The Real Cool Killers

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The Real Cool Killers
First English edition
Author Chester Himes
Original title Il pleut des coups durs
Cover artist Terrance Cummings
Country United States
Language English
Series Grave Digger Jones & Coffin Ed Johnson Mysteries
Genre (Hardboiled Crime Fiction)
Publisher Avon
Publication date
Media type Print Paperback
Pages 159 pp
OCLC 88040121
LC Class PS3515.I713 R44 1988
Preceded by The Crazy Kill
Followed by All Shot Up

The Real Cool Killers is a Hardboiled Crime Fiction novel written by Chester Himes. Published in 1959, it is the second book in the Grave Digger Jones & Coffin Ed Johnson Mysteries. The protagonists of the novel, Grave Digger Jones and Coffin Ed, are a pair of black detectives who patrol the dangerous slums of Harlem. The book was originally published in French under the title Il pleut des coups durs.


The plot concerns the murder of Ulysses Galen, who was found dead in one of the streets of Harlem. Detectives Grave Digger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson must investigate the murder and follow up various leads as to who might have had a reason to kill Galen.


In a brief review of The Real Cool Killers, The New York Times described crime novels as "guilty pleasures for the guilty minded".[1] In another brief review, Berkeley scientist John McDonald commented on the book's racial tension, praising the book's "dark wit."[2]

Literary criticism[edit]

The Real Cool Killers has been subject of literary criticism, most notably for its depiction of African-American characters Grave Digger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson. Digger especially is seen vocalizing his feelings over the murders and the indifference from the authorities.[3] In her book At Home in Diaspora: Black International Writing, Wendy Walters describes the book's two detectives as "viable folk heroes for the urban community".[4] Megan Abbott analyzed the book in The Street Was Mine, noting the depiction of Galen and how it differed from other depictions of white men in books such as Farewell, My Lovely, and how Hines "moves black male characters from representations peripheral and stereotypical (as icons of degeneration or service industry employees) to the center".[5] In "Born in a Mighty Bad Land" Jerry H Bryant wrote "There is ... a kind of clinical as well as cultural element in Himes's treatment of the violent man in the Harlem of the fifties and sixties".[6]


  1. ^ Walter Kirn, "Pulp Fiction - The dark side of the American psyche is explored in a two-volume anthology of crime fiction", New York Times, November 30, 1997.
  2. ^ John Q. McDonald, The Thumbnail Book Reviews: The Real Cool Killers, 11 May 2000.
  3. ^ Skinner, Robert E. Two Guns From Harlem: The Detective Fiction of Chester Himes. Popular Press 1, 1989, pp. 32-33.
  4. ^ Walters, Wendy W. At Home in Diaspora: Black International Writing. University of Minnesota Press, 2005, pp. 64-65.
  5. ^ Abbott, Megan. The Street Was Mine: White Masculinity in Hardboiled Fiction and Film Noir. Palgrave Macmillan, 2002, pp. 167-68.
  6. ^ Bryant, Jerry H. "Born in a Mighty Bad Land": The Violent Man in African American Folklore and Fiction (Blacks in the Diaspora). Indiana University Press, 2003, p. 118.