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Bad Boy Brawly Brown.

by Walter Mosley Little, Brown & Co., July 2002 $24.95, ISBN 0-316-07301-6

After being missing-in-action for six long years, Easy Rawlins is back on the literary scene in Bad Boy Brawly Brown.

In his latest novel, Walter Mosley employs naive revolutionaries led by an ersatz organizer who is a pawn of the local police, along with a cast of characters who succumb to greed and carnal impulses. It all but guarantees that loyal fans of the Easy Rawlins novels will be drawn in from the very first sentence. For newcomers unfamiliar with the series, it may require a few paragraphs to get hooked.

Set in Los Angles in the early sixties, Rawlins is asked by a friend to find his stepson. Easy, who is depressed because his close friend Mouse--an integral figure in the Easy Rawlins series--has mysteriously died, eventually decides to take the case. His one caveat, as always, is that it's not a "case." In Easy Rawlins' world, he only does favors for people in return for other favors. In fact, his whole livelihood has been based on exchanging favors.

Mosley does an excellent job of capturing the day-to-day life of a black man growing up in inner city Los Angeles in the 1960s. Easy Rawlins is obviously streetwise, despite his Texas country-boy roots.

Even after three months in seclusion following the death of his friend, Easy seems just as down about the death of his friend as his hiatus from street life. Upon his return to familiar surroundings, his life seems to fall back into place. His relationship with his adopted family improves and his enthusiasm for life returns.

As expected, Mosley gives readers more than one mystery to solve. Aside from the main plot, there are several subplots as well. For readers who have been awaiting the return of the signature character, be glad Easy is back!

Tony Lindsay is the author of Prayer of Prey and One Dead Preacher.

RELATED ARTICLE: BIBR talks with Walter Mosley.

After a six-year hiatus, Easy Rawlins returns in Walter Mosley's new book, Bad Boy Brawly Brown, clue out in July, The author of more than 12 books--Bad Boy is his 13th--Mosley's Rawlins series debuted in 1990 with Devil in a Blue Dress.

BIBR: Why did it take so long to come back to the Easy Rawlins series? It has been several years between A Little Yellow Dog and Bad Boy Brawly Brown?

WM: I guess it could have taken less time. I was doing a lot of things that I was interested in. I was changing publishers. There was a lot of stuff going on. But I needed to take time away from writing Easy Rawlins, otherwise the books were going to be exactly alike, and I didn't want that. So I just waited until it was the right time to start writing again.

BIBR: What's different about this Easy Rawlins book?

WM: You know, it's hard to say, because it's a very different kind of book. It's definitely still Easy. It's still his life. He's still going on. But he's very different, very affected by the tragedy of Mouse, and also John F. Kennedy, and finding this new woman that he likes and that he feels, for the first time, he can share his life with, in some kind of meaningful way. So a lot of things have changed for him. But a lot of his past is still pulling him back.

BIBR: The book is set in the '60s, Were there any other historical influences, like Kennedy, that affect Rawlins' character?

WM: There are things going on like these nascent political groups--more radical and possibly violent political groups--that are beginning to sprout, which hadn't happened before. They didn't really come to awareness until a year later in 1965 (the Watts riots).

It's not that I think it's a better book. I might be a better writer, so in that way it might be a better hook. But it's not that now I can write better or more deeply about Easy Rawlins. It's just that he's different. He's older. He's thinking a little differently. The world has changed. After Kennedy died, it was a different world.

BIBR: In previous books Bluelight and Futureland, you dabbled in a different genre--science fiction. Do you plan to experiment again with other genres?

WM: I always do different kinds of books. Reviving Easy Rawlins doesn't mean that I've settled into being a mystery writer.

BIBR: Is there a genre you haven't tackled that you're considering?

WM: I'm not sure. I don't really know. I might, one day, write a western. But I'm not dying to do it. I have pretty much done most things I've wanted to.

BIBR: How do feel about those books you've written that were adapted for the screen--Devil in a Blue Dress and Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned?

WM: I think it's kind of impossible for a movie to be faithful to a book because they're not the same thing. It's like a dog being faithful to his master. You can't really do that. It's a different creature. The art form becomes its own. If you ask me is Always Outnumbered faithful to the book, I'd say, no it's not. But I tried my best to approximate the feeling of that book.

BIBR: What's next after Brawly Brown?

WM: I've done a series of Easy Rawlins short stories, which will be published along with the backlist. There are six short stories so each one of the backlist of the Easy Rawlins books will have a different short story when they're rereleased. And then in January there will be a collection of those stories the middle of--and will have finished--a book called Peace Is the Only Defense which is a about the black to the war on terrorism. Next summer, I'll have the next Fearless Jones book, which is called Fear Itself. Finally, in the fall I'll have a literary novel called The Man in My Basement.

BIBR: That's sounds interesting. What's the last book about?

WM: (Laughs) I'll tell you what I tell everybody. If you ask any black man, `What is it that every black man in America needs to figure out what he's doing, where he's going and who he is?' The answer would be: `A white man locked up in his basement that he could go to every once in awhile and ask him, `What's going on in the world? What are these crazy people doing?' So that he could have his own pipeline to the truth of America. That's what this book is about.

--Interviewed by Evette Porter
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Author:Lindsay, Tony
Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jul 1, 2002
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