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Easy Rawlins

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Title: Easy Rawlins  
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Subject: Detective fiction, Mystery film, Walter Mosley, Chester Himes, White Butterfly, List of City College of New York alumni
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Easy Rawlins

Ezekiel "Easy" Rawlins
First appearance

Devil in a Blue Dress (1990)
Created by

Walter Mosley
Portrayed by

Denzel Washington
Gender Male
Occupation private detective
Children Jesus

Ezekiel "Easy" Porterhouse Rawlins is a fictional character created by mystery author Walter Mosley. Private investigator Easy is a black hard-boiled detective and World War II veteran living in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, and features in a series of best-selling mysteries set from the 1940s to the 1960s.

The mysteries combine traditional conventions of detective fiction with descriptions of racial inequities and social injustice experienced by African-Americans and other persons of color in the Los Angeles of that period and the present. While Rawlins is clearly in the tradition of Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe, and Ross Macdonald's Lew Archer, he differs sharply from these earlier fictional detectives in that Rawlins is an unlicensed private investigator (he acquires a license late in the series) with no background or training in law enforcement.

Mosley has written ten novels, and a collection of short stories, starring Rawlins, his most popular character. Mosley once stated he intended to bring the character into contemporary times, but Mosley later said that the 2007 novel Blonde Faith, which is set in 1967, would be the last.[1] Six years later, a new Easy Rawlins novel entitled Little Green was published.

The character was played by Denzel Washington in Rawlins' first and (as of 2009) only on-screen appearance, the 1995 film adaptation of Devil in a Blue Dress. On September 13, 2011, NBC announced it was developing an Easy Rawlins project. [2]

Character biography

Easy's birthday is November 3, 1920. He was born in Louisiana, but spent his late childhood and adolescence living on his own in the Fifth Ward of Houston, Texas. His mother died when he was seven years old, and his father abandoned the family (to avoid reprisals after a violent, racially charged confrontation) prior to her death. Rawlins served in the US Army during World War II, and afterward worked at an aircraft assembly plant.


Introduced as a newly unemployed defense plant worker in 1948, Easy Rawlins takes on his first case when he searches for the mysterious Daphne Monet, the mistress of a wealthy man who brings him into a dangerous game of corruption and crime. The help of his childhood friend, the murderous, avaricious, and charming Raymond "Mouse" Alexander, is key to his success.

  • A Red Death. Thorndike, Me. : Thorndike Press, 1993, c1991.

Rawlins investigates an espionage problem at a major aircraft manufacturer. He is coerced by Federal Bureau of Investigation agent Darryl T. Craxton, who knows that Easy's newly acquired real estate was bought with untaxed income, to prove that labor union organizer Chaim Wenzler is a communist. The story takes place in 1953.

  • White Butterfly. Thorndike, ME : Thorndike Press, 1993, c1992.

1956: A black Los Angeles Police Department detective named Quinten Naylor reluctantly taps Easy to investigate a serial killer's murdering spree. It is only when the fourth victim, the first white woman, a UCLA coed who led a double life as a stripper, is found that Rawlins is drawn into the investigation and starts to draw the threads together.

  • Black Betty. New York : W.W. Norton, 1994.

Meeting again the beautiful woman he was in love with when he was a kid back in Texas, Easy Rawlins investigates a complex inheritance feud. This story is set in 1961.

  • A Little Yellow Dog. New York : Norton, c1996.

Investigating the murder of twin brothers, Easy Rawlins falls for a beautiful heroin smuggler. He meets Bonnie, his girlfriend for the following episodes. His friend Mouse appears to be mortally wounded in the end but his fate remains nebulous. The story, set in 1963, climaxes on November 22nd, the day of President John F. Kennedy's assassination. This is the first novel in which Easy is working by day as the plant manager at Sojourner Truth Junior High School. He holds this job for three more years until the events depicted in Cinnamon Kiss.

  • Gone Fishin'. Baltimore : Black Classic, c1997.

Recollection of Easy Rawlins' youth back in Texas, circa 1939, with his friend Mouse. Easy joins Mouse on a journey that results in murder. The plot is described briefly in Devil in a Blue Dress. This is the sole Rawlins novel that is not strictly speaking a mystery, but instead a Bildungsroman.

  • Bad Boy Brawly Brown. Boston : Little, Brown, and Co., 2002.

Looking for the estranged son of a friend, Easy Rawlins uncovers a plot to rob a bank. After being chased by killers, Easy Rawlins decides to give up smoking. It's 1964.

  • Six Easy Pieces. New York, N.Y. : Atria Books, c2003.

A short story collection. Equal time is given between the cases Easy solves and the evolving relationships in his life. The question of Raymond "Mouse" Alexander's fate is finally resolved. These stories are set during 1964, as is Bad Boy Brawly Brown.

  • Little Scarlet. Boston : Little, Brown, and Co., 2004.

After the Watts Riots of August 1965, Easy Rawlins investigates the murder of a woman called Little Scarlet. The LAPD hires Rawlins to investigate the crime since it could trigger another outburst of violence.

  • Cinnamon Kiss. Boston : Little, Brown, and Co., 2005.

In 1966, the Summer of Love, Easy Rawlins is desperate to find money for the treatment of his adopted daughter, Feather, who is suffering from a rare and potentially life-threatening condition. Initially, Easy considers pulling a heist with Mouse so he can pay for his daughter's treatment, but he declines the offer. Hired by an eccentric private investigator named Robert Lee, Easy sets out to find Philomena "Cinnamon" Cargill, the lover of a disappeared liberal lawyer with secrets harking back to World War II. The case takes him to Haight-Ashbury and Easy has his first encounter with the counterculture.

  • Blonde Faith. [3]

One year after the previous novel, Easy is no longer working a day job and does detective work full-time. He searches for the ex-Green Beret Christmas Black after his family takes in Black's adopted daughter Easter Dawn. His search brings him into conflict with servicemen who have become drug smugglers, as well as a blonde femme fatale named Faith Laneer, and he must clear his childhood friend Mouse of murder. The novel's ends leaving Easy Rawlins' fate uncertain.

Waking up from a coma after his nearly fatal car accident at the end of the previous novel, Easy resumes his life and trade when Mouse asks him to find a young man named Evander "Little Green" Noon who disappeared during an acid trip. Easy's search sends him into the heart of the L.A. counterculture (circa 1967) where he takes stock of how much America has changed since his own youth.


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