Cover Image: Blood Grove

Blood Grove

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Member Reviews

Easy Rollins is one of my favorite characters for many reasons. Mr. Moseley is also one of my favorite authors, and though I have missed some of the Rollins books I fell right back into the pace of the story. The setting is again Los Angeles and having grown up there and remembering the times back in 1969 so much was going on from the streets that you could see driving around to things you could not see but oh they were there. Here Easy cannot turn down a vet looking for his daughter but like all of the other books if it was just that what would the fun be? The story takes you on a ride from the opening pages and the descriptions of the desks and chairs, this is what I mean I am transported back in that time walking that space either with my father or mother. Growing up with a man who fought in World War Two and how easy relates to the vet later on my father always did as well for other reasons. The writing grabs you and the characters just give the story life or legs. I am not going to talk more about the story just that if you are a fan read this book, if you have never read any of these books read this one and I think you will want to go back to the beginning and just see what I am talking about, another fantastic Easy Rollins story.
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I’m judging the L.A. Times 2020 and 2021 fiction contest. It’d be generous to call what I’m doing upon my first cursory glance—reading. I also don’t take this task lightly. As a fellow writer and lover of words and books, I took this position—in hopes of being a good literary citizen. My heart aches for all the writers who have a debut at this time. What I can share now is the thing that held my attention and got this book from the perspective pile into the read further pile. 

LA was a transient city back then. People moved in and out with predictable regularity. Five months was a long stay for tenants without blood ties or children.
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This is the 15th book in the Easy Rawlin’s series and although I haven’t read them all yet, the ones I have read most definitely do not disappoint and this one is certainly no exception.

Walter Mosley sure knows how to write a detective novel. As always I was immediately drawn straight back into Easy’s world as a private detective. Set in Los Angeles in 1969 I love the setting as much as I love the characters and I couldn’t put it down. Definitely recommend!
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It’s 1969, and Easy Rawlings is keeping an eye on a household he can observe from his private investigation office. Hippies have moved in to his LA neighborhood, and one of them is tending something in a greenhouse. His observations are interrupted when a client arrives. Easy wonders what brought him to his door: he’s a white guy with a strange story. He thinks he stabbed a Black man who he encountered in an orange grove assaulting a white woman tied to a tree. He can’t be sure exactly what happened because he was knocked unconscious; he’s also not a reliable witness because hen’s recently returned from the Vietnam war and shows obvious signs of severe post-traumatic stress. That’s what compels Easy to take a case that doesn’t sound promising at all. He had, himself, just been visited by troubling memories of his own war in Europe.  

His quest quickly becomes complicated as leads entangle him with unsavory characters and too many of the people he needs to find turn up dead. As usual he gets an assist from his buddies, familiar to readers who are catching up on the fifteenth book in the series, and the story takes detours to Easy’s hilltop retreat where he lives with his adopted daughter, Feather. She is being sought out by an uncle she has never met, a hippie who has broken with his family and wants to connect. Those detours, while no doubt of interest to fans as part of a long story arc, have a tendency to slow the pace, even as the case itself becomes a series of confusing switchbacks. 

When the police aren’t trying to arrest him for being Black and driving a handsome Rolls Royce in neighborhoods where his presence alone is considered suspicious, he’s meeting with a detective he trusts who needs to solve some of the murders that seem to follow in Easy’s wake. The plot becomes tangled, as hard to follow as some of Chandler’s more Byzantine plots, and it doesn’t help that nearly every character involved in the case is double-crossing one another.

While the plot is nearly impossible to follow and the pacing is uneven, the backdrop of a time and place is vividly, often poetically evoked. Easy’s observations about the inescapable racism of the world he lives in – the world we still live in – are a welcome reminder that the search for justice that crime fiction readers so often crave is elusive, even when the case is closed.
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Ezekiel Porterhouse Rawlins.

If there is a more compelling character in Los Angeles fiction, I haven't discovered him yet. 

Walter Mosely brings him -- and it -- once again, this one, I believe the best of the Easy Rawlins tales. I feel the writing and the people and the pain and the place. And I love them all.

Thank you NetGalley; this one's a hit!
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Advance copy from NetGalley...

It's always great to visit with Easy and the family. He's more settled and domestic than ever these days, and Feather is growing up. Even Mouse is growing and maturing. Yet, and always, Easy gets his buttons pushed by a hard-luck story and ends up in the muck once more.

Vietnam vet Craig Kilian needs clarity on a night-gone-bad, and sends Easy on another adventure through 1969 Los Angeles, hippies and power brokers all.

This is a great return to form for Mosley and Easy, where I felt the last couple Rawlins books weren't as inspired. Blood Grove is a "greatest hits" of all your favorite characters and bit players, and introduces a few others you'd love to see pop up again in the future.
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This is the 15th book in the Easy Rawlins series.  As usual, once I cracked open the book I immediately fell into Easy's world of colorful characters and witty repartee.  Set in 1969 Los Angeles not long after the Watts Riots the city is brimming with racial tension..  So when a Vietnam War Vet walks into Easy's office saying he may have killed a man - a Black man he witnessed fighting with a White woman - Easy's senses are heightened.  He recognizes that the man is shell shocked and may not be giving him the most reliable information.  But as a veteran himself he empathizes with him and takes the case anyway. 

Easy has aged well over the series and carries with him a certain kind of wisdom that he is able to draw from when everything turns sideways.  He also has a host of old friends like Mouse, Jackson Blue and Fearless .that he can call upon who make their appearances here.  

Blood Grove is crime noir at its finest.  Mystery readers will love the fast-paced action.  Literature lovers will enjoy the language and social commentary..  Blood Grove is another win for Walter Mosley and anyone who is lucky enough to get their hands on this book.
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I enjoyed this book and have to rate it 5 stars. I have read many Walter Mosley books and reading this felt like I sat down with some old friends for another good time. 

Easy Rawlins is the main character in this detective mystery in the time-period of 1969 in Southern California. Easy is hired to solve a mystery which then turns into a larger messier mystery. Easy then visits old friends to help him solve the mystery. After some twist, turns, and murders the mystery is solved. 

If you like old-school detective mysteries, this is a must-read. 

Thanks to #netgalley and #mulhollandbooks for the #eARC of this book by #waltermosley
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In this latest mystery about Easy Rawlins, Mosley has again followed the Dashiell Hammett tradition of a hard boiled detective, with the added complexity of addressing racial prejudice.  There is a large cast of characters, many familiar from earlier Easy Rawlins novels, and a complicated plot, so that readers unfamiliar with Mosley's work may have a difficult time following the ins and outs of Rawlins's investigation.  Set in the late 60's, the issues nonetheless seem extremely timely.  The harassment and unfair treatment Rawlins suffers from police and others because of his skin color certainly reflect today's reality as well, and are especially cogent as described by the first person matter-of-fact account.  The PTSD of the Vietnam vet client could just as easily relate to a more contemporary vet from the Middle East or Afghanistan.  As for the mystery itself, all of the twists and turns will keep readers surprised, if not confused, and quickly turning pages to find out who dunnit.
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‘Blood Grove’ (Easy Rawlins Book 15) by Walter Mosley (Mulholland Books, $18.99)

If Walter Mosely’s “Blood Grove” is your first Easy Rawlins’ book, by the time you finish you’ll rejoice that you have 14 more to catch up on. If you’re already an aficionado, Mosley’s latest detective creation is the life diversion you know you need now.

Ezekiel “Easy” Porterhouse Rawlins is a private investigator working the 1960s Los Angeles crime culture, and “Blood Grove” — named for both the crime and the oranges — is his most confounding case to date. For one thing, the crime may or may not be real. For another, Early, a Black man and a World War II vet, again comes up against the challenges both present: racist White cops, an especially volatile case of PTSD and crime bosses threatened by Early’s record of success.

Ignoring a red flag and his own unwritten rule — a reference from a man he’s never heard of — Early takes the case of Vietnam War veteran Craig Kilian. Although Kilian believes he might have killed someone at a lone campsite while defending a half-naked woman, he can’t be sure. After waking from being knocked unconscious during the defense, there is no body and no sign of the damsel in distress — who, very undamsel-like he recalls later, wasn’t really confined and could have gotten away on her own.

This isn’t the type of case Easy is likely to take, but Kilian’s service and PTSD remind the detective of himself: “Because of that bloody history Craig Kilian was as much my brother in blood as any black man in the U.S. I had to help him because I could see his pain in my mirror.”

It’s not long before Easy comes to regret his decision. The case is loaded with minefields that, despite years of race riots and civil rights laws, threaten the life and livelihood of a Black man in 1969. But as always, Easy perseveres, not losing sight of the “one thing I never forgot … that I was a black man in America, a country that had built greatness on the bulwarks of slavery and genocide. But even while I was well aware of the United States’ crimes and criminals, still I had to admit that our nation offered bright futures for any woman or man with brains, elbow grease, and more than a little luck.”

Of the three, brains are Easy’s chief ally. He’s smart, self-possessed and, with Mosley’s ear for dialogue, unabashedly funny. “Blood Grove” is ripe to be plucked as one of Mosley’s finest and most important novels.
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The archetypal hard-boiled detective was Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade, a licensed private investigator who counted among his signature gifts and defining characteristics his ability to throw and take a punch, his flexible approach to the law and unwavering fidelity to his own moral compass, a wisecracking cynicism that belied his capacity for gutting personal loss, and a clear-eyed common-sense logic that got the job done without the dazzling parlor-room deductive genius of Hercule Poirot.

Even as Spade’s memorable turn in The Maltese Falcon birthed a genre typified and often diminished by the careerism of his successors, it failed to launch a career for Spade himself. The subject of one classic novel and three forgettable short stories, Spade made his lasting impression uncharacteristically quickly for a hard-boiled detective whose name still resounds nearly a century later.

The undisputed heavyweight champ of the career P.I.s who have followed in Sam Spade’s wake is Walter Mosley’s Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins, whose travails have carried the hard-boiled genre into the bracing realm of the protest novel, plumbing the depths of American racial conflict and injustice and charting new territory for Black male heroism. The only contemporary who comes close to matching Mosley’s Rawlins for the unerring wallop of his narrative, the embattled moral authority of his voice, a permanently fixed place in the lingering legacy of internal colonialism, and a seemingly inescapable compulsion to contend with the burdens of his country’s violent past and present, is Ken Bruen’s beleaguered Galway gumshoe Jack Taylor.

Easy Rawlins returns in the 15th installment in his ongoing story with the taut and enthralling Blood Grove. In this latest work, Mosley continues to mine undiscovered dimensions and shades of meaning from Easy’s adventures, reflecting depths of the character that no single, or perhaps even short series of novels would be likely to reveal.

Blood Grove picks up Rawlins’ story in 1969. Mosley sets the scene and affixes his tale in time as vividly as ever: “The LA riots were almost four years gone but the devastation was still apparent. Burned-out businesses and more pedestrians than populated the streets of the rest of the city. Men and women who were the heirs of slavery trod down the avenue looking as if they were still bearing up under the heavy loads of another man’s wealth.”

Meanwhile, Easy’s difficult journey toward domesticity and his struggle to build a safe environment in which to raise his 13-year-old adopted daughter Feather despite the ever-present dangers of his profession have considerably advanced since the conclusion of the last Easy Rawlins novel, Charcoal Joe. Easy is still aching from the loss of his common-law wife Bonnie to exiled African prince Joguye (both of whom Easy helped hide from Joguye’s would-be assassins in Charcoal Joe), but his beloved Feather remains by his side, and he’s arrived at a truce of sorts with Feather’s nettlesome yellow dog Frenchie.

Now pushing 50, Easy is 21 years older than when we first encountered him in Devil in a Blue Dress as a recently mustered out World War II veteran lately laid off at Champion Aircraft and reluctantly embarking on a new career as a P.I. He is still receiving favors as often as cash for his detective services. As Blood Grove begins, Easy has secured a 99-year lease on a gated house high in the hills outside L.A. from a grateful client, along with a canary-yellow 1968 Rolls Royce Phantom VI to traverse the city streets.

As anyone familiar with Rawlins’ past adventures—or the bitter realities of being Black in America—might suspect, a Black man without a chauffeur’s cap can hardly cruise the Sunset Strip in 1969 in a mint Rolls-Royce without drawing near-constant harassment from the police. Even with colleagues on the force who regularly leverage his expertise, Easy’s relationship with the LAPD continues to vary narrowly from prickly to poisonous. At its outset, Blood Grove stops and sputters, virtually unable to get rolling, until Easy temporarily trades the Rolls for a seemingly more race- and class-appropriate ’58 Pontiac that allows him to move relatively freely about the city.

When the case that drives Blood Grove kicks in, it’s a doozy. No longer an accidental P.I. as in the early novels, Easy is now a partner a three-man detective agency. Alone in the office and hoping for a few quiet days spent idly observing the horticultural pursuits of his hippie neighbors from his office window, Easy meets a new client arrives who arrives unannounced. Craig Kilian, a young, white, shell-shocked Vietnam vet, slips silently into the office and tells Easy a muddled story of stumbling upon a man assaulting a woman in an orange grove. Kilian says he stabbed the man to death before being hit from behind and knocked unconscious, awakening later to find himself alone with no evidence that any of these events occurred, except for the pain in his head and the disappearance of his dog.

Kilian wants Easy to find out what really happened. Doubting that he’s hearing the whole story—or even the whole story as the confused Kilian understands it—Easy agrees to take the case because of the empathy he feels for the teller, his understanding of the damage war has done to this young man, and the depth of their common experience in spite of their equally evident differences.

“I’m a black man closer to Mississippi midnight than its yellow moon,” Easy muses. “Also I’m a westerner, a Californian formerly from the South—Louisiana and Texas to be exact. I’m a father, a reader, a private detective, and a veteran. I’m sure as shit a vet. From the sand-strewn corpses of D-day (on that day my race, for a brief moment, was all-American) to the Battle of the Bulge with its one hundred fifty thousand dead, to the masses of skin-stitched corpses, living and dead, at Auschwitz-Birkenau . . . Because of that bloody history Craig Kilian was as much my brother in blood as any black man in the U.S. I had to help him because I could see his pain in my mirror.”

Kilian’s story frays quickly and unravels completely over the next few days, as the case expands to encompass murders and mobsters, femmes fatale, and misbegotten heists. The complications of the web into which Easy has been drawn become apparent as the violence and danger intensify, the bodies pile up, and a living, breathing blunt instrument of a gangster bashes his way into the fray, demanding that Easy find a woman he’s already looking for.

Thirty-one years since the publication of Devil in a Blue Dress and Easy Rawlins’ arrival as an indelible presence in American fiction, familiar elements of his ongoing story remain prominent and powerful. Perhaps foremost among them—alongside Mosley’s unflinching and ever-insightful take on what it means to walk through life in America wearing black skin—is his acute portrayal of mid-century Black Los Angeles as a product of the Great Migration, and the institutionalized violence, deprivation, and degradation that necessitated it.

Black Los Angeles remains, in Mosley’s vision, east Texas and southwest Louisiana moved west, with the culture and shared experience of Houston’s Fifth Ward more meaningful cultural determinants in Watts and South Central L.A. life than anything native to California. Easy and his memorable cohort, from his lethal and loyal best friend Mouse to Mouse’s redoubtable wife Etta Mae, the formidable Fearless Jones, the cowardly genius Jackson Blue, the fellow vet Christmas Black, and the mystically omnipotent Louisiana witch doctor Mama Jo, live with one foot planted in both worlds, even though all, by the late ’60s, have lived in L.A. for decades.

But perhaps the element of Easy’s experience that emerges more strongly in Blood Grove than in any Easy Rawlins novel since Devil in a Blue Dress is the persistent presence of Easy’s war experience in his life, reinvigorated by the trauma that another generation is enduring in the bloodiest years of the Vietnam war. “There were thousands of young men like Craig coming back from Vietnam,” Mosley writes. “Innocents, killers, and children all rolled up into the war-hardened bodies of veterans who had no idea what they’d done or why.”

The common experience of war fuels Easy’s sometimes difficult, but also deeply rewarding interactions in a veterans-only bar he discovers as he pursues Kilian’s case. It informs his ever-evolving understanding of himself a half-century into his life, and his own progression as a transplanted Black man, a devoted father, a steadfast friend, a spirited and spurned lover, a moralist and fatalist, and an accomplished private detective with voluntary but unshakable allegiances. “In the mirror there were the faces of many men: a middle-aged black man in fair shape but worn; a veteran not unlike Craig Kilian; a free agent who only took orders out of love, duty, or, far too often, as a consequence of guilt.”

What’s perhaps most remarkable about Blood Grove—as with all Easy Rawlins novels—is Mosley’s undiminished gift for embedding the poignant messaging of the protest novel in hard-boiled crime fiction without ever sacrificing punch or pace. Mosley is often compared to the criminally undervalued 20th-Century Black author Chester Himes, whose early protest novels If He Hollers Let Him Go and The Lonely Crusade cut particularly deep. Though the voice of Easy Rawlins shares some of the knowing fatalism and trickster edge of Himes’s classic Harlem detectives Coffin Ed Johnson and Gravedigger Jones, it has implanted itself in the American consciousness by generously divulging secrets Himes’s cocky cops played close to the vest.

Still, Mosley owes Himes a debt many times repaid. Blood Grove does its many antecedents proud—not least among them, Easy Rawlins’ formidable first 14.
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Easy Rawlins is back. This time Mosley’s iconic private eye is tasked with unraveling a mystery that begins when a PTSD-damaged Vietnam War vet asks his help in unraveling a mystery. It’s LA, 1969. The vet spins a story that makes little sense. He stumbles on a physical confrontation between a man and a woman in an isolated blood orange grove and he might have killed the attacker. Or maybe it’s simply another of the vivid combat flashbacks that plague the young man. Regardless, the girl is missing. Easy reluctantly takes on the case and, of course, enlists the help of Mouse, Fearless, and the other characters that populate his world. Blood Grove is dark and convoluted and so very well written. Highly recommended.

DP Lyle, award-winning author of the Jake Longly and Cain/Harper thriller series

This review copy was received from Mulholland Books.
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Any new Easy Rawlins novel is an *event.* Happy to feature the latest in February’s edition of Novel Encounters, my monthly column roundup up the top new fiction titles for Zoomer magazine’s Books section.
To read the feature, click on the link.
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In a nutshell, another winner from Mosley.  Reading an Easy Rawlings novel is like visiting an old friend, recounting his noir stories, in a bygone LA.  I love them, and this installment is another enthralling ride.
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