The Essential Harlem Detectives


A Rage in Harlem, The Real Cool Killers, The Crazy Kill, Cotton Comes To Harlem

by Chester Himes
Introduction by S. A. Cosby

The New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice • A one-volume selection of four novels in the legendary detective series—blistering, groundbreaking capers set in Harlem’s criminal underworld—by master crime writer Chester Himes. With an introduction by New York Times bestselling author S.A. Cosby.

“[Himes] put a spin on crime fiction—emphasizing urban atmosphere, street smarts, and uptown carryings-on—unlike anything the genre had previously seen.” —The Boston Globe

“Himes’s Harlem saga vies with the novels of David Goodis and Jim Thompson as the inescapable achievement of postwar American crime fiction.” —The New York Times

“His implacable drive to examine the Black experience, the disingenuous nature of the American Dream, the reality of pain and sorrow and what it does to the soul, that is what makes [Himes] the bard of the existential African American psyche.” —S.A. Cosby, from his Introduction

Here in one volume is an exceptional selection from Chester Himes’s acclaimed Harlem Detectives series. Winner of France’s prestigious Grand Prix de Littérature Policière and lauded by Jean Cocteau as a “prodigious masterpiece,” A Rage in Harlem introduces detectives Grave Digger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson in a searing escapade. In The Real Cool Killers, the duo investigates a shooting and discovers an unsettling personal connection. In The Crazy Kill, a man is found in a breadbasket, stabbed to death, leaving Himes’s detectives to find out who among the many suspects did it. And in Cotton Comes to Harlem, the brazen robbery of a notorious con man running a back-to-Africa scam sets off a hunt for a bale of Southern cotton. These masterful novels exhibit Himes’s evocative, baroque descriptions of Black life in Harlem and his famously blistering social commentary.

Everyman’s Library pursues the highest production standards, printing on acid-free paper, with full-cloth cases with two-color foil stamping, decorative endpapers, silk ribbon markers, European-style half-round spines, and a full-color illustrated jacket. Contemporary Classics include an introduction, a select bibliography, and a chronology of the author’s life and times.

“The best writer of mayhem yarns since Raymond Chandler.” —San Francisco Chronicle

Paperback | 256 pages | Amethyst Editions | 2021

Chester (Bomar) Himes began his writing career while serving in the Ohio State Penitentiary for armed robbery from 1929 – 1936. His account of the horrific 1930 Penitentiary fire that killed over three hundred men appeared in Esquire in 1932 and from this Himes was able to get other work published. From his first novel, If He Hollers Let Him Go (1945), Himes dealt with the social and psychological repercussions of being black in a white-dominated society. Beginning in 1953, Himes moved to Europe, where he lived as an expatriate in France and Spain. There, he met and was strongly influenced by Richard Wright. It was in France that he began his best-known series of crime novels—including Cotton Comes to Harlem (1965) and Run Man Run (1966)—featuring two Harlem policemen Gravedigger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson. As with Himes’s earlier work, the series is characterized by violence and grisly, sardonic humor.