Walter Mosley closes the book on Easy Rawlins after a decade

Character is widely regarded as the best in crime novel genre

Posted: Friday, November 16, 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.

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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 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"People really identify with the historical content," Adams said.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 says it's all in a day's work.

"It is the job of a novelist to tell a story that engages somebody, about a world that is different, at least in perspective," he says. "A lot of times novelists, literary people will say that reading should be challenging. But a writer should never say that. The writer should say, 'I'm making this as accessible as possible."'

A natural extension of Mosley's social commentary is an interest in politics. He writes a lot of political monographs, he says, because someone needs to write pedestrian tracks on major political issues.

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