Book: Bad Boy Brawly Brown

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Bad Boy Brawly Brown: An Easy Rawlins Mystery

Author: Walter Mosley
Publisher: Warner books, Inc.

Easy Rawlins is out of the investigation business and as far away from crime as a black man can be in 1960s Los Angeles. But living around desperate men means life gets complicated sometimes. When an old friend gets in enough trouble to ask for Easy’s help, he finds he can’t refuse.

Young Brawly Brown has traded in his family for The Clan of the First Men, a group rejecting white leadership and laws. Brown’s mom asks Easy to make sure her baby’s okay, and Easy promises to find him. His first day on the case, Easy comes face-to-face with a corpse, and before he knows it he is a murder suspect and in the middle of a police raid. Brawly Brown is clearly the kind of trouble most folks try to avoid. It takes everything Easy has just to stay alive as he explores a world filled with betrayals and predators like he never imagined.

Big Boy Brawly Brown is the masterful crime novel that Walter Mosley’s legions of fans have been waiting for. This book marks the return of a master at the top of his form.


Racial tensions and America’s civil rights movement have previously figured into Walter Mosley’s series about sometimes-sleuth Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins. But Bad Boy Brawly Brown turns what had been a background element into compelling surface tension. The year is 1964, and though Easy seems settled into honest work as a Los Angeles custodian, he’s having other problems—notably, his adopted son’s wish to quit school and lingering remorse over the death (in A Little Yellow Dog) of his homicidal crony, Raymond “Mouse” Alexander. Yet he remains willing to do “favors” for folks in need. So, when Alva Torres comes to him, worried that her son, Brawly Brown, will get into trouble running with black revolutionaries, Easy agrees to find the young man and “somehow…get him back home.” His first day on the job, however, Rawlins stumbles across Alva’s ex-husband—murdered—and he’s soon dodging police, trying to connect a black activist’s demise to a weapons cache, and exposing years of betrayal that have made Brawly an ideal pawn in disastrous plans.

Mosley’s portrayal of L.A.’s mid-20th-century racial divide is far from simplistic, with winners and sinners on both sides. He also does a better-than-usual job here of plot pacing, with less need to rush a solution at the end. But it is Easy Rawlins’s evolution that’s most intriguing in Brawly Brown. A man determined to curb his violent and distrustful tendencies, Easy finds himself, at 44, having finally come to peace with his life, just when the peace around him is at such tremendous risk. —J. Kingston Pierce

Barnes and Noble

Walter Mosley returns to the the turbulent, conflicted energies of 1960s Los Angeles with an Easy Rawlins mystery that’s a direct sequel to his 1995 A Little Yellow Dog.

Asked for a favor by his longtime friend John, Easy hits the streets to make the kind of moves only he knows how to make. He’s looking for John’s stepson, Brawly Brown, a youthful giant who’s mixed up with a radical black-power group, the Urban Revolutionary Party. Easy has barely started on his hunt when he discovers the corpse of Brawly’s father and finds himself entangled in murder, politics, and a secret police spy network that monitors black extremists. Along with these troubles, Easy suffers from bouts of guilt involving the death of his best friend, the stone killer Mouse—who, it turns out, may still be alive.

Mosley emphasizes sentiment and thoroughly details black culture, underscoring a harsh existence with scenes of abrupt violence. He remains in excellent form, conveying raw emotion through the medium of a taut plot. As always with his writing, the highest points come when he deals with the intricacy of race relations or the conflicted nature of his ever-evolving, most popular character: Easy has spent his life fighting to escape poverty and bloodshed, but even as he achieves his middle-class dreams he’s perpetually drawn back to the terrors of the ghetto. The contradictions of such a man are matched by the complexity of the tumultuous L.A. landscape, and those emotional and historical resonances keep readers deeply engaged in the story.

With Bad Boy Brawly Brown, Walter Mosley again proves that his greatest ability is to fully realize the distressing but commonplace nature of despair, remorse, brutality, and the beauty found even in the fiercest of lives. This is yet another gripping and poignant work from one of America’s most talented authors. (Tom Piccirilli)

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