Thursday, December 5, 2019

Crime Sounds: "Charcoal Joe" by Walter Mosely

Crime Sounds: Charcoal Joe by Walter Mosley, 2016, Wisconsin Digital Library download.

I keep putting James Ellroy's name in for Mosley. Mainly because I was simultaneously reading Ellroy's memoir and also because Mosley and Ellroy tread a lot of the same ground. Both writers mine 1950s and 60s Los Angeles and work with characters who are both noble and pragmatic. The characters know that crooks and big business run most of the world. Truth, justice, and honor are often a sham. But, Mosley's characters have the extra trouble of white people forcing black people under society's thumb.  Ellroy and Mosley do such a great job of character POV.

If you're unfamiliar with the series: Ezekiel "Easy" Rawlins grew up in a rough part of Houston, served in the Army during WW2, and has lived in Los Angeles since the war. He's worked various jobs at aircraft factories. as a school custodian, and a landlord but the stories revolve around his job as an unlicensed PI who can work in the black neighborhoods that white people cannot.

I've been reading and listening to the Easy Rawlins series out of order. In fact it has been five years since I read any of the novels. Charcoal Joe is set in 1968 and Easy's older adopted son is now married and moved away. His teenage, adopted daughter Feather is in a private high school and Easy is ready to propose to his girlfriend. Things go bad of course. Easy's girlfriend decides to take up with an ex-boyfriend and Easy is gutted.

Mouse then shows up asking if Easy can take a PI job. I've always counted Mouse as one of the scariest characters in fiction but he does not show up much in this book. Mouse is an intermediary for a black gangster that he has has never heard of, which seems a bit far fetched knowing Easy's many past cases and contacts. But, Los Angeles is a big city.

Anyhoo. Big-time gangster Charcoal Joe wants Easy to help out a 22-year-old PhD who was arrested for murder. Things happen and easy has to track down the correct people, face off against killers, tamp down his anger, conquer his fears, so on, so forth.

I've not much to say. Easy is an interesting character as he navigates several worlds of black/white, rich/poor, and his love and family lives are always challenging him. There is sex, violence, and Easy almost gets even against the bad guys and brings some sort of justice against the people or parts of society hat almost always get away scott free.

1. .25 caliber love.
2. All men's suits are described by cut and color.
3. I want to stick an extra "e" in Mosley.
4. Mouse is one of Easy's few lifelong companions and Mouse is a psychopath. Easy has been alone since 8 years old. All his relationships have been made - there is no family. Hell, Mouse murdered his own father.

No comments: