By R.A. Brooks Sr., Black Books and Reviews.com.
Some five years after author Walter Mosley sends the iconic private detective Easy Rawlins plunging over a California cliff in a car crash in Blonde Faith, we find out that he didn’t die after all.
So, here it is — a 12th Easy Rawlins mystery – Little Green. And it is a classic Walter Mosley detective mystery. After he is found dying and nursed back to health by his best friend, the cold-blooded killer Mouse, Easy Rawlins is off on another adventurous case that immediately reminds us just how much we missed him.
While Rawlins was gone, Mosley gave us another series, this one featuring Leonid McGill. (The new character has appeared in four books to be exact.) But as much as I enjoyed McGill, he was no Easy Rawlins. And boy did we miss our favorite 60s-era black private eye.
We see quickly why we missed Easy so much. Still, not quite recovered, physically or mentally from the tragic accident, Rawlins embarks on a search for a teenager known as Little Green. And he takes on this assignment as a personal favor to Mouse.
Powered by some weird concoction called Gator’s Blood given to him by good friend and conjure woman Mama Jo, his latest journey takes him to the Los Angeles hippy culture and community in 1967. It is a world of free love, psychedelic drugs and for the first time since his days as a soldier in World War II France, Rawlins sees a truly color-blind world.
But once he steps back outside that world, all the demons, evil and racism remain, stronger than ever. There are the racist cops who want to arrest and destroy him, and the racist thugs who want to kill him. And, oh, the black thugs too.
All the characters we had grown to love are back. There are his “adopted” children, Jesus and Feather. And his genius friend Jackson Blue, who will forever fear Rawlins, but knows also that he can always turn to him for help or protection.
It’s no wonder we feel so attached to Easy Rawlins. Mosley is compared a lot to Raymond Chandler. But we never really saw Chandler’s iconic private detective of the 40’s and 50’s, Philip Marlowe, grow the way we say Rawlins grow and change with the times. We were introduced to Rawlins in Devil in a Blue Dress in 1961. We were with him as his children grow into a young man and a young lady. We saw him get older and slower, but wiser. And we saw him fall in love only to have his heart broken.
Then there are the inevitable plots and subplots, and many surprises. That’s what I love about Mosley, there are always surprises. The writing is as great is ever.
“While allowing my body to lurch forward I realized that the girl had set me up to be mugged. Why not? There had to be criminal hippies along with those involved in flower power. I let my left knee go all the way to the ground and then genuflected beyond that. Above my head a man grunted and the slight breeze of a heavy object passed overheard. My right hand reached under my jacket, behind my back, and grasped the .22 I’d brought from the secret chamber in my closet. I fell on my left side and looked up at two scruffy men with longish, but not hippie-long, hair. They work leather jackets, angry beards, and had, respectively, red and blue bandannas tied around their throats.”
Mosley has written more than 40 books, including his McGill series, his Fearless Jones series and several science fiction efforts. But it was the Easy Rawlins novels that made Mosley President Clinton’s favorite mystery writer.
Yes, we’ve known Easy Rawlins since Mosley introduced him to us in Devil in a Blue Dress in 1990. Surprisingly that remains the only one ever made into a movie, starring Denzel Washington in the title role in 1995. We certainly missed him.
Walter, thanks so much for bringing him back.
About the Book Review Author
R.A. Brooks Sr. is a Washington, D.C. area journalist and a founding partner of BlackBooksandReviews.com.