“Don’t take them in the house, Digger. I’ll send them out.”
“Are they all together?”
“All? There’s only two here now. Hank and Jodie.”
“Slim ought to be here too,” Imabelle said in a breathless voice. Both Grave Digger and Billie turned to stare at her.
“Maybe he’s out looking for me.”
Billie looked away from her first. Grave Digger stared an instant longer. Then both turned back toward each other.
“I’ll take those two,” Grave Digger said.
“Not in the house, Digger. They’re hopped to the gills and kill-happy. I’ve got two of my best girls with them.”
“That’s the chance you take running this kind of joint.”
“I don’t run it for free, you know. I pay like hell. And the captain promised me there wouldn’t be any rumble in here.”
“Where are they?”
“The captain won’t like it, Digger.”
Grave Digger looked at her thoughtfully.
“Billie, they threw acid in Ed’s eyes.”
“Listen, Digger. I’ll set them up. I’ll take them down to the foyer myself and hand them over to you with their hands full of air.”
“You know goddamn well they don’t intend to leave that way. They’re planning on going over the roof and coming out of the house next door.”
“All right. Listen. I’ll trade you. I’ll give you three purse-snatchers, a prowler you’ve been wanting for a long time—“
“It’s getting late, Billie.”
“—and the Wilson murderer. The one who killed the liquor-store man during that stickup last month.”
“I’m going to come back for them. But I’ll take these two now.”
A Rage in Harlem is the first of Chester Himes’s Domestic Harlem novels. The protagonist is Jackson, a naïf young man trying to save his women from hoodlums… of course with some help. Grave Digger and Coffin Ed are just extras in this novel, but they will then become the main characters of the series… and for a reason. The moment they enter this novel, they immediately capture the reader’s attention, and honestly I wouldn’t be able to say exactly why. They are just that strong characters.
There’s also no doubt that Himes’s dialogues are good.
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