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The Heat's On (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – 5 May 2011

5.0 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (5 May 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141196475
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141196473
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 226,037 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

The greatest find in American crime fiction since Raymond Chandler (Sunday Times)

Outrageous, shocking, wonderful (New York Times Book Review)

Himes wrote spectacularly successful entertainments, filled with gems of descriptive writing, plots that barely sidestep chaos, characters surreal, grotesque, comic, hip, Harlem recollected as a place that can make you laugh, cry, shudder. (John Edgar Wideman)

Chester Himes is one of the towering figures of the black literary tradition. His command of nuances of character and dynamics of plot is preeminent among writers of crime fiction. He is a master craftsman. (Henry Louis Gates, Jr.)

A fantasia with a hard brilliant core (Evening Standard)

A fine crime writer of Chandlerian subtlety though in a vein of sheer toughness very much his own (The Times)

Chester Himes is the great lost crime writer, as well a great American dissident novelist per se, and an essential witness to his times. Every one of his beyond-cool Harlem novels is cherished by every reader who finds it. (Jonathan Lethem)

Hieronymus Bosch meets Miles Davis (The New York Times)

He belongs with those great demented realists ... whose writing pitilessly exposes the ridiculousness of the human condition (Will Self)

That he could channel this pain and misery into some of the greatest crime novels ever written is a testament to his skill as a writer and his spirit as a man. If this is the first Chester Himes novel you will read then, believe me, you are in for a treat. (Noel "Razor" Smith)

From the Inside Flap

From the start, nothing goes fright for Coffin Ed and Grave Digger Jones. They are disciplined for use of excessive force. Grave Digger is shot and his death announced in a hoax radio bulletin. Bodies pile up faster than Coffin Ed and Grave Digger Jones can run. Yet, try as they might, they always seem to be one hot step behind the cause of all the mayhem--three million dollars' worth of heroine and a simple albino called Pinky. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There are three books in the series and they are a good reads giving a feel of 1930's America and big city life
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Taut, gritty classic with twists and turns and double dealings. A great read
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Excellent book and good service
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As usual, a great read
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars 14 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars aka : Come Back Charleston Blue 6 Feb. 2001
By Orrin C. Judd - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
There are a few things you can depend on in Chester Himes's great police procedurals featuring Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones : colorful characters, distinctive dialect, a fierce racial sensibility, and plenty of mayhem. Meanwhile, the stories are pleasantly devoid of the kind of self-analysis and interior monologue which clutter up so much of modern fiction, even crime fiction. The Heat's On is something of an exception. Oh, there's more than enough mayhem and what with a giant albino junkie, a hunchback dwarf, a pony-sized attack dog, a faith healer, and various and sundry other folk about, there's certainly adequate local color.
But when, first, the detectives are suspended for treating the dwarf a tad too roughly (for instance, he dies in custody) and then Digger is shot and reported killed, Cotton Ed lets his slip show a little. He becomes a frenzied dynamo of barely contained brutality as he tears a steaming hot Harlem apart searching for the cache of heroin that led to the whole mess. This is a terrific entry in the series and is particularly interesting for Himes's fearsome hostility towards the drug traffic which was blighting the inner-city even then. His attitude makes for an interesting contrast with the permissive modern attitude of many black leaders, who decry harsh prison sentences for drug dealers. It's awfully hard to see Coffin Ed, Grave Digger, or Chester Himes arguing that pushers are victims of an unjust drug war.
GRADE : A
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars aka : Come Back Charleston Blue 6 Feb. 2001
By Orrin C. Judd - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
There are a few things you can depend on in Chester Himes's great police procedurals featuring Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones : colorful characters, distinctive dialect, a fierce racial sensibility, and plenty of mayhem. Meanwhile, the stories are pleasantly devoid of the kind of self-analysis and interior monologue which clutter up so much of modern fiction, even crime fiction. The Heat's On is something of an exception. Oh, there's more than enough mayhem and what with a giant albino junkie, a hunchback dwarf, a pony-sized attack dog, a faith healer, and various and sundry other folk about, there's certainly adequate local color.
But when, first, the detectives are suspended for treating the dwarf a tad too roughly (for instance, he dies in custody) and then Digger is shot and reported killed, Cotton Ed lets his slip show a little. He becomes a frenzied dynamo of barely contained brutality as he tears a steaming hot Harlem apart searching for the cache of heroin that led to the whole mess. This is a terrific entry in the series and is particularly interesting for Himes's fearsome hostility towards the drug traffic which was blighting the inner-city even then. His attitude makes for an interesting contrast with the permissive modern attitude of many black leaders, who decry harsh prison sentences for drug dealers. It's awfully hard to see Coffin Ed, Grave Digger, or Chester Himes arguing that pushers are victims of an unjust drug war.
GRADE : A
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Timeless Crime 26 April 2012
By Donald E. Gilliland - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is one of the novels in Himes's acclaimed "Harlem Cycle" featuring police detectives Coffin Ed and Grave Digger Jones. I read this about 20 years ago and recently re-read it, hoping I'd still like it. And I did; this is still a great book. In addition to being a highly entertaining work of crime fiction, this novel, like others that Himes wrote, sheds light on racial relations and tensions in the United States in the murky decades of the 1940s through the 60s. In this book Himes takes the reader into the heart of Black America; it's akin to exploring an entirely different world, far from that of mainstream white America. But this novel is also a pure delight on other levels with the realistic dialogue, outrageous humor, and wonderfully absurd scenarios. When it comes to crime fiction, Chester Himes remains one of the great ones.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gritty Crime Story With A Larger Bleak Message 14 April 2013
By NYC Family - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Heat's On tells the story of black detectives Coffin Ed and Gravedigger Jones as they try to stop several pounds of pure heroin from poisoning Harlem using any means they can. While this problem is eventually solved at great physical, emotional and professional cost, it is clear that racism, crime, and corruption in Harlem will continue and that the detectives face a monumental battle that they probably can't win. The novel goes beyond the genre category of detective novel to explore themes such as racism in America to the struggle to maintain a personal moral code and sense of value in an amoral universe.

Himes's control of language to set a scene is powerful. When the detectives enter a stripper bar to eat, you can smell the sweat. When there is a car chase, you bounce in your seat. When Harlem has a heat wave, the pages would cook eggs.

Fans of hardboiled, crime and detective fiction will not be disappointed by the plot or action. The body count is high. Betrayal and corruption the way of life. These are mixed with many scenes of farce and humor, often having to do with blacks outwitting whites by playing to the whites' racial stereotypes to achieve a criminal goal. Himes clearly puts a lot of energy and enthusiasm in these passages.

Himes can compare in quality to Chandler and Hammett, and he clearly is commenting on and developing their novels, plots and style. But another comparison that made sense to me is to the modern versions of Batman (Frank Miller and the first two movies). Batman always wins against each criminal, but they keep always coming and victory against anarchy and crime is never secure. The price Batman pays to fight crime and keep the city safe is high, and he loses most of what he values, from wealth to health to love. About halfway through the book Coffin Ed and Gravedigger Jones become like Batman superheros, archetypes or symbols rather than normal people. The physical damage they take and survive in the novel is beyond what an actual human could stand in reality. The book becomes about their symbolic struggle to retain a sense of personal worth, moral code and agency amidst the degradation, racism and crime that surrounds them. While they survive this book to be in a sequel, it is not clear to me that they will make it in the end. They've lost their faces to scars and acid, and for most of the novel, their detective badges. What will Himes leave them in the end?

The novel has some very deep weaknesses, that one must simply overlook to get to the good parts, as they have no possible justification. The "ending" is a joke. The characters stand around and talk for a few pages and "wrap up" the plot. Himes had his fun with all the subplots, deaths, and misadventures, and decided he had reached his page limit. Coffin and Gravedigger were not even directly responsible for stopping the heroin, so the joke's kinda on them. Also, Himes does not place any female characters in a sympathetic or active light. Sister Heavenly (a female drug-dealer) does get several scenes of agency, intelligence, and ambition, but she is portrayed as self-hating (she bleaches her face) and her ending is not pretty even by the standards of the book. It is fair to say the novel is very male centered.

This was my first Harlem Detective story, but it won't be my last, as I now plan to read them all. Himes should be much more widely known. Perhaps this novel is too bleak to achieve classic status, but read the book and decide for yourself.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A violent yet poignant thriller 30 Mar. 2000
By Sandra Greenberg - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones are 2 of strongest characters and 2 of the toughest partners in crime fiction. However in this volume of the Himes series they play an almost secondary role. In spite of this I enjoyed the book as much as Cotton Comes to Harlem. Coffin Ed will go to extremes to revenge his partner as he unravels this mystery.
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