Monday, July 4, 2016

Charcoal Joe by Walter Mosley

Charcoal Joe: An Easy Rawlins Mystery by Walter Mosley --- 305 pages

In this latest Easy Rawlins mystery, Charcoal Joe, Easy is in a good place for a change: with money from his last case, he's gone into business with two partners in his own detective agency; he's about to propose to his girl friend Bonnie Shay; even his kids seem to be thriving.

But of course, all that good luck is just an illusion.

Easy's boyhood friend Raymond “Mouse” Alexander, comes asking a favor. Mouse wants Easy to clear the name of a young black man who's been arrested by the L.A. police for murders he didn't commit.

The accused, Seymour Brathwaite, is a brilliant graduate student at Stanford University, with no prior record. He says he stumbled on the murder scene by accident. The  two dead men have ties to the Los Angeles underworld and a lot of missing diamonds. The man who wants Easy Rawlins to exonerate Seymour is a legendary black mobster called Charcoal Joe, who is an old friend of Seymour's foster mother.

Easy can't turn down Mouse, even though he's not happy about getting mixed up with a man as ruthless and violent as Charcoal Joe. And Seymour, totally lacking in street smarts, is his own worst enemy, and a real liability to the investigation.  Easy has to enlist the help of another well-established Mosley character, Fearless Jones, to keep Seymour out of trouble once Easy manages to spring him from jail. But Easy still has to find out what really happened in order to prove Seymour's innocence beyond a reasonable doubt. This is 1968, and Easy has to walk a fine line with law enforcement and a legal system that is overwhelmingly white and racist. A black man is always presumed guilty.

As always, Mosley uses fiction to portray the history and experience of Southern blacks who migrated to southern California during the war years.  The racial barriers that began to break down during the 1960s created opportunities but also real risk for anyone like Easy who pushed for change.

An award-winning author of over fifty books, including fourteen Easy Rawlins mysteries, Walter Mosley was named the 2016 Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America.

Click HERE to watch an interview with the author discussing his new book, Charcoal Joe.

Click HERE to watch a podcast of Mosley being interviewed by Tavis Smiley on PBS.

Click HERE to read a review from the Washington Post.

Click HERE to read a review from Kirkus Reviews.

Click HERE to read a review from Publishers Weekly.

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