For the first time in six years, Easy Rawlins is back working a case on the streets of Los Angeles, looking for justice and sometimes managing to create his own.
Easy Rawlins's old friend John shows up at his door one morning, looking for the kind of help only Easy can provide. John's stepson, Brawly Brown, has left home and John has reason to think this well-meaning boy is caught up in a situation that's more dangerous than he knows. It doesn't take Easy long to find Brawly and to learn that John is right — but getting Brawly to see things that way is another matter.
Brawly has joined a political group that he believes is out to make things better for the residents of Compton. With years of seeing how things really work, Easy recognizes that young Brawly is just a pawn in a battle between forces as old and hard as the city's streets.
Through it all, Easy's old friend Mouse is there to help him — even though the last time Easy saw Mouse he was lying still and cold, and Easy is certain he's dead. Still, the memory and reputation of Mouse accompany Easy everywhere, earning him second looks from beautiful women and respect from hardened men. And in a world where logic is only a small element in life-or-death calculations, it is something Mouse once said to him that could help Easy save Brawly's life — without costing him his own.
The worldliness, relentlessness, and passion of Easy Rawlins have been sorely missed from the world of fiction. This thriller is proof that Walter Mosley is one of the masters of crime fiction, and as original a voice as any writing in America today.
Racial tensions and America's civil rights movement have previously figured into Walter Mosley's series about sometimes-sleuth Ezekiel "Easy" Rawlins. But Bad Boy Brawly Brown turns what had been a background element into compelling surface tension. The year is 1964, and though Easy seems settled into honest work as a Los Angeles custodian, he's having other problems--notably, his adopted son's wish to quit school and lingering remorse over the death (in A Little Yellow Dog) of his homicidal crony, Raymond "Mouse" Alexander. Yet he remains willing to do "favors" for folks in need. So, when Alva Torres comes to him, worried that her son, Brawly Brown, will get into trouble running with black revolutionaries, Easy agrees to find the young man and "somehow ... get him back home." His first day on the job, however, Rawlins stumbles across Alva's ex-husband--murdered--and he's soon dodging police, trying to connect a black activist's demise to a weapons cache, and exposing years of betrayal that have made Brawly an ideal pawn in disastrous plans.
Mosley's portrayal of L.A.'s mid-20th-century racial divide is far from simplistic, with winners and sinners on both sides. He also does a better-than-usual job here of plot pacing, with less need to rush a solution at the end. But it is Easy Rawlins's evolution that's most intriguing in Brawly Brown. A man determined to curb his violent and distrustful tendencies, Easy finds himself, at 44, having finally come to peace with his life, just when the peace around him is at such tremendous risk.
--J. Kingston Pierce
From Publishers Weekly
Finally. Five years after the last taste (1997's Gone Fishin') and six years after the last full meal (1996's A Little Yellow Dog), Easy Rawlins makes a very welcome return. Now 44 years old, Easy no longer makes a living from doing people "favors." Now he owns a house, works for the Board of Education in Los Angeles and is father to a teenage son, Jesus, and a young daughter, Feather. It's 1964, and while some things have changed, the process is slow and uncertain. Too slow for some, including Brawly Brown, the son of Alva, the girlfriend of Easy's friend, John. Hotheaded Brawly has become involved with a group calling itself the Urban Revolutionary Party, and John and Alva fear the group's unspoken aim is violence and revenge. Friendship and loyalty being still sacred to Easy, he agrees, as a favor, to try to locate and talk to Brawly. As usual, Easy's path is not easy. When a body surfaces, Easy finds himself in the middle of a vicious puzzle where lives are cheap and death the easiest solution. As always, Mosley illuminates time and place with a precision few writers can match whatever genre they choose. He also delivers a rousing good story and continues to captivate with characters readers have grown to love, including the now "dead" Mouse, who still plays an important role in Easy's chronicle.
From School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Ezekiel "Easy" Rawlins has accomplished many of his goals through hard work and perseverance, and in spite of being a black man in a white-dominated world. When Alva Torres needs help to locate her son, Brawly, Easy gladly steps in as unofficial private eye. The young man turns out to be mixed up with a radical political group, and Easy tries to find a way to ease Brawly and himself out of the mess. After two men are murdered and the police search for everyone with a connection to either death, Easy comes up with a violent answer that saves Brawly's life and covers his own tracks. Mosley weaves together the racial tensions felt in 1964 Los Angeles with the complex threads of Easy's life. Rawlins's multilayered personality and history provide the character's mental and physical drive, which in turn drives the plot. Supporting characters bring their own depth and substance and give readers additional insight into the period. A fine balance of historical fiction, murder mystery, and character study, this novel offers action and a lot of thoughtful material.
Pam Johnson, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
From Library Journal
After a long wait, Easy Rawlins is back. Now it's February 1964, and the winds of racial unrest begin to blow in west Los Angeles. Easy has settled into a calm life balancing family and job responsibilities but remains troubled by regrets surrounding the death of his friend Mouse. Then a friend asks Easy to do one of his "favors": find and bring home the young, hot-headed Brawly Brown, believed to be caught up in a black activist organization, the Urban Revolutionary Party. But the situation is not so easy, Easy finds, as he and Brawly are entangled in murder, gun-running, robbery, and betrayal. The action is well paced and plausible; Mosley's sense of time and place are near-perfect, as usual, and M.E. Willis's first-person narration nicely conveys our streetwise and world-weary hero. Highly recommended.
Kristen L. Smith, Loras Coll. Lib., Dubuque, IA
Mosley fans have been eagerly anticipating the return of Easy Rawlins, last seen in A Little Yellow Dog (1995) trying unsuccessfully to carve a separate peace for himself away from the violence of South Central L.A. in the mid-60s. That's the situation again, as Rawlins is once more lured back into the street life when a friend needs help. Teenager Brawly Brown has left home and is running with the radical Urban Revolutionary Party. Easy quickly finds the boy, but he is just as quickly caught up in the murder of one of the party's leaders. There is a poignant world-weariness to Rawlins here. He responds to "the gruff bark of the American Negro's soul," yet he also sees Brawly as part of an "army of young fools . . . fighting and dying for ideas they barely understand, for rights they never possessed, for beliefs based on lies." This episode replays the themes and recaptures the mood of the previous installment more than we've come to expect from the constantly evolving Rawlins series, but it nevertheless stands on its own as a powerful human drama and a vividly re-created historical moment .
In this Easy Rawlins novel, Easy does a favor for a friend, offering to track down errant son Brawly Brown and get him out of trouble. Rawlins's efforts lead him through a racially divided 1960s Los Angeles neighborhood and into the lives of black revolutionaries. M.E. Willis portrays Rawlins as he struggles with solving a mystery, raising two children in troubled times, managing a myriad of friendships, and holding down a respectable job. Both Mosley and Willis have the pace nailed, with the tale unwinding and wrapping up at a smooth speed. For Easy fans, it's a good ride with an old friend. For new fans, it's a great ride through the streets of L.A. H.L.S.
Walter Mosley is the author of the acclaimed Easy Rawlins series of mysteries, and the novels Blue Light, RL's Dream, Futureland and Fearless Jones, as well as two collections of stories featuring Socrates Fortlow - Walkin' the Dog and Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned for which he received the Anisfield-Wold award. He was born in Los Angeles and lives in New York.