Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlins gives a lesson on Black history in 1969

“Blood Grove” is the 15th in the crime fiction series about a Black Los Angeles private detective contending with racism and violence.
"Blood Grove" is Walter Mosley's 15th novel about Los Angeles private detective Easy Rawlins.
"Blood Grove" is Walter Mosley's 15th novel about Los Angeles private detective Easy Rawlins. [ MARCIA E WILSON | Marcia Wilson ]
Published Feb. 18, 2021|Updated Feb. 23, 2021

Update: On Feb. 22, Variety reported that Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment has announced a deal to develop and produce a TV series based on the Easy Rawlins novels. Walter Mosley will be one of the executive producers; no word yet on casting, production dates or outlet.

Walter Mosley’s books about Easy Rawlins are crime fiction, not history. But taken together, they’re a vivid picture of Black life in Los Angeles in the mid-20th century.

Mosley writes in many genres, and he does it so well that the National Book Foundation gave him its 2020 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters a few months ago. He’s published more than 50 books, but the best known are those in the Rawlins series.

Related: Watch an interview with Walter Mosley.

The series began with Devil in a Blue Dress, published in 1990 but set just after World War II. Easy Rawlins arrived in L.A. as a young Black man, a combat veteran of the war and, given his upbringing in Louisiana and Texas, a walking example of the Great Migration. Having had enough of taking orders, he set up his own business as a private investigator.

Mosley’s new novel, Blood Grove, is the 15th in the series. It’s set in 1969, and Easy is almost 50, still plying his trade as a private detective with connections on both sides of the law.

His business is a success, with several employees, but Easy still deals every day with the same old challenge: “In America everything is about either race or money or some combination of the two.”

A client who owes him a lot of money has given him a canary-yellow Rolls-Royce Phantom VI as collateral, but Easy’s pleasure in driving the car is so spoiled by being constantly pulled over by the cops that he stores it in a friend’s garage.

Easy is alone in his company’s offices one morning when he’s startled to realize that a visitor has made it all the way to his office door without being seen or heard. The young white man, Craig Killian, is a Vietnam veteran who has brought home jungle survival skills and a bad case of PTSD. But that’s not why he’s in Easy’s office.

He tells the detective he’s had a strange encounter at a remote spot called Blood Grove, for the blood oranges grown there. Camping near a cabin, he heard a woman screaming. He saw a white woman tied to a tree, then got into a fight with a Black man, then blacked out. Both people were strangers to him, but Killian thinks he might have stabbed the man to death, and he wants Rawlins to find out.

It’s a bizarre case that will get stranger by the minute, but Easy feels a soldier’s camaraderie with the troubled Killian, so he starts looking into it.

There are distractions along the way, of course. As Easy notes, “The late sixties were the cream-filled center of the sexual revolution.”

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He’s also worried about his adopted daughter, Feather, just turning into a teenager. The two are living at a fabulous mountaintop compound called Brighthope Canyon, owned by a wealthy friend of Easy’s. Their house is a fanciful round tower with a garden of rosebushes on its roof.

But that fairy-tale keep might not be enough to protect Feather. Easy has been her guardian since her parents were murdered when she was an infant, and she’s his heart. When, after a decade, her uncle shows up out of the blue, a hitchhiking hippie who wants to meet her, Easy is filled with dread.

Easy Rawlins takes a long strange trip in Blood Grove, and it’s a thrill to take it with him.

Tampa Bay Times

Blood Grove

By Walter Mosley

Mulholland Books, 320 pages, $27