After going through most of Walter Mosley’s Leonid McGill series, I decided to switch back to the books that drew me to his work in the first place: good ol’ Easy Rawlins.
Having read most of the McGill books (and unlike the Rawlins series, they’re mostly the same in terms of plot and tone) I have a fresh perspective on the Rawlins ones and Mosley’s evolution as a writer. McGill has always felt like the character Mosley wanted to write but didn’t get to until later in his career, when he had a better sense of his voice. This is inference on my part; I’ve read several interviews with Mosley and he’s never said as much. But there’s a striking tone, a confidence to the McGill books that there aren’t with Rawlins. The former is sort of an angel of death, the latter lives in the shadow of it constantly and it informs his decisions.
One thing both have in common, finally, is how they articulate race. At this point in Easy’s journey, it’s 1967. After the passing of the Civil Rights Act, black people are allowed to go places they weren’t before. Yet here, Mosley plays it a similar way McGill does: just because the law says so doesn’t mean white people are okay with it. They continue to let him know. At one point, Easy opines to his date how things aren’t much better now, just different in how oppression manifests.
I spend most of my time reflecting on Easy and McGill because Blonde Faith really is a peak into how Easy is doing in those days. Yeah there are mysteries, two that somewhat merge into one. But this is really a moment in Rawlins’ life, which is not going great due to the absence of Bonnie and despite the support of his kids. Easy tries to avoid destruction but given the trials he’s faced in life, his instinct is towards self destruction. His clash with it is the heart of this novel.
And it works effectively. This is a book about Easy for fans of Easy books. A keystone novel, if you will. And if you’ve rode with Mosley this long, you’ll probably appreciate what he’s doing here. At least I did. This is one of the better books in the series because of how deep it gets into Easy’s psyche and his need to change and the circumstances and decisions which prevent it. It’s true to the series and it keeps the series moving forward.