Grave Digger Jones & Coffin Ed Johnson #2: “The Real Cool Killers” by Chester Hines. To be a black cop in Harlem, you have to be big, tough, and carry a big shiny gun with a long barrel. Grave Digger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson are the best. “If you don’t answer my questions, I’ll drag you under the bridge and pistol whip you. If you try to run I’ll shoot you in the back of the head.” No one messes with these two, and they get results. In this case, a white man was in a Harlem bar when a black man goes after him with a knife. The bartender tries to stop him, but is cut, so grabs an ax under the counter and chops the knife arm off, while the white man runs from the bar. But outside another black man wants to have some fun with him, and pulls a blank pistol and starts firing blanks at him. The white man runs for his life with the black man running behind him, as a crowd gathers. When the white man falls, and the police respond, its discovered that he is dead from a bullet wound. They arrest the black man with the gun, but know he didn’t kill the white man with blanks. But who did. The police set up command at the scene and police surround the neighborhood and Grave Digger is sent off to investigate. Coffin Ed has been suspended because he killed a gang member at the scene when the teenager threw perfume in his face. Coffin Ed Johnson (called the Monster by locals) has scars on his face from acid and thought he was being hit with acid again, and shot in self-defense.
Grave Digger Jones solves the case within a few hours, and never leaves the neighborhood, but the story was very good. The white man was a pervert. He liked young school age black girls, and used a whip on them. But he paid them one hundred dollars for his fun. The man in the bar was the father of the girl. The man arrested for the murder was the leader of the black gang, The Cool Moslems – but there is a twist here that I won’t mention. The book was published in 1959, and the author is a black man familiar with the black community and their problems, so his story is good from that angle also. One thing, though, this was written before the pc police got involved with literature, so it is full of racially expletives, and the “n” word is used quite often. Other than that, I found the story enjoyable and can recommend it to mystery lovers. You just have to understand the time it was written. I read all of the Grave Digger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson mysteries when they first came out, but lost them over the years. It was fun finding this one again. It is an interesting mystery.