Cotton Comes to Harlem was surprisingly a great book. In the beginning it started off slow with the Back-to-Africa movement, but once the white hijackers came in, that’s where the real story starts. I thought it was interesting how easy it was for Reverend Deke O’Mally to get out of jail and cover up his past to the point where he could confuse everyone in Harlem, or maybe confusing everyone in Harlem was not such a hard task. Regardless, I like how the theme of sex as a tool of deception in the novel. First with Deke and Mabel, how he uses his ‘authority’ as a reverend to manipulate Mabel. Next Iris uses sex to decieve the white officer that is placed in her apartment, and escapes to go find Deke. Also the relationship with Iris and Billie Belle is also brought up, perhaps a homosexual relationship between the two that even Deke did not know about apparently. Hyper sexuality is something that can’t be missed in the book. All the way until the end when they ask the precinct where Cotton Bud is, they ask him how many wives will 500 heads of cattle buy, like the only thing they think about is sex. It’s also interesting to not see the wives of Coffin Ed and Grave Digger come into play at all, almost as though they were unimportant to the story but also to the officers.
There was some role reversal towards the end of the novel. When Grave Digger and Coffin Ed bust out of the closet to catch the Colonel and his assistant with the bale of hay, Colonel says that it will never hold up in court, that because he was white no one would care and he would be a free man in no time. Grave Digger counters with saying that the Colonel is not in Alabama anymore, the black of Harlem will be in an uproar, the black press will know, and there is no one a jury will give him a pass with that much bad press. But in the end, Coffin Ed and Grave Digger get the money back. However I don’t think letting the Colonel escape was a great idea. What’s to say he won’t try it again?
I don’t quite understand how they see the Colonel in the end. They refer to him as benevolent, but this is a man that murdered, or had people murdered, just for the money in the cotton. I’m not sure how they come to the conclusion of benevolence.
And who would have expected Uncle Bud to be the one to find the money in the cotton? By the time the case was put together he was long gone. I thought the correspondence between precincts at the end was hilarious, talking about ‘Cotton Bud’ and what he was doing with his money…becoming the new Solomon.