The Barnes & Noble Review
Walter Mosley returns to the the turbulent, conflicted energies of 1960s Los Angeles with an Easy Rawlins mystery that's a direct sequel to his 1995 A Little Yellow Dog.
Asked for a favor by his longtime friend John, Easy hits the streets to make the kind of moves only he knows how to make. He's looking for John's stepson, Brawly Brown, a youthful giant who's mixed up with a radical black-power group, the Urban Revolutionary Party. Easy has barely started on his hunt when he discovers the corpse of Brawly's father and finds himself entangled in murder, politics, and a secret police spy network that monitors black extremists. Along with these troubles, Easy suffers from bouts of guilt involving the death of his best friend, the stone killer Mouse -- who, it turns out, may still be alive.
Mosley emphasizes sentiment and thoroughly details black culture, underscoring a harsh existence with scenes of abrupt violence. He remains in excellent form, conveying raw emotion through the medium of a taut plot. As always with his writing, the highest points come when he deals with the intricacy of race relations or the conflicted nature of his ever-evolving, most popular character: Easy has spent his life fighting to escape poverty and bloodshed, but even as he achieves his middle-class dreams he's perpetually drawn back to the terrors of the ghetto. The contradictions of such a man are matched by the complexity of the tumultuous L.A. landscape, and those emotional and historical resonances keep readers deeply engaged in the story.
With Bad Boy Brawly Brown, Walter Mosley again proves that his greatest ability is to fully realize the distressing but commonplace nature of despair, remorse, brutality, and the beauty found even in the fiercest of lives. This is yet another gripping and poignant work from one of America's most talented authors. (Tom Piccirilli)
Ending a seven-year break from Easy Rawlins, Mosley resumes the popular series by plunging his streetwise hero into the political turbulence of 1960s Los Angeles, involving him with a group of radical black militants who might be even less trustworthy than the cops. The plot pivots around Brawly Brown, a twenty-three-year-old hothead who has forsaken his troubled family to join the Urban Revolutionary Party. Since Brawly's estranged mother is the lover of one of Easy's close friends, Easy takes time away from his day job as a school custodian to determine whether these armed insurrectionists are radical idealists or a street gang operating on the fringes of organized crime. Complicating his investigation are Brawly's romantic entanglements, which Easy finds almost as tough to sort out as the group's political factions. While Easy Rawlins remains one of the more compelling protagonists in contemporary crime fiction, he accurately describes this novel's predicament as "a puzzle with too many pieces." Whereas Mosley's previous work has been more character-driven, here he gives the reader too much plot, too many characters and too little reason to care.
Finally. Five years after the last taste (1997's Gone Fishin') and six years after the last full meal (1996's A Little Yellow Dog), Easy Rawlins makes a very welcome return. Now 44 years old, Easy no longer makes a living from doing people "favors." Now he owns a house, works for the Board of Education in Los Angeles and is father to a teenage son, Jesus, and a young daughter, Feather. It's 1964, and while some things have changed, the process is slow and uncertain. Too slow for some, including Brawly Brown, the son of Alva, the girlfriend of Easy's friend, John. Hotheaded Brawly has become involved with a group calling itself the Urban Revolutionary Party, and John and Alva fear the group's unspoken aim is violence and revenge. Friendship and loyalty being still sacred to Easy, he agrees, as a favor, to try to locate and talk to Brawly. As usual, Easy's path is not easy. When a body surfaces, Easy finds himself in the middle of a vicious puzzle where lives are cheap and death the easiest solution. As always, Mosley illuminates time and place with a precision few writers can match whatever genre they choose. He also delivers a rousing good story and continues to captivate with characters readers have grown to love, including the now "dead" Mouse, who still plays an important role in Easy's chronicle. Agent, Gloria Loomis. (One-day laydown July 2) Forecast: This one should shoot up bestseller lists, backed by a 10-city author tour and a major advertising and publicity campaign. The reissue and repackaging of six Easy Rawlins novels this fall, each with an original stand-alone story focusing on the fate of Easy's friend Mouse, will keep the momentum going. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
This latest outing in Mosley's ongoing detective series (Devil in a Blue Dress) could be subtitled Easy Rawlins's Family Values, as the concept of family whether the one you are born into or the one you choose for yourself echoes throughout. Set in 1964, the core of the plot finds Easy on a mission to lure the title character back to his mother. But not only is Brawley bad, he's big and not so easily swayed, especially since joining the Urban Revolutionary Party, a political group wary of strangers. Add to that a cache of stolen guns, secret government investigators, a payroll heist, several murders, problems with his son, and everybody lying about everything, plus his own crushing guilt over the apparent death of his best friend, and you've got Easy behind the eight ball once again. The author continues to probe the African American experience, and while a crime is at the heart of this book, its soul lies in deeper issues. Nonetheless, Mosley is always a good read. Recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 3/15/02.] Michael Rogers, "Library Journal" Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Ezekiel "Easy" Rawlins has accomplished many of his goals through hard work and perseverance, and in spite of being a black man in a white-dominated world. When Alva Torres needs help to locate her son, Brawly, Easy gladly steps in as unofficial private eye. The young man turns out to be mixed up with a radical political group, and Easy tries to find a way to ease Brawly and himself out of the mess. After two men are murdered and the police search for everyone with a connection to either death, Easy comes up with a violent answer that saves Brawly's life and covers his own tracks. Mosley weaves together the racial tensions felt in 1964 Los Angeles with the complex threads of Easy's life. Rawlins's multilayered personality and history provide the character's mental and physical drive, which in turn drives the plot. Supporting characters bring their own depth and substance and give readers additional insight into the period. A fine balance of historical fiction, murder mystery, and character study, this novel offers action and a lot of thoughtful material.-Pam Johnson, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
In a rare slowing of his usual leaps forward in time, Mosley, who's chronicled the adventures of reluctant Watts detective Ezekiel Rawlins from 1948 (Devil in a Blue Dress) to 1963 (A Little Yellow Dog), edges forward only three months to tell the story of Easy's search for Brawly Brown, the hulking young man who ran away from his mother, Alva Torres, smack into trouble. He's been drawn into the Urban Revolutionary Party, a black-power group that advocates either cultural unity (according to URP director Xavier Bodan and secretary Tina Montes) or armed insurrection (according to LAPD Detective Vincent Knorr, one of the D-squad stalwarts charged with bringing the party down). Even before he meets these antagonists, however, Easy's already followed Brawly into trouble when his visit to Alva's cousin, Isolda Moore, leaves him standing over the cooling corpse of Brawly's father, lying dead in Isolda's doorway. The evidence, of course, points to the son who'd threatened his old man. But Mosley uses this central conflict to focus a whole seething world of trouble, from Easy's guilt over the death of his fearless, violent friend Mouse to his heroic efforts to keep his family together to his eternal battles with the cops who are railroading him once more. "Where I come from they don't have dark-skinned private detectives," says Easy in the finest rationale ever proposed for the amateur sleuth. Helping his brothers only because nobody else will, he returns from his six-year sabbatical more complex and compelling than ever before: a hero for his time and ours.
Read an Excerpt
MOUSE IS DEAD. Those words had gone through my
mind every morning for three months. Mouse is dead
because of me.
When I sat up, Bonnie rolled her shoulder and sighed in her
sleep. The sky through our bedroom window was just beginning to
The image of Raymond, his eyes open and unseeing, lying stockstill
on EttaMae's front lawn, was still in my mind. I lurched out of
bed and stumbled to the bathroom. My feet hurt every morning, too,
as if I had spent all night walking, searching for EttaMae, to ask her
where she'd taken Ray after carrying him out of the hospital.
So he was still alive? I asked a nurse who had been on duty that
evening. No, she said flatly. His pulse was gone. The head nurse had just
called the doctor to pronounce him dead when that crazy woman hit
Arnold in the head with a suture tray and took Mr. Alexander's body
over her shoulder.
I wandered into the living room and pulled the sash to open the
drapes. Red sunlight glinted through the ragged palms at the end of
our block. I had never wept over Raymond's demise, but that tattered
light reflected a pain deep in my mind.
IT TOOK ME over half an hour to get dressed. No two socks
matched and every shirt seemed to be the wrong color. While I
was tying my shoes Bonnie woke up.
"What are you doing, Easy?" she asked. She had been born in
British Guyana but her father was from Martinique, so there was the
music of the French language in her English accent.
"Gettin' dressed," I said.
"Where are you going?"
"Where you think I'ma be goin' at this time'a day? To work." I
was feeling mean because of that red light in the far-off sky.
"But it's Saturday, baby."
Bonnie climbed out of the bed and hugged me. Her naked skin
was firm and warm.
I pulled away from her.
"You want some breakfast?" I asked.
"Maybe a little later," she said. "I didn't get in from Idlewild until
two this morning. And I have to go back out again today."
"Then you go to bed," I said.
"You sure? I mean... did you need to talk?"
"Naw. Nuthin's wrong. Just stupid is all. Thinkin' Saturday's a
"Are you going to be okay?" she asked.
"Yeah. Sure I am."
Bonnie had a fine figure. And she was not ashamed to be seen
naked. Looking at her pulling on those covers reminded me of why
I fell for her. If I hadn't been so sad, I would have followed her back
under those blankets.
FEATHER'S LITTLE YELLOW DOG, Frenchie, was hiding somewhere,
snarling at me while I made sausages and eggs. He was
the love of my little girl's life, so I accepted his hatred. He blamed
me for the death of Idabell Turner, his first owner; I blamed myself
for the death of my best friend.
I WAS SITTING at breakfast, smoking a Chesterfield and wondering
if EttaMae had moved back down to Houston. I still had
friends down there in the Fifth Ward. Maybe if I wrote to Lenora
Circel and just dropped a line about Etta say hi to Etta for me or
give Etta my love. Then when she wrote back I might learn something.
My hand twitched, flicking two inches of cigarette ash on the
eggs. Jesus was standing there in front of me.
"I told you not to sneak up on me like that, boy."
"I said hi," he explained.
The eggs were ruined but I wasn't hungry. And I couldn't stay
mad at Jesus, anyway. I might have taken him in when he was a
child, but the truth was that he had adopted me. Jesus worked hard at
making our home run smoothly, and his love for me was stronger
"What you doin' today?" I asked him.
"Nuthin'. Messin' around."
"Sit down," I said.
Jesus didn't move the chair as he sat, because there was enough
room for him to slide in under the table. He never wasted a movement
or a word.
"I wanna drop out of high school," he said.
His dark eyes stared into mine. He had the smooth, eggshellbrown
skin and the straight black hair of people who had lived in the
Southwest for thousands of years.
"It's only a year and a half till you graduate," I said. "A diploma
will help you get a job. And if you keep up with track, you could get
a scholarship to UCLA."
He looked down at my hands.
"Why?" I asked.
"I don't know," he said. "I just don't wanna be there. I don't
wanna be there all the time."
"You think I like goin' to work?"
"You like it enough," he said. " 'Cause if you didn't like it, you'd
I could see that he'd made up his mind, that he'd thought about
this decision for a long time. He probably had the papers for me to
sign under his bed.
I was about to tell him no, that he'd have to stick out the year at
least. But then the phone rang. It was a loud ringer, especially at sixthirty
in the morning.
While I limped to the counter Jesus left on silent bare feet.
"Easy?" It was a man's voice.
"John? Is that you?"
"I'm in trouble and I need you to do me a favor," John said all in
a rush. He'd been practicing just like Jesus.
My heart quickened. The little yellow dog stuck his nose out
from under the kitchen cabinet.
I don't know if it was an old friend's voice or the worry in his tone
that got to me. But all of a sudden I wasn't miserable or sad.
"What you need, John?"
"Why'ont you come over to the lots, Easy? I wanna look you in
the eye when I tell ya what we want."
"Oh," I said, thinking about we and the fact that whatever John
had to say was too serious to be discussed over the phone. "Sure. As
soon as I can make it."
I hung up with a giddy feeling running around my gut. I could
feel the grin on my lips.
"Who was that?" Bonnie asked. She was standing at the door to
our bedroom, half wrapped in a terry-cloth robe. She was more
beautiful than any man could possibly deserve.
"Do you have to leave today?" I asked.
"Sorry. But after this trip I'll have a whole week off."
"I can't wait that long," I said.
I gathered her up in my arms and carried her back into the bedroom.
"Easy, what are you doing?"
I tossed her on the bed and then closed the door to the kitchen.
I took off my pants and stood over her.
"Easy, what's got into you?"
The look on my face was answer enough for any arguments she
might have had about the children or her need for sleep.
I couldn't have explained my sudden passion. All I knew was the
smell of that woman, her taste and texture on my skin and tongue,
was something I had never known before in my life. It was as if I discovered
sex for the first time that morning.
Copyright © 2002 by Walter Mosley