is clearly some valid literary intent here as well, and as a result bookstores have never been quite sure where to place the few novels he wrote about Coffin Ed Johnson and Gravedigger Jones.
Himes' background as a black ex-convict (and eventual expatriate) add to his interesting perspective as he tries to capture- or, more accurately, caricature- the violence and the "comic chaos" (his phrase) of the Harlem Renaissance. Coffin Ed and Gravedigger are two ruthless detectives caught between their own people and the white law that employs them; they really don't fit into any group other than themselves. They are outsiders who believe strongly in order and in the guns they carry, but are often conflicted, and occasionally even divided.
This is probably the best and the tightest of Himes' stories with these characters; it is a fabulous read and one I will return to often over the years. The world Himes conjures is savage and disturbing, and the characters are eccentric to the point of being circus freaks, but are always believable and compelling. This is the kind of book that will leave you trying to describe scenes to your friends.
Coffin Ed and Gravedigger may be the greatest individual creations of a very rich genre. I'd say start here.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Stamper VINE VOICE on July 7, 2004
Format: Paperback
These mid-century crime novels are a favorite genre of mine, but I didn't know much about Chester Himes before picking this one up. The mystery itself is interesting but secondary in importance to the setting of Harlem and the many characters that live there. Himes has a great style and he uses dialect just enough to give us a sense of setting.
Gravedigger Jones and Coffin Johnson have names that sound like a couple of cops that don't mind putting the occasional criminal under the grass -- and they do. They're introduced shortly after the opening murder and they prove themselves immediately tough and competent.
Gravedigger and Coffin learn that the mystery goes deeper than one shooting. (It usually does in these kinds of novels). What's interesting is the way the people of Harlem respects these black cops, but still don't trust them. Their ability is even respected by the white cops that don't mind uttering the frequent racial slur towards the casual citizenry. Gravedigger and Coffin are in a world between the white establishment and the everyday people of Harlem. The conflict creates the same kind of tension that Marlowe and Spade have with the regular police.
You can also give Himes credit for not stereotyping any of the characters black or white. The white cops aren't all corrupt and the blacks aren't all angels. The book made for a quick and interesting getaway.
1 Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Douglas J. Bassett on March 28, 1999
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
All of the Gravedigger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson books are worth reading. This might be a good place to start, as you'll learn more here about the protagonists' personal lives than you will in other novels. Himes was a great stylist, and one of the most important post-WW 2 American writers.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By JazzFeathers on February 27, 2012
Format: Paperback
The opening of the novel is one of the most puzzling and challenging I've ever read. Things happen and they seem absurd. People shout at each other, wound each other terribly, a man is shot to death, and there seems to be no reason for this.
But as the novel unfolds, reasons start to surface. By the end, we know there was nothing absurd in the opening scene, but everything happened for a reason. Reasons tightly entwined with human passions and twists.
For me, this is the most fascinating aspect of the novel.

I love Chester Himes. I love his visceral, powerful way to handle his characters, the way he drills reasons and passions inside them. The way they talk, the way they act. His characters always seem so real, they always act in response to inner desires and outside pushes, so that they seem real even when they act absurd - or seem to.

Still, this second novel set in Harlem it's not as powerful as the first one (`Rage in Harlem'). The action only spans a few hours, but while the investigation (lead by Grave Digger Jones) is tight, with a strong logic leading it, and with strong characters populating it, the parallel thread regarding the kids' gang is not as strong. The two threads meet at the end, but in the apartment where the kids hide nothing relevant seems to happen. The action meanders a little, there seems to be no real purpose but to take time while the investigation has its course. I didn't get bored because of Himes' incredible ability to create situations and his mastery in creating dialogue, but I did enjoyed the investigation more, and I did look forward to go back to Grave Digger when I was reading the kids.

In spite of this, I enjoyed it. A lot.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Michael G. VINE VOICE on August 6, 2006
Format: Paperback
The Real Cool Killers, a novel by an African-American about African-Americans, is a remarkably well written example of pulp fiction. It features NYPD detective Grave Digger Jones who is called upon to solve the murder of a white man shot to death while running from pursuers on a busy Harlem street.

Author Chester Himes succeeds in grabbing the reader's attention with a superbly composed first chapter. It's a chapter that plays out like a masterfully choreographed ballet. A violent and bloody ballet but a ballet nonetheless.

After that the reader is treated to a fast paced, interesting narrative that expertly touches upon the many social ills that plague those forced by racism to live in urban slums. The many characters are vividly drawn and the plentiful dialogue is remarkably authentic. As one reads the lines of dialogue, it's quite easy to "hear" the inflections and other nuances in the voices of the various characters.

True to the conventions of pulp fiction, Himes has crafted a work that is violent, cruel and unapologetically downbeat in its depiction of the lives lived by the characters. I think it would be fair to say that Himes pulled very few punches in describing the dysfunctional aspects of 1950s Harlem.

With a narrative that unfolds over the course of just a few hours, The Real Cool Killers, is also notable for its well structured plot, its effective use of humor despite the seriousness of the subject matter and its overall respect for the intelligence of the reader.

An outstanding novel. Highly recommended.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again

Customer Images

Most Recent Customer Reviews

Search

What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?