Easy Rawlins leads a complicated and complex life as a black quasi-detective in 1964 Los Angeles. Orphaned at eight years old, befriended by Raymond Alexander, known as Mouse and who is one of the most cold-blooded killing machines ever born, Easy grew up in Houston's Fifth Ward and has trouble staying out of the mean streets where he became a man. He's fought to change his life of violence, against himself and against others who constantly drag him back into that world where death is quick and harsh, and respect only comes with a stack of greenbacks or at the end of a gun. In SIX EASY PIECES, Easy actually takes on seven cases filled with death and mayhem, the kind of life he's always known, while striving to hold his personal life together and making certain none of that violence spills over onto the family he's struggled so hard to carve out of the tapestry of tragedy that he has never been far from. "Smoke" begins with a phone call that tells him Mouse, the friend whose death he believes he caused and whom he has mourned for the past year, is still alive. Bonnie Shay, the woman he has come to love and to trust, also has to leave the family for her stewardess job for a prolonged junket in Europe, leaving Easy restless until an arsonist strikes at Sojourner Truth Junior High School. As head custodian, Easy has to deal with the reports and the clean up at the school, but as a man of the streets whose best friend's death has left permanent guilt in him and whose woman has left, Easy strides into the shadows of the city after the man who started the fire. Easy follows up the lead he got regarding Mouse and ends up looking for a repentant prostitute then her killer in the church she attended in "Crimson Stain." In "Silver Lining" Easy revisits some old friends who are being blackmailed by a kidnapping, bringing Easy into direct line of fire from an old enemy. Bonnie's loyalty to Easy comes into question during her return from Europe in "Lavender" when flowers arrive at Easy's home before his woman does. EttaMae Harris, Mouse's woman, calls in a favor from Easy while he's dealing with his own pain over Bonnie, asking him to help a young man that has fallen for a young woman hell-bent on death and destruction. Saul Lynx, a private detective Easy has worked with in the past, pulls Easy into a case to clear a man accused of murder in "Gator Green." Family again becomes the central issue in "Gray-Eyed Death" as more of Easy's past surfaces, mixing in an armored car robbery and a frame. In "Amber Gate," Easy goes looking for the murderer of a young prostitute to clear a friend of a friend, and makes a major turning point in his life.
Walter Mosley's Easy Rawlins series has spawned seven novels to date. Six of those novels, DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS, A RED DEATH, WHITE BUTTERFLY, BROWN BETTY, LITTLE YELLOW DOG, and BAD BOY BRAWLY BROWN are primarily straight mystery-suspense novels. GONE FISHIN' is an exploration of Easy's early days and the violence that gave birth to the man he started becoming. Mosley has also written two volumes of short stories about ex-con Socrates Fortlow, ALWAYS OUTNUMBERED, ALWAYS OUTGUNNED and WALKIN' THE DOG. The author also writes science fiction in FUTURELAND and BLUE LIGHT. FEARLESS JONES introduced another detective duo that so far has only shown up in one novel. RL'S DREAM was a straight novel about the last days of a bluesman. Mosley has also authored nonfiction that includes WORKIN' ON THE CHAIN GANG and BLACK GENIUS.
Fans of Easy Rawlins will fall right into this collection of novellas because the resonance of Easy's life and the tapestry of his person history-including his failings as well as his successes-holds true. Long-time readers will get the feeling he or she is revisiting a well-known friend in the middle of several crisis points that those friends have seen coming. If this book is a reader's first exposure to Easy Rawlins and the violent world of pre-Civil Rights Los Angeles of 1964, the introduction to the man, his family, his views of life (and yes, there is more than one) and the violent and mean streets he walks down comes in simple gulps that never impede the action or the emotions. Easy Rawlins is a real person in these pages, full of hope, fear, love and hate. He holds the burning brand of self-knowledge and knowledge of the world, while at the same time being confused by twists and turns he can almost see coming, and being hurt by the unfairness of life that he knows is there but can never truly accept. Mosley's execution of the stories is flawless, pulling the readers into Easy's world and life, into his struggles with outsiders as well as himself. The dialogue is sharp and true, of the street, of years of growing and learning and accepting, of the stations in life that men and women of all colors sometimes get trapped in, and of the trade-off they make with hope and dreams just to find a means to survive.
SIX EASY PIECES is an excellent volume of crime fiction, of period noir, and of a man who is still yet growing and changing, still building himself while at the same time being broken and battered. New readers who enjoy the strong male characters of Robert B. Parker and James Lee Burke will find another author and voice to love and respect in these pages, and old readers will be visiting with a true friend they can trust and enjoy.