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5 New Books to Read this Week: June 14, 2016

Every Wednesday, we here at Criminal Element will put together a list of Staff Picks of the books that published the day before—sharing the ones that we are looking forward to reading the most!

Check back every Wednesday and see what we’re reading for the week!

Charcoal Joe, by Walter Mosley (Doubleday)

Charcoal Joe by Walter Mosley

Walter Mosley’s indelible detective Easy Rawlins is back, with a new detective agency and a new mystery to solve.

 Picking up where his last adventures in Rose Gold left off in L.A. in the late 1960s, Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins finds his life in transition. He’s ready—finally—to propose to his girlfriend, Bonnie Shay, and start a life together. And he’s taken the money he got from the Rose Gold case and, together with two partners, Saul Lynx and Tinsford “Whisper” Natly, has started a new detective agency. But, inevitably, a case gets in the way: Easy’s friend Mouse introduces him to Rufus Tyler, a very old man everyone calls Charcoal Joe. Joe’s friend’s son, Seymour (young, bright, top of his class in physics at Stanford), has been arrested and charged with the murder of a white man from Redondo Beach. Joe tells Easy he will pay and pay well to see this young man exonerated, but seeing as how Seymour literally was found standing over the man’s dead body at his cabin home, and considering the racially charged motives seemingly behind the murder, that might prove to be a tall order.

Between his new company, a heart that should be broken but is not, a whole raft of new bad guys on his tail, and a bad odor that surrounds Charcoal Joe, Easy has his hands full, his horizons askew, and his life in shambles around his feet.

(via Criminal Element)

More ‘Easy’ detective work

Crime writer Walter Mosley to appear at Kepler’s to talk about newest mystery

by Michael Berry / Palo Alto Weekly

LWalter Mosley, Photo Credit: Marcia Wilsonife rarely goes smoothly for Ezekial “Easy” Rawlins. Chaos, racism and tragedy are part of the package of being a fictional African-American private detective in post-war Los Angeles.

Acclaimed crime novelist Walter Mosley has chronicled Easy’s ups and downs in 14 novels,
beginning in 1990 with “Devil in a Blue Dress.” The series starts in the Forties, but in the latest installment, “Charcoal Joe,” Mosley has brought his signature character up to 1968.

Mosley will appear in conversation with T. Geronimo Johnson, author of “Welcome to Braggsville,” at Kepler’s Books on June 16. The event is in partnership with 100 Black Men of the Bay Area and the NORCAL branch of Mystery Writers of America (MWA).

The author of 50 books, Mosley is a native of Los Angeles and resides in New York. In April, he was designated a Grand Master by the MWA, the first writer of color to be so recognized since the award was established in 1955.

Reached by phone in Los Angeles and asked about what accounts for Rawlins’ enduring appeal, Mosley paused before answering.

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Not So Easy Being Rawlins

Charcoal JoeVeteran storyteller Walter Mosley is back with another installment in the life and times of Easy Rawlins in Charcoal Joe. This is terrific news on several fronts: Easy is one of the finest characters in modern-day suspense fiction, complex and artfully drawn; the heroes and villains change sides with some regularity, including the main character; and the story offers more than its share of twists and turns to confound the reader. The titular Charcoal Joe is something of a legend in the circles of Los Angeles bad guys. Easy has stayed outside Joe’s sphere, but all that changes when he is tapped by his longtime frenemy Mouse to look into the murder charges against a young friend of Joe. Violence raises its ugly head, and our hero must take some serious evasive action to protect the lives of his family and loved ones. The Easy Rawlins saga has followed the landlord-turned-detective from the early post-World War II years through the Jim Crow 1950s and up to 1968 in this latest installment. The late ’60s were tumultuous times in Southern California, and Mosley deftly weaves social commentary into the narrative.

(via bookpage.com)

This week’s must-read books

This week’s must-read books

Charcoal Joe by Walter Mosley
(Doubleday)

In Mosley’s latest Easy Rawlins mystery, it’s 1968 Los Angeles and Easy is working at a new detective agency. He meets Rufus Tyler, an old man everyone calls Charcoal Joe, who tells Easy about a young physicist, Dr. Seymour Braithwaite, who’s been arrested for murder — and asks Easy to clear his name. Soon, Easy’s life is falling to pieces around him, again.

(via nypost.com)

Oprah.com’s 60 Must-Read Books of the Summer: Charcoal Joe

What are you in the mood to read this summer? This year boasts an unusual volume of stories exploring the thrilling and thorny stuff that makes us human. We think of them as books that make a difference—every one of them worth the plunge!

Charcoal Joe, by Walter Mosley (Doubleday)

Charcoal Joe

By Walter Mosley
320 pages; Doubleday
Available at: Amazon.com | Barnes & Noble | iBooks |IndieBound

 
It’s never easy being Easy Rawlins, especially when his main squeeze, Bonnie, cuts and runs just when he’s ready to pop the question. Next thing he knows, murder and intrigue are afoot, and we’re cruising the City of Angels in ’68, chock-full of degenerates, a few backsliding do-gooders, and everything in between. This is the 14th installment in Mosley’s celebrated mystery series. We say keep ’em coming.

Walter Mosley on Tennessee Ernie Ford’s ‘Sixteen Tons’

A catchy tune about hard work for low pay struck a chord with the mystery writer’s family

Tennessee Ernie Ford, 1959

Walter Mosley, 64, is the author of 50 books, including his latest Easy Rawlins mystery, “Charcoal Joe” (Doubleday). He spoke with Marc Myers.

My father was a custodian in the Los Angeles public school system, and my mother worked for the Board of Education in human resources. In 1958, when I was 6, I’d stay after school with a woman named Margaret who worked for my father as a janitor. That’s when I first heard Tennessee Ernie Ford sing “Sixteen Tons.”

At Margaret’s house in South Central L.A., the television was always on. When I quit running around, I’d sit on the floor to watch. Ford had his own TV variety show on NBC every Thursday. Even as a kid, I found him captivating.

A white singer, Ford was relaxed and spoke like a congenial good ol’ boy. You could hear the South in his deep voice. Everybody I was around was originally from the South, so Ford’s sound was familiar and comforting.

After I heard him sing “Sixteen Tons” on TV, I couldn’t shake it. Many people have the same reaction. I think it’s Ford’s snapping on the second and fourth beats and his delivery, as if he had personally experienced the lyrics.

Read the rest on WSJ.com…

Finishing His Sentences

by Walter Mosley

Walter Mosley and his father, Leroy.

Two thousand sixteen marks the 100-year anniversary of my father, Leroy Mosley’s, birth. He was and is my inspiration, the man who taught me to bob and weave in life and art. I came into being shaped by the stories about his childhood in Louisiana and the grinding poverty he endured there, the bloodletting and laughter in the Fifth Ward in Houston and the harsh enlightenment he received in the Army.

My father was born in the middle of one world war and served in the next, but his true battles, like those of so many African-Americans, were fought closer to home. Rural life in southern Louisiana was a threnody of destitution and racial oppression. But Leroy and his two half sisters were protected and fed by family that loved them and strangers who understood their pain. In the Old South, subjugation brought out the generosity in many of those persecuted, and black folk were masters of making something from nothing, be it that day’s jambalaya or a suit of clothes stitched together from rags.

Leroy named me for a ghost, a fiction — after his father, who had committed a mysterious and terrible crime back in Tennessee and went by the alias Walter Mosley. Walter was a logger and would leave for weeks at a time, working on crews hewing trees and floating them downriver to New Orleans. The boy was close to his mother, the fount of warmth in the home. She died when he was only 7, and shortly after, Walter went to work one day and never returned. Leroy’s half sisters were shuffled off to their blood mother’s relatives, and he was left to live with cousins who mistreated him. At 8 years old he jumped a freight train headed for Houston, where his mother’s father was purported to live.

The two didn’t get along. Leroy was permitted to sleep on the porch, but he had to find his own food and money. He grew up quickly in the Fifth Ward, learning to carry two guns and one razor at all times. He could fight hard and run fast, cook and sew, clean, do carpentry and fix any engine. He learned to type and write, and he was a masterful storyteller. But that’s not unusual for poor people living under the thumb of history: My Jewish relatives from Eastern Europe were no different; they’d sit up all night regaling one another with the horrors they had survived.

It was Leroy’s dream to write for the popular pulp magazines. He even sent a cowboy story to a magazine — only to see it published a year later, under someone else’s name. He gave up. It was not possible, he concluded, for an impoverished black man in the Deep South to become a writer at that time. It’s hardly easier now.

But it took World War II for my father to truly quit the South. When he realized that more of his draft-age friends had died back in Houston than in the war, he headed for Los Angeles. There, he met and married my mother and became a fiercely loving father who prepared our every meal. When I was 13, I asked him what he wanted me to be when I grew up. He said he wanted me to do whatever I wanted, that he had no directive. I took his lessons from poverty and decided to become an artist — someone who makes something from nothing. I decided to make something from the stuff of his stories, of pedestrian, tragic life, like the time he decided to eat at an all-white cafe in the late 1940s. Making it as far as the counter, he ordered a tuna melt. “That sandwich tasted like freedom,” he told me. But suddenly the white man sitting next to him dropped dead. “I realized right then and there that, freedom aside, no man, no matter who he is, can escape his death.”

My father’s life intersected with a century of conflict, horror and invention. He deciphered these histories for me, making me his scribe in a new century. My successes were his successes, and his stories thrum in every word I write. He taught me to see like a writer, to be attentive to the stories that spring up everywhere: the epileptic guy on the corner medicating his condition with wine; the man lamenting his cheating wife; a woman passing by, sheltering a child in her arms; to say nothing of his own tales — Leroy came to own three apartment buildings, but his tenants assumed he was the handyman. It’s an attentiveness to the world, to ordinary suffering, to the love that persists in its midst. My sense of the world, of history and humanity flows from this awareness — and the attendant grim humor — my father used as his guiding lamp in the darkness cast by racism and poverty.

He was riddled with cancer the last few times I saw him. On one such day, my mother and I were leaving the house in her car. My father, who we were told was too sick to stand, had somehow made it to the back porch. As we drove off, I saw him leaning heavily against the banister. But when we made eye contact, he suddenly smiled and lifted his hand. This was his gift to me: an indomitable spirit and the talent of taking the beauty and refusing the rest.

Walter Mosley is the author of more than 50 books, including the Easy Rawlins mystery series, and the recipient of PEN America’s Lifetime Achievement Award. His most recent novel, “Charcoal Joe,” was just published.

A version of this article appears in print on June 19, 2016, on page BR25 of the Sunday Book Review with the headline: Finishing His Sentences.

The New Easy Rawlins Novel, Charcoal Joe, with Author Walter Mosley

‘Charcoal Joe”: Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlins is on the case

By Steve Novak,
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Charcoal Joe, by Walter Mosley (Doubleday)

Walter Mosley’s private investigator Easy Rawlins has been around for nearly three decades now. Readers first met him in “Devil in a Blue Dress” when he agrees to find a missing person. The task that begins as a lark proves an inspiration to the recent World War II veteran that he may have found a suitable occupation. He takes to the streets of Los Angeles in the early 1940s and feels his way to an unexpected career.

Mr. Mosley’s 14th Easy Rawlins mystery, “Charcoal Joe,” shows just how far the character has come since that first case. With money he garnered from his last case, “Rose Gold” (2014), he has started his own private investigation agency, complete with two associates. As he walks to his new office, Easy realizes just what has happened to his life.

“I took in a deep breath through my nostrils and smiled, thinking that a poor black man from the deep South like myself was lucky not to be dead and buried, much less a living, breathing independent businessman,” he thinks.

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Walter Mosley’s ‘Charcoal Joe’: Easy Rawlins is back

Charcoal Joe, by Walter Mosley (Doubleday)

By Neely Tucker
The Washington Post

Walter Mosley’s latest Easy Rawlins novel, “Charcoal Joe,” comes on the heels of the author winning the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America in April. No one familiar with the quality and quantity of Mosley’s creative output was surprised by this honor. His output encompasses more than four dozen books — including 14 Rawlins novels — science fiction, nonfiction and essays. He’s been awarded PEN America’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Still, in some ways, the full measure of his achievement can only be gauged by seeing him at the Edgars, as the Mystery Writers’ honors are known. I watched the whole thing from a table near the back. Mosley was one of fewer than two dozen African Americans in a ballroom holding hundreds. Publishing, like the film industry, was a pale field when Mosley’s first Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins novel, “Devil in a Blue Dress,” was published in 1990 and made into a Denzel Washington vehicle five years later. Two decades on, both still are. (Looking at you, #oscarssowhite.)
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