Little Green by Walter Mosley marks the return of detective Easy Rawlins as he investigates the dark side of L.A.’s 1960s hippie haven, the Sunset Strip (available May 14, 2013).
Little Green by Walter Mosley at last brings back Easy Rawlins, this time from a near-death experience; that experience and the fallout from it is a major element of the novel. The story begins with a journey into mysticism that’s a far cry from the usual hard-boiled nature of the series, while still retaining a dark and bitter tone appropriate to it. Only gradually does the story enter the more familiar world of detective work.
Easy’s back, but he’s also changed; he’s feeling his mortality in ways he didn’t feel it before, and seeing the world changing around him.
Many characters from earlier in the series reappear, and it’s interesting to note how much they, too, have changed while Easy was out of commission. The most interesting part of this reevaluation of Easy and his world is, to me, Easy’s behavior once he’s alive again. It’s clear he’s at a turning point that’s more than just physical, and that something in his life has to change. What will it be? That kept me reading even more than the mystery plot.
Like most of his life, Easy’s near-death is tangled up with his old friend, the ruthless Mouse.
Death. I had followed him through all the years of my life as he dropped bodies in my path as little reminders to me and others that the end of the road was no bed of roses, no kingdom come. It felt as if my whole life was an obstacle course, a slogging journey trying to catch up with Death, trying to get a good look at his face. …
…“You shouldn’t never take another drink as long as you live, man” were his first words to me. We were good friends, old friends. Our camaraderie had worn down to a comfortable patter that we’d share standing next to each other in front of a firing squad or with one of us visiting the other on his deathbed.
“Lynne said that I almost died,” I said by way of a thank-you for his mythic effort on my behalf.
“Almost?” Mouse replied, holding his hands a foot apart to show the enormity of my understatement. “You was dead, brother. I seen me a whole lotta dead men and you made half’a them look like they might get up and tap their toes. Shit. If Jo didn’t tell me I was lookin’ for a live man I might’a buried you right there under them bushes rather than strain my back.”
Easy emerges from the liminal world between living and dying into a new sort of liminal world: 1967 Los Angeles, filled with racial conflict that is both better and worse since the Watts Riots, and filled with hippies who are trying to change the world, and are willing to speak out on some of the injustices they see. Easy has survived forty-seven years of prejudice and violence, survived World War II, and survived a near-coma, which seemingly set him apart from the fresh young flower children he goes among; but at the same time, in a way he’s a fellow traveler.
Easy’s dragged back into the world by Mouse, who wants to help a woman find her missing son, and surprisingly swears he has no ulterior motive.
“That was the last Timbale heard from Evander, and she is heartbroken. The police won’t even take down a report. And you know a thirty-four-year-old black woman is not gonna get anything outta them hippies up there. I spent two days lookin’ for him, but I couldn’t turn up a damn thing. I mean, if I knew who to shoot it’d be different, but I need that Easy magic, that readin’ faces like a child’s primer.”
The familiar quest brings Easy fully into life again. Easy knows people, but he has to learn to navigate new societal intersections in order to find Evander. Little Green is hardly a typical Easy Rawlins novel. Instead, it might be a great Easy Rawlins novel, taking a classic hard-boiled detective to a new, higher level.
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