White Butterfly (Easy Rawlins Series #3)

( 3 )


It's 1956 and, times being what they are, no one in official Los Angeles pays much attention as a serial killer murders three black bar girls. But when a white stripper is similarly murdered - and when she turns out to be a UCLA coed and the daughter of a politically powerful L.A. prosecutor - all hell breaks loose. The heat is finally on to find the killer.

The LAPD calls on Easy Rawlins for help, for he can go places and do things the police cannot. Reluctantly, Easy accepts ...

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White Butterfly (Easy Rawlins Series #3)

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It's 1956 and, times being what they are, no one in official Los Angeles pays much attention as a serial killer murders three black bar girls. But when a white stripper is similarly murdered - and when she turns out to be a UCLA coed and the daughter of a politically powerful L.A. prosecutor - all hell breaks loose. The heat is finally on to find the killer.

The LAPD calls on Easy Rawlins for help, for he can go places and do things the police cannot. Reluctantly, Easy accepts their plea and begins a deadly quest that takes him through the seedy jazz joints of Bone Street and the dingy rooms of Hollywood Row. It is a brutal, dangerous odyssey that jeopardizes his marriage and his life - and leads to a shocking conclusion.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The third novel in Mosley's acclaimed series starring Easy Rawlins, a black PI who lives and works in the Watts section of L.A. in the 1950s, centers on the investigation of the murder of a white college coed who led a double life as a stripper.
San Francisco Chronicle

Wonderful page-turning excitement....Like Sue Grafton, Sara Paretsky, and others, Mosley has been reconstructing the hard-boiled tradition from the bottom up....Easy Rawlins moves through mean streets even Marlowe wouldn't walk.

The New York Times Book Review

With White Butterfly, Walter Mosley has established himself as one of America's best mystery writers.

Library Journal
Black detective Easy Rawlins aids his dangerous-but-loyal friend Mouse, accused of killing several bar girls in 1958 Los Angeles.
Library Journal
Black detective Easy Rawlins aids his dangerous-but-loyal friend Mouse, accused of killing several bar girls in 1958 Los Angeles.
From the Publisher
"Easy Rawlins isn't just the best new series detective around, he might be the best American character to appear in quite some time." - Entertainment Weekly
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743451772
  • Publisher: Washington Square Press
  • Publication date: 10/15/2002
  • Series: Easy Rawlins Series , #3
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 318,157
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Walter Mosley is the author of four previous mystery novels in the Easy Rawlins series: Devil in a Blue Dress (basis for the acclaimed film starring Denzel Washington), A Red Death, White Butterfly, and Black Betty, a New York Times bestseller. In August 1995 he published his first non-genre novel, RL's Dream, to widespread praise. Mosley is the current president of the Mystery Writers of America, a member of the executive board of the PEN American Center and founder of its Open Book Committee, and is on the board of directors of the National Book Awards. His novels are now published in eighteen countries. He is at work on a book featuring a new character, a philosophical and tough ex-convict named Socrates Fortlow; sections have already appeared in Esquire and GQ. A native of Los Angeles, Mosley lives in New York City.


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

"Easy Rawlins!" someone called.

I turned to see Quinten Naylor twist the handle of my front gate.

"Eathy," my baby, Edna, cooed as she played peacefully with her feet in her crib next to me on the front porch.

Quinten was normal in height but he was broad and powerful-looking. His hands were the size of potholders, even under the suit jacket his shoulders were round melons. Quinten was a brown man but there was a lot of red under the skin. It was almost as if he were rage-colored.

As Quinten strode across the lawn he crushed a patch of chives that I'd been growing for seven years.

The violent-colored man smiled at me. He held out his beefy paw and said, "Glad I caught you in."

"Uh-huh." I stepped down to meet him. I shook his hand and looked into his eyes.

When I didn't say anything there was an uncomfortable moment for the Los Angeles police sergeant. He stared up into my face wanting me to ask him why he was there. But all I wanted was for him to leave me to go back into my home with my wife and children.

"Is this your baby?" he asked. Quinten was from back east, he spoke like an educated white Northerner.


"Beautiful child."

"Yeah. She sure is."

"She sure is," Quinten repeated. "Takes after her mother, I bet."

"What do you want wit' me, officer?" I asked.

"I want you to come with me."

"I'm under arrest?"

"No. No, not at all, Mr. Rawlins."

I knew when he called me mister that the LAPD needed my services again. Every once in a while the law sent over one of their few black representatives to ask me to go into the places where they could never go. I was worth a precinct full of detectives when the cops needed the word in the ghetto.

"Then why should I wanna go anywhere wit' you? Here I am spendin' the day wit' my fam'ly. I don't need no Sunday drive wit' the cops."

"We need your help, Mr. Rawlins." Quinten was becoming visibly more crimson under his brown shell.

I wanted to stay home, to be with my wife, to make love to her later on. But something about Naylor's request kept me from turning him down. There was a kind of defeat in the policeman's plea. Defeat goes down hard with black people; it's our most common foe.

"Where we gonna go?"

"It's not far. Twelve blocks. Hundred and Tenth Street." He turned as he spoke and headed for the street.

I yelled into the house, "I'm goin' fo' a ride with Officer Naylor. I'll be back in a while."

"What?" Regina called from her ironing board out back.

"I'm goin' out for a while," I yelled. Then I waved at my forty-foot avocado tree.

Little Jesus peeked out from his perch up there and smiled.

"Come on down here," I said.

The little Mexican boy climbed down the tree and ran up to me with a silent smile stitched across his face. He had the face of an ancient American, dark and wise.

"I don't want you off exploring today, Jesus," I said. "Stay around here and look after your mother and Edna."

Jesus looked at his feet and nodded.

"Look up here at me." I did all the talking when around Jesus because he hadn't said a word in the eight years I'd known him.

Jesus squinted up at me.

"I want you close to home. Understand me?"

Quinten was at his car, looking at his watch.

Jesus nodded, looking me in the eye this time.

"All right." I rubbed his crew-cut peach fuzz and went out to meet the cop.

Officer Naylor drove me to an empty lot in the middle of the 1200 block of 110th Street. There was an ambulance parked out front, flanked by patrol cars. I noticed a bright patent-leather white pump in the gutter as we crossed the street.

A crowd had gathered on the sidewalk. Seven white police officers stood shoulder to shoulder across the front of the property, keeping everybody out. The feeling was festive. The policemen were all at ease, smoking cigarettes and joking with the Negro gawkers.

The lot itself was decorated with two rusted-out Buicks that were hunkered down on broken axles in the weeds. A knotty oak had died toward the back end of the lot.

Quinten and I walked through the crowd. There were men, women, and children stretching their necks and bobbing back and forth. A boy said, "Lloyd saw'er. She dead."

When we walked past the line of policemen one of them caught me by the arm and said, "Hey you, son."

Quinten gave him a hard stare and the officer said, "Oh, okay. You can go on."

Just one of the many white men I've shrugged off. His instinctive disrespect and arrogance hardly even mattered. I turned away and he was gone from my life.

"Right this way, Mr. Rawlins," Quinten Naylor said.

There were four plainclothes policemen looking down at the back of the tree. I couldn't make out what it was that they saw.

I recognized one of the cops. He was a burly white man, the kind of fat man who was fat everywhere, even in his face and hands.

"Mr. Rawlins," the burly man said. He held out a pillowy hand.

"You remember my partner," Quinten said. "Roland Hobbes."

We'd come around the tree by then. There was a woman in a pink party dress, a little open at the breast, sitting with her back against the trunk. Her legs were straight out in front of her, a little apart. Her head tilted to the side, away from me, and her hands were on either side of her thighs with the palms up. Her left foot sported a white pump, her right foot was bare.

I remember the softness and the underlying strength of Roland Hobbes's hand and the insect I saw perched on the woman's temple. I wondered why she didn't bat it away.

"Nice to see you," I was saying to Hobbes when I realized that the insect was a dried knot of blood.

When Roland let go of my hand he listed toward Quinten and said, "Same thing."

"Both?" Quinten asked.

Roland nodded.

The girl was young and pretty. It was hard for me to think that she was dead. It seemed as if she might get up from there any minute and smile and tell me her name.

Somebody whispered, "Third one."

Copyright © by 1992 by Walter Mosley

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Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2003

    good stuff

    this bouk was fu*cking deadly like all his others someone gets killed no one cares then someone else gets done then people care so someone get to look for whoever is doing all the killing. they even catch him in a really great way you'll really like this book as i said it deadly.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2011

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    Posted October 30, 2008

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