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Monday 31 October 2016

‘Charcoal Joe’ By Walter Moseley

Published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson,
16 June 2016.
ISBN: 978-1-474-60451-2

Walter Moseley’s first novel Devil in a Blue Dress was published in 1990. Ezekial (Easy) Porterhouse Rawlins returns to Los Angeles after World War II, to find his home town a place as full of tension as the Europe he has just risked life and limb liberating. Easy is a black war veteran, out of work and up against the world.

Five years later the film of the book was released, starring two of the current greats of American cinema – Denzel Washington as Easy and Don Cheadle as the forever menacing Raymond Alexander (Mouse). Since then Easy Rawlins has moved into legend. And earlier this year, Moseley received the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America.  It is no surprise that Moseley, himself a black native of LA, is so tuned into the flow and the dangerous vibe of the world Easy Rawlins inhabits. 
It’s a long way from West LA to Watts. It’s the same city but a darkness closes as you progress eastwards. You pass from white dreams into black and brown realities. There were miles to cover but distance was the least of it. It was another world where I was going.

Fourteen stories since Devil in a Blue Dress, Easy Rawlins is back in Charcoal Joe.  It is 1968, just after the Watts riots, and Easy has come a long way in twenty years. He has opened a detective agency with two partners, he has money in the bank and he is about to propose to Bonnie. Then he gets a visit from Mouse and everything goes to hell.

Charcoal Joe, the man who pulls most of the strings in the LA underworld – currently spending a few months in the Avett Detainment Facility – wants Easy to clear the name of a young friend arrested for the murder of a white man from Redondo Beach. Seymour Braithwaite is a Doctor of Physics, smart and going places if only he can get the breaks.

Easy owes Mouse his life and Joe is not a man to be crossed, but this is no small favour they are asking. And as the story progresses, the shorter become the odds on Easy’s survival. He finds a host of violent people on his trail. With his hands full and his life in danger, he is menaced, beaten up, double crossed and gets his heart broken. The life which seemed so potentially glorious a few days earlier, disintegrates into a shambles. Being black and on everybody’s wrong side doesn’t help. At one point he mutters ruefully…
Where we came from ‘he’s dead’ was as common as ‘he’s sick’ or ‘he’s saved’.

Charcoal Joe is a tough, no punches pulled story which motors along. Lean, sharply observed and witty, with sequences of diamond hard dialogue. Peopled by memorable characters, unflinchingly well drawn. And full of moments of Walter Moseley ironic wisdom…
He stood there alone and assured, as American as redwoods and Manifest Destiny.
This novel is exciting, mysterious and as always with Moseley, contains huge chunks of profound reality.
Reviewer: Jeff Dowson

Walter Mosley is one of America's most celebrated and beloved writers. His books have won numerous awards and have been translated into more than twenty languages. Mosley is the author of the acclaimed Easy Rawlins series of mysteries, including national bestsellers Cinnamon Kiss, Little Scarlet, and Bad Boy Brawly Brown; the Fearless Jones series, including Fearless Jones, Fear Itself, and Fear of the Dark; the novels Blue Light and RL's Dream; and two collections of stories featuring Socrates Fortlow, Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned, for which he received the Anisfield-Wolf Award, and Walkin' the Dog. He lives in New York City.

Jeff Dowson has worked in arts and entertainment business since the mid 70s. Beginning as a theatre writer and director – specialising in work by Alan Plater, Howard Brenton, Joe Orton, Harold Pinter; and European writers Samuel Beckett, Max Frisch and Bertolt Brecht.  He took this experience into television and joined ITV company, Granada, as a writer and producer; which in the mid 80s, launched a second career as an independent screenwriter/producer/director.Recently, after a decade as a script producer, edit producer and executive producer, he sat down at his desk and decided to go back to writing full time.

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