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In Mosley's mysteries, a history of race relations in the US

Walter Mosley has written the final mystery in his Easy Rawlins series. Walter Mosley has written the final mystery in his Easy Rawlins series. (Bebeto Matthews/associated press)
Email|Print| Text size + By Colleen Long
Associated Press / November 15, 2007

NEW YORK - When the world first met Easy Rawlins, he was 28. It was post-World War II Los Angeles - a city full of opportunity and without a long history - not a bad place to be for a smart, confident black man. Fired from his job, Easy was in need of fast cash to pay his mortgage. So he agreed to find a missing blonde, and his adventures began.

The book was "Devil in a Blue Dress," the 1990 tale that launched a best-selling crime series by Walter Mosley.

Ten novels later, the private eye is world weary. He's aged about 20 years, seen plenty of blood and solved many mysteries. Race relations in Southern California have disintegrated since the 1965 Watts riots. He has a family to look after, and he has lost the love of his life.

Time has taken an emotional and physical toll on Easy. And Mosley, 55, has decided it's time to say goodbye.

"Blonde Faith," the final book in the series, is a melancholy send-off for Easy and his gang - his adopted kids Feather and Jesus; Mouse, his skittish and dangerous best friend; and Bonnie Shay, his love.

And Mosley isn't even going to miss him.

"I've got other things to write," he says. "I've written 3,000 pages of Easy Rawlins. If you really miss him, go back and reread."

The Easy Rawlins books are disguised as crime novels, but they're really a narrative of American race relations from World War II until civil rights era of the 1960s. Starting with "Devil in a Blue Dress," we watch Easy navigate through a complicated system of society - his observations on life and race razor-sharp - in such books as "Cinnamon Kiss" and "Six Easy Pieces." Through it all, Easy manages to remain a noble guy.

The character is widely regarded as the best in the genre. Bill Adams, mystery and thrillers buyer at Borders, Inc., said the success of the character is due in part to a loyal following - after 10 books, readers are familiar with a character, and want to read more. But it's also the setting.

"People really identify with the historical content," Adams said. "He paints a great picture of that period and all the things going on at that time, and people want to learn more, or they identify with the time and want to read about it."

Mosley grew up an only child in Los Angeles, his mother white and Jewish, and his father black, and the diversity is reflected in his writing.

Being black in America is a large component of Mosley's work, and he's been hailed as a chronicler of race relations, someone whose poignant social commentary has inspired black writers and made black heroes everyday reading. "I love writing, and I write about black male heroes. I don't really want to write about anything else, so I don't."

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