May 12, 2003
Six Easy Pieces is the latest book in Walter Mosley's series of mysteries featuring his character Easy Rawlins. Unlike the other books in the series, which were novels, this is a collection of seven short stories.
The book is set in Los Angeles in 1964, and it's interesting to see how much has changed since then, and how much more has stayed the same. Easy Rawlins is different from the typical detective in a detective story. He's a black man working as head custodian at a junior high school. He has to deal with the racism of his boss, the principal of the school – even though Easy and everyone else knows that he is the one who really runs the school. He has two children whom he unofficially adopted years before, simply because they needed him and had nowhere else to go. They live in a small bungalow with his girlfriend, a stewardess. His older son, Jesus, has dropped out of school because it offered nothing to him that seemed worthwhile. Jesus wants to build a boat, and sail around the world. Easy has accepted Jesus' decision to drop out, on the condition that Jesus continue to read and discuss books that Easy gives him – and to be sure to finish his boat.
In other words, everyday life for many workers in this society.
People come to Rawlins because he's more effective than the police. Because he knows people, they will talk to him. In one story he figures out who tried to set fire to his school. In another, he solves a prostitute's murder for her family and the man who loved her.
What haunts Easy is the apparent death of his best friend, Mouse Alexander, who was gunned down two books earlier. Easy feels guilty because Mouse was helping him on a case when he got shot. Throughout the book, Easy carries on a running dialogue in his mind with Mouse's memory, which helps him to figure out what to do next.
Through it all, Rawlins does what working people all over the world do – he doesn't look to the cops or authorities to solve his problems. He solves them himself, with a lot of help from the friends around him.