Devil in a Blue Dress (Easy Rawlins Series #1)

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Overview

Los Angeles, 1948: Easy Rawlins is a black war veteran just fired from his job at a defense plant. Easy is drinking in a friend's bar, wondering how he'll meet his mortgage, when a white man in a linen suit walks in, offering good money if Easy will simply locate Miss Daphne Money, a blonde beauty known to frequent black jazz clubs....

Devil in a Blue Dress honors the tradition of the classic American detective novel by bestowing on it a vivid social canvas and the ...

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Devil in a Blue Dress (Easy Rawlins Series #1)

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Overview

Los Angeles, 1948: Easy Rawlins is a black war veteran just fired from his job at a defense plant. Easy is drinking in a friend's bar, wondering how he'll meet his mortgage, when a white man in a linen suit walks in, offering good money if Easy will simply locate Miss Daphne Money, a blonde beauty known to frequent black jazz clubs....

Devil in a Blue Dress honors the tradition of the classic American detective novel by bestowing on it a vivid social canvas and the freshest new voice in crime writing in years, mixing the hard-boiled poetry of Raymond Chandler with the racial realism of Richard Wright to explosive effect.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Reissue of the first book in Moseley's Easy Rawlins mystery series, in which Easy is hired to track down a woman who disappeared with someone else's money. (Oct.)
The New York Times

A suspenseful novel of human detection more than simply a detective novel....[Mosley is] a talented author with something vital to say about the distance between the black and white worlds, and with a dramatic way to say it.

Los Angeles Times Book Review

Richly atmospheric....Devil in a Blue Dress honors the hard-boiled tradition of Hammett/Chandler/Cain in its story line and attitude, but Mosley takes us down some mean streets that his spiritual predecessors never could have.... A fast-moving, entertaining story written with impressive style.

Library Journal
The year is 1948, and black war veteran "Easy" Rawlings has just lost his job and is hard up for a mortgage payment. Along comes DeWitt Albright, a violent white man with a simple job for Easy: find the woman wearing a blue dress in a particular photograph. Easy makes his way to the steamy black jazz clubs of Los Angeles and discovers he's not the only one interested in the mysterious lady. Soon murder litters the trail, and the Los Angeles police become curious about Easy's whereabouts. The steamy, gritty life in Watts is the backdrop for this fine mystery, which is filled with exceptionally crafted characters, detailed atmosphere, and a compelling story line. Reader George C. Simms's mellow delivery and richly voiced acting makes this a true winner. Strongly recommended for most mystery collections.-Susan B. Lamphier, Somerville P.L., Mass.
From the Publisher
The New York Times A suspenseful novel of human detection more than simply a detective novel....[Mosley is] a talented author with something vital to say about the distance between the black and white worlds, and with a dramatic way to say it.

Los Angeles Times Book Review Richly atmospheric....Devil in a Blue Dress honors the hard-boiled tradition of Hammett/Chandler/Cain in its story line and attitude, but Mosley takes us down some mean streets that his spiritual predecessors never could have.... A fast-moving, entertaining story written with impressive style.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393028546
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/28/1990
  • Series: Easy Rawlins Series , #1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Walter Mosley is the New York Times bestselling author of five Easy Rawlins mysteries: Devil in A Blue Dress, A Red Death, White Butterfly, Black Betty, and A Little Yellow Dog; three non-mystery novels, Blue Light, Gone Fishin', and R. L.'s Dream; two collections of stories featuring Socrates Fortlow, Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned, for which he received the Anisfield Wolf Award, and which was an HBO movie; and a nonfiction book, Workin' On The Chain Gang. Mosley is also the author of the Leonid McGill, and Fearless Jones mystery series, The Tempest Tales and Six Easy Pieces. He is a former president of the Mystery Writers of America, a founder of the PEN American Center Open Book Committee, and is on the board of directors of the National Book Awards. A native of Los Angeles, he now lives in New York City.

Biography

When President Bill Clinton announced that Walter Mosley was one of his favorite writers, Black Betty (1994), Mosley's third detective novel featuring African American P.I. Easy Rawlins, soared up the bestseller lists. It's little wonder Clinton is a fan: Mosley's writing, an edgy, atmospheric blend of literary and pulp fiction, is like nobody else's. Some of his books are detective fiction, some are sci-fi, and all defy easy categorization.

Mosley was born in Los Angeles, traveled east to college, and found his way into writing fiction by way of working as a computer programmer, caterer, and potter. His first Easy Rawlins book, Gone Fishin' didn't find a publisher, but the next, Devil in a Blue Dress (1990) most certainly did -- and the world was introduced to a startlingly different P.I.

Part of the success of the Easy Rawlins series is Mosley's gift for character development. Easy, who stumbles into detective work after being laid off by the aircraft industry, ages in real time in the novels, marries, and experiences believable financial troubles and successes. In addition, Mosley's ability to evoke atmosphere -- the dangers and complexities of life in the toughest neighborhoods of Los Angeles -- truly shines. His treatment of historic detail (the Rawlins books take place in Los Angeles from the 1940s to the mid-1960s) is impeccable, his dialogue fine-tuned and dead-on.

In 2002, Mosley introduced a new series featuring Fearless Jones, an Army vet with a rigid moral compass, and his friend, a used-bookstore owner named Paris Minton. The series is set in the black neighborhoods of 1950s L.A. and captures the racial climate of the times. Mosley himself summed up the first book, 2002's Fearless Jones, as "comic noir with a fringe of social realism."

Despite the success of his bestselling crime series, Mosley is a writer who resolutely resists pigeonholing. He regularly pens literary fiction, short stories, essays, and sci-fi novels, and he has made bold forays into erotica, YA fiction, and political polemic. "I didn't start off being a mystery writer," he said in an interview with NPR. "There's many things that I am." Fans of this talented, genre-bending author could not agree more!

Good To Know

Mosley won a Grammy award in 2002 in the category of "Best Album Notes" for Richard Pryor.... And It's Deep, Too! The Complete Warner Bros. Recordings (1968-1992).

Mosley is an avid potter in his spare time.

In our 2004 interview, Mosley reveals:

"I was a computer programmer for 15 years before publishing my first book. I am an avid collector of comic books. And I believe that war is rarely the answer, especially not for its innocent victims."

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    1. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 12, 1952
    2. Place of Birth:
      Los Angeles, California
    1. Education:
      B.A., Johnson State College
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

I was surprised to see a white man walk into Joppy's bar. It's not just that he was white but he wore an off-white linen suit and shirt with a Panama straw hat and bone shoes over flashing white silk socks. His skin was smooth and pale with just a few freckles. One lick of strawberry-blond hair escaped the band of his hat. He stopped in the doorway, filling it with his large frame, and surveyed the room with pale eyes; not a color I'd ever seen in a man's eyes. When he looked at me I felt a thrill of fear, but that went away quickly because I was used to white people by 1948.

I had spent five years with white men, and women, from Africa to Italy, through Paris, and into the Fatherland itself. I ate with them and slept with them, and I killed enough blue-eyed young men to know that they were just as afraid to die as I was.

The white man smiled at me, then he walked to the bar where Joppy was running a filthy rag over the marble top. They shook hands and exchanged greetings like old friends.

The second thing that surprised me was that he made Joppy nervous. Joppy was a tough ex-heavyweight who was comfortable brawling in the ring or in the street, but he ducked his head and smiled at that white man just like a salesman whose luck had gone bad.

I put a dollar down on the bar and made to leave, but before I was off the stool Joppy turned my way and waved me toward them.

"Com'on over here, Easy. This here's somebody I want ya t'meet."

I could feel those pale eyes on me.

"This here's a ole friend'a mines, Easy. Mr. Albright."

"You can call me DeWitt, Easy," the white man said. His grip was strong but slithery, like a snake coiling around my hand.

"Hello," I said.

"Yeah, Easy," Joppy went on, bowing and grinning. "Mr. Albright and me go way back. You know he prob'ly my oldest friend from L.A. Yeah, we go ways back."

"That's right," Albright smiled. "It must've been 1935 when I met Jop. What is it now? Must be thirteen years. That was back before the war, before every farmer, and his brother's wife, wanted to come to L.A."

Joppy guffawed at the joke; I smiled politely. I was wondering what kind of business Joppy had with that man and, along with that, I wondered what kind of business that man could have with me.

"Where you from, Easy?" Mr. Albright asked.

"Houston."

"Houston, now that's a nice town. I go down there sometimes, on business." He smiled for a moment. He had all the time in the world. "What kind of work you do up here?"

Up close his eyes were the color of robins' eggs; matte and dull.

"He worked at Champion Aircraft up to two days ago," Joppy said when I didn't answer. "They laid him off."

Mr. Albright twisted his pink lips, showing his distaste. "That's too bad. You know these big companies don't give a damn about you. The budget doesn't balance just right and they let ten family men go. You have a family, Easy?" He had a light drawl like a well-to-do Southern gentleman.

"No, just me, that's all," I said.

"But they don't know that. For all they know you could have ten kids and one on the way but they let you go just the same."

"That's right!" Joppy shouted. His voice sounded like a regiment of men marching through a gravel pit. "Them people own them big companies don't never even come in to work, they just get on the telephone to find out how they money is. And you know they better get a good answer or some heads gonna roll."

Mr. Albright laughed and slapped Joppy on the arm. "Why don't you get us some drinks, Joppy? I'll have scotch. What's your pleasure, Easy?"

"Usual?" Joppy asked me.

"Sure."

When Joppy moved away from us Mr. Albright turned to look around the room. He did that every few minutes, turning slightly, checking to see if anything had changed. There wasn't much to see though. Joppy's was a small bar on the second floor of a butchers' warehouse. His only usual customers were the Negro butchers and it was early enough in the afternoon that they were still hard at work.

The odor of rotted meat filled every corner of the building; there were few people, other than butchers, who could stomach sitting in Joppy's bar.

Joppy brought Mr. Albright's scotch and a bourbon on the rocks for me. He put them both down and said, "Mr. Albright lookin' for a man to do a li'l job, Easy. I told him you outta work an' got a mortgage t'pay too."

"That's hard." Mr. Albright shook his head again. "Men in big business don't even notice or care when a workingman wants to try to make something out of himself."

"And you know Easy always tryin' t'be better. He just got his high school papers from night school and he been threatenin' on some college." Joppy wiped the marble bar as he spoke. "And he's a war hero, Mr. Albright. Easy went in with Patton. Volunteered! You know he seen him some blood."

"That a fact?" Albright said. He wasn't impressed. "Why don't we go have a chair, Easy? Over there by the window."

Joppy's windows were so dingy that you couldn't see out onto 103rd Street. But if you sat at a small cherry table next to them, at least you had the benefit of the dull glow of daylight.

"You got a mortgage to meet, eh, Easy? The only thing that's worse than a big company is the bank. They want their money on the first and if you miss the payment, they will have the marshal knocking down your door on the second."

"What's my business got to do with you, Mr. Albright? I don't wanna be rude, but I just met you five minutes ago and now you want to know all my business."

"Well, I thought that Joppy said you needed to get work or you were going to lose your house."

"What's that got to do with you?"

"I just might need a bright pair of eyes and ears to do a little job for me, Easy."

"And what kind of work is it that you do?" I asked. I should have gotten up and walked out of there, but he was right about my mortgage. He was right about the banks too.

"I used to be a lawyer when I lived in Georgia. But now I'm just another fella who does favors for friends, and for friends of friends."

"What kind of favors?"

"I don't know, Easy." He shrugged his great white shoulders. "Whatever somebody might need. Let's say that you need to get a message to someone but it's not, um, convenient for you to do it in person; well, then you call me and I take the job. You see I always do the job I'm asked to do, everybody knows that, so I always have lots of work. And sometimes I need a little helper to get the job done. That's where you come in."

"And how's that?" I asked. While he talked it dawned on me that Albright was a lot like a friend I had back in Texas — Raymond Alexander was his name but we called him Mouse. Just thinking about Mouse set my teeth on edge.

"I need to find somebody and I might need a little help looking."

"And who is it you want to — "

"Easy," he interrupted. "I can see that you're a smart man with a lot of very good questions. And I'd like to talk more about it, but not here." From his shirt pocket he produced a white card and a white enameled fountain pen. He scrawled on the card and then handed it to me.

"Talk to Joppy about me and then, if you want to try it out, come to my office any time after seven tonight."

He downed the shot, smiled at me again, and stood up, straightening his cuffs. He tilted the Panama hat on his head and saluted Joppy, who grinned and waved from behind the bar. Then Mr. DeWitt Albright strolled out of Joppy's place like a regular customer going home after his afternoon snort.

The card had his name printed on it in flourished letters. Below that was the address he'd scribbled. It was a downtown address; a long drive from Watts.

I noted that Mr. DeWitt Albright didn't pay for the drinks he ordered. Joppy didn't seem in a hurry to ask for his money though.

Copyright © 1990 by Walter Mosley

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Table of Contents

Read More Show Less

First Chapter

Chapter One

I was surprised to see a white man walk into Joppy's bar. It's not just that he was white but he wore an off-white linen suit and shirt with a Panama straw hat and bone shoes over flashing white silk socks. His skin was smooth and pale with just a few freckles. One lick of strawberry-blond hair escaped the band of his hat. He stopped in the doorway, filling it with his large frame, and surveyed the room with pale eyes; not a color I'd ever seen in a man's eyes. When he looked at me I felt a thrill of fear, but that went away quickly because I was used to white people by 1948.

I had spent five years with white men, and women, from Africa to Italy, through Paris, and into the Fatherland itself. I ate with them and slept with them, and I killed enough blue-eyed young men to know that they were just as afraid to die as I was.

The white man smiled at me, then he walked to the bar where Joppy was running a filthy rag over the marble top. They shook hands and exchanged greetings like old friends.

The second thing that surprised me was that he made Joppy nervous. Joppy was a tough ex-heavyweight who was comfortable brawling in the ring or in the street, but he ducked his head and smiled at that white man just like a salesman whose luck had gone bad.

I put a dollar down on the bar and made to leave, but before I was off the stool Joppy turned my way and waved me toward them.

"Com'on over here, Easy. This here's somebody I want ya t'meet."

I could feel those pale eyes on me.

"This here's a ole friend'a mines, Easy. Mr. Albright."

"You can call me DeWitt, Easy," the white man said. His grip was strong but slithery, like a snake coiling around my hand.

"Hello," I said.

"Yeah, Easy," Joppy went on, bowing and grinning. "Mr. Albright and me go way back. You know he prob'ly my oldest friend from L.A. Yeah, we go ways back."

"That's right," Albright smiled. "It must've been 1935 when I met Jop. What is it now? Must be thirteen years. That was back before the war, before every farmer, and his brother's wife, wanted to come to L.A."

Joppy guffawed at the joke; I smiled politely. I was wondering what kind of business Joppy had with that man and, along with that, I wondered what kind of business that man could have with me.

"Where you from, Easy?" Mr. Albright asked.

"Houston."

"Houston, now that's a nice town. I go down there sometimes, on business." He smiled for a moment. He had all the time in the world. "What kind of work you do up here?"

Up close his eyes were the color of robins' eggs; matte and dull.

"He worked at Champion Aircraft up to two days ago," Joppy said when I didn't answer. "They laid him off."

Mr. Albright twisted his pink lips, showing his distaste. "That's too bad. You know these big companies don't give a damn about you. The budget doesn't balance just right and they let ten family men go. You have a family, Easy?" He had a light drawl like a well-to-do Southern gentleman.

"No, just me, that's all," I said.

"But they don't know that. For all they know you could have ten kids and one on the way but they let you go just the same."

"That's right!" Joppy shouted. His voice sounded like a regiment of men marching through a gravel pit. "Them people own them big companies don't never even come in to work, they just get on the telephone to find out how they money is. And you know they better get a good answer or some heads gonna roll."

Mr. Albright laughed and slapped Joppy on the arm. "Why don't you get us some drinks, Joppy? I'll have scotch. What's your pleasure, Easy?"

"Usual?" Joppy asked me.

"Sure."

When Joppy moved away from us Mr. Albright turned to look around the room. He did that every few minutes, turning slightly, checking to see if anything had changed. There wasn't much to see though. Joppy's was a small bar on the second floor of a butchers' warehouse. His only usual customers were the Negro butchers and it was early enough in the afternoon that they were still hard at work.

The odor of rotted meat filled every corner of the building; there were few people, other than butchers, who could stomach sitting in Joppy's bar.

Joppy brought Mr. Albright's scotch and a bourbon on the rocks for me. He put them both down and said, "Mr. Albright lookin' for a man to do a li'l job, Easy. I told him you outta work an' got a mortgage t'pay too."

"That's hard." Mr. Albright shook his head again. "Men in big business don't even notice or care when a workingman wants to try to make something out of himself."

"And you know Easy always tryin' t'be better. He just got his high school papers from night school and he been threatenin' on some college." Joppy wiped the marble bar as he spoke. "And he's a war hero, Mr. Albright. Easy went in with Patton. Volunteered! You know he seen him some blood."

"That a fact?" Albright said. He wasn't impressed. "Why don't we go have a chair, Easy? Over there by the window."


Joppy's windows were so dingy that you couldn't see out onto 103rd Street. But if you sat at a small cherry table next to them, at least you had the benefit of the dull glow of daylight.

"You got a mortgage to meet, eh, Easy? The only thing that's worse than a big company is the bank. They want their money on the first and if you miss the payment, they will have the marshal knocking down your door on the second."

"What's my business got to do with you, Mr. Albright? I don't wanna be rude, but I just met you five minutes ago and now you want to know all my business."

"Well, I thought that Joppy said you needed to get work or you were going to lose your house."

"What's that got to do with you?"

"I just might need a bright pair of eyes and ears to do a little job for me, Easy."

"And what kind of work is it that you do?" I asked. I should have gotten up and walked out of there, but he was right about my mortgage. He was right about the banks too.

"I used to be a lawyer when I lived in Georgia. But now I'm just another fella who does favors for friends, and for friends of friends."

"What kind of favors?"

"I don't know, Easy." He shrugged his great white shoulders. "Whatever somebody might need. Let's say that you need to get a message to someone but it's not, um, convenient for you to do it in person; well, then you call me and I take the job. You see I always do the job I'm asked to do, everybody knows that, so I always have lots of work. And sometimes I need a little helper to get the job done. That's where you come in."

"And how's that?" I asked. While he talked it dawned on me that Albright was a lot like a friend I had back in Texas -- Raymond Alexander was his name but we called him Mouse. Just thinking about Mouse set my teeth on edge.

"I need to find somebody and I might need a little help looking."

"And who is it you want to -- "

"Easy," he interrupted. "I can see that you're a smart man with a lot of very good questions. And I'd like to talk more about it, but not here." From his shirt pocket he produced a white card and a white enameled fountain pen. He scrawled on the card and then handed it to me.

"Talk to Joppy about me and then, if you want to try it out, come to my office any time after seven tonight."

He downed the shot, smiled at me again, and stood up, straightening his cuffs. He tilted the Panama hat on his head and saluted Joppy, who grinned and waved from behind the bar. Then Mr. DeWitt Albright strolled out of Joppy's place like a regular customer going home after his afternoon snort.

The card had his name printed on it in flourished letters. Below that was the address he'd scribbled. It was a downtown address; a long drive from Watts.


I noted that Mr. DeWitt Albright didn't pay for the drinks he ordered. Joppy didn't seem in a hurry to ask for his money though.

Copyright © 1990 by Walter Mosley

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 23 )
Rating Distribution

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(13)

4 Star

(8)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 23 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 25, 2004

    Easy and Mouse, The best duo in mysteries.

    God bless the day Mosley invented Mouse, I know this book is about Easy rawlings, but Mouse is one of those characters that stay in your mind 24 hours a day. Mosley's Literary brilliance is overwhelmingly clear in this novel. this is a must read for any mystery and action novel fan.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2004

    A BOOK YOU DON'T WANNA MISS!!!

    Devil In A Blue Dress is a beautiful book, with its Southern dialect and the change of the pace of Los Angeles's tough streets. Devil In A Blue Dress tells the story of Ekeziel 'Easy' Rawlins and his quest to pay his mortrage after he is fired from his job at a defense plant. The books explores the racial and gender segregation in post war America. It invites you, the reader, into a web of desire and intrigue.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 2, 2011

    Very good

    This book is a great mystery. The plot is extremely well written with many suprising twists along the way. Easy Rawlins is a very interesting character, and it's very easy to get lost in his life. You'll defenitely find yourself rooting for the underdog in this one.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 4, 2001

    LOVED IT

    This is my favorote Easy Rawlins mystery. I am addicted to these books.If you like the 1940's, jazz, and mysteries then this book and the others are for you!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 24, 2011

    Price

    Why is the kindle version cheaper?

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2014

    Easy read

    I had to read this for an intro to detective fiction class and I definitely enjoyed it. It was an easy read and I knocked it out in a few hours but it still kept my interest.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2009

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    Posted April 7, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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    Posted March 14, 2011

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    Posted October 2, 2011

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    Posted March 17, 2012

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    Posted December 27, 2010

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    Posted October 30, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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    Posted May 25, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2012

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