“I never saw him again. I often think of how so many people have walked into my life for just a few minutes and kicked up some dust, then they’re gone away. My father was like that; my mother wasn’t much better.”
When literature works, even books that some might sneer are just pulp fiction thrillers, it takes the reader into a different world that is believable. That happens here with Walter Mosley introducing you to the tough and tense world of LA a few years after the Second World War.
With the hero of the tale being a black factory worker who has come up from Texas to make a better life for himself the world you enter is one of illegal bars, a community of southern migrants and one that is full of racial tension.
When the main character Easy Rawlins is introduced to a white man in a white suit at a bar and given the assignment to find a woman it marks two worlds colliding and the result can only be trouble for Rawlins. In many ways the laborer, who has juts lost his job, is tougher that he at first appears with his life being a hard one. He has been left by almost everyone and his best friend, Mouse, turned out to be an unhinged killer forcing Easy to head to LA when he did.
Rawlins finds the girl but that’s when his troubles start because he realises that his own life is in danger. He has to outwit and outshoot those that have hired him and plan to discard his services permanently once the job has been completed.
As you would expect with a thriller that has massive Chandler overtones the men are hard, the girls sassy and the guns big and blazing. Blood is split and bags of cash are chased down by desperate men. But unlike Chandler the subject of racism is tackled here from a different angle. The discovery that one of the main characters comes from a black upbringing turns the tables on assumptions of identity and Mosley is challenging you to look at the world with different eyes.
In terms of enjoyment this matches a Chandler and in terms of its intelligence is is also up there with the best.
Apologies for the crime theme but this book came through as part of the Serpent’s Tail Classics range being launched early next month and it just screamed ‘Read me Now!’. Mind you having said that unfortunately so do quite a few books at the moment!
Anyway here are the thoughts at the half way stage:
The prose reminds you of Raymond Chandler, the background has the feeling of other pulp post-war gangster novels but the angle here is completely different.
Through the lead character Easy Rawlins, a black man who has traveled to LA to escape Houston and the South, Mosley takes the reader into a world that none of Chandler’s character’s would have been able to go into with such confidence.
LA becomes a city of crooks, drinking dens and rough pool halls but all within the black community. So when a white man comes calling asking for someone to help him track down a woman with a French name and a rich boyfriend Easy is given the job.
Easy finds things getting more and more complicated as he navigates through a world where he is not only facing trouble from his own community but also the police. Finding the woman proves to be fairly straightforward but after that it becomes a more serious game of trying to keep his own life.
A review will follow soon…