By Walter Mosley
Having seen the film, heard the BBC radio adaptation, and having come across ample praise for this novel, I was under the impression that it was a really good work of classic crime fiction. But it isn't. The story is just enough to qualify as 'noir', but its short, sketchy and written in a simple handed manner that struck me as being almost childish. Perhaps I'm missing the point some where but given how often the main character diverts the story to talk about race issues, I can't but help think that its the race issues that have garnered so much attention and the people raving about this book have not paid all that much attention to the actual story.
If your interested in race issues, then this book is certainly interesting, and you might argue that its impossible tell the story of an African American detective in the 1950's without taking the race aspect into account. Personally I found it a bit much, not least how often Mosley brought up Easy Rawlin's experiences killing 'white German boys' in the Second World War juxtaposed against Rawlin's hard times with white Americans, something glossed over in the film adaptation starring Denzel Washington, but I guess is all a part of what it was to be an African American ex-GI in those times. It certainly lends the story a facet which you won't find much of with Marlowe or Hammer.
Although slightly disapointed in the length of the story and its lack of complexity, I did like the characters, their interactions and how they were described. There was also some sex, which is something else you don't find in the older noir books, and I personally like to read about sex because as often as not, its an important aspect of how two people relate to each other. Sex makes a story just that much more engaging.