Those of you who’ve followed our reviews for very long know that I’m a huge Walter Mosley fan, and that I love his Easy Rawlins series, so I was delighted to get Charcoal Joe. There’s a reason Mr. Mosley’s consistently an award-winning and bestselling author…he’s an amazing storyteller.
The Easy Rawlins series beautifully portrays what parts of Los Angeles were like during each story’s decade, prevalent racial attitudes during those times, and the nuances of what each decade in the series was like. It’s almost like walking into a time capsule every time I pick one of these novels up. I think I would read them for those qualities alone – and yet, the mysteries are equally as masterful. They’re the kind that keep me reading late into the night because I can’t bear to put them down. I can’t wait to share this one with you!
Charcoal Joe takes place in the late 1960’s and picks up where the last Easy Rawlins novel, Rose Gold, left off.
You may remember that Easy has had a bit of a windfall. He’s decided to use it to start a new detective agency. He’s also finally feeling secure enough financially and settled enough in his life and profession to propose to Bonnie Shay – a proposal that’s long overdue. He hasn’t actually proposed yet but he’s working up to it and he’s even got the ring.
Yes, life is looking good for Easy – at least as good as an African American man living in Los Angeles in the late 1960’s can expect it to look, given the racial unrest that still plagues the entire country. Easy’s no fool. He knows it could all end tomorrow if the wrong white man with even a little bit of power decides to make trouble for him but, all in all, life is good…real good.
His partners in the new agency, Saul Lynx and Tinsford “Whisper” Natly are the perfect partners for him. Each of the three men have skills that complement the other two, making for a business that’s much more effective than any of them could be individually. Yes, it really does look like things are heading in the right direction.
Now those of us who’ve read the chronicles of Easy’s past cases are familiar with Mouse. If you don’t know about Mouse, let me just say that Mouse is not somebody you want to mess with – ever. Still, he’s been a really good friend to Easy, one of those friends you can always count on to have your back no matter what. So when Mouse comes to him and asks for a favor, what can Easy say?
It seems that Rufus Tyler, a.k.a., Charcoal Joe, needs some help. Now Easy has heard of Charcoal Joe – hell, everybody Easy knows has at least heard of Charcoal Joe’s reputation. Joe’s in prison but something bad has happened to someone who doesn’t deserve it and Joe needs someone upstanding to help resolve it.
Seymour, the son of one of Joe’s friends, has been arrested for murder. And not just any murder – the murder of a white man in Redondo Beach. Seymour is no killer. He’s top of his class at Stanford University, a physics major. He’s the 60’s version of a nerd – and a genius – and Joe is convinced there is no way Seymour would even know how to find or use a weapon, much less kill someone with it. It would go against every value Seymour has.
That said, this is the late 1960’s, when African American men were considered guilty until proven innocent and the police weren’t much interested in proving anything. They were just interested in closing cases, especially cases involving powerful white men. The colored guy did it had a nice ring to it as far as they were concerned. And in this case, unfortunately, Seymour was found standing over the body so it seems like an open-and-shut case to the police and the DA.
Now Easy would prefer to not get within 100 miles of Charcoal Joe or his associates; however, he doesn’t believe Seymour is guilty either and he does owe Mouse. And then there’s the whole thing with Bonnie, which isn’t going quite the way Easy had planned…so he needs something to take his mind off of that. There’s only one thing that could get in the way (well, actually a lot more than one) – someone pretty powerful doesn’t want him to find the real killer…imagine that.
I’m not sure how anyone could not like Easy Rawlins. He’s one of those people with a huge heart of gold who just gets under your skin. Even though he may make choices you would never make, you know he’s doing the best he can with what he’s got to work with. His friends might not be people you’d choose to have as friends but they’re the right friends for him, and they are pretty amazing people for the most part. I immediately liked Easy’s partners in his new agency. The three of them form a symbiotic group that’s perfect for what they’re doing. Don’t ask me to tell you what’s going on with Bonnie because it would create far too many spoilers. And Charcoal Joe gave me the shivers, yet he’s got a code he lives by and sticks to like glue. All of the characters in this series have many layers to them, which is one of the things that makes it so wonderful.
I’m just going to cut to the chase. I loved, loved, loved Charcoal Joe! IMHO if you haven’t read Walter Mosley’s novels, you need to correct that right now. No worries on coming into the middle of the series…if you like this one, you can go back and read the rest. And I guarantee you’ll want to! In case I haven’t been clear, I highly recommend Charcoal Joe!
This is a 2015 National Book Festival talk by Walter Mosley, which I found interesting. I love his sense of humor. It’s about his novel, And Sometimes I Wonder About You, but you can get a great idea of how beautifully his prose flows. The person who introduces him is a bit bumbling but just ignore that…
Can’t wait to read it? Charcoal Joe is available in almost all formats from your favorite online bookseller. Just click the link below and get it to read asap!
I’d love to get your comments about Charcoal Joe, Easy Rawlins, Walter Mosley and/or his other work, and/or this review.
We’ve reviewed several Walter Mosley novels from the Easy Rawlins series and other series. Just click on the Authors Reviewed Tab at the top of this page and click on the links associated with Mr. Mosley’s name to read those reviews.