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Devil In A Blue Dress [Hardcover]

Walter Mosley
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 1 1990 Easy Rawlins Mysteries
Devil in a Blue Dress honors the tradition of the classic American detective novel by bestowing on it a vivid social canvas and the freshest new voice in crime writing in years, mixing the hard-boiled poetry of Raymond Chandler with the racial realism of Richard Wright to explosive effect.

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From Amazon

Walter Mosley's Easy Rawlins has few illusions about the world--at least not about the world of a young black veteran in the late 1940s in Southern California. His stint in the Army didn't do anything to dissuade him from his belief that justice doesn't come cheap, especially for men like him. "I thought there might be some justice for a black man if he had money to grease it," Easy says. Fired from his job on the line at an aircraft plant, he's in danger of losing his home, symbol of his tenuous hold on middle class status. That's a good enough reason to accept a white man's offer to pay him for finding a beautiful, mysterious Frenchwoman named Daphne Monet, last seen in the company of a well-known gangster. Easy's search takes the reader to an L.A. few writers have shown us before--the mean streets of South Central, the after-hours joints in dirty basement clubs, the cheap hotels and furnished rooms, the places people go when they don't want to be found. Evocative of a past time, and told in a style that's reminiscent of Hammet and Chandler, yet uniquely his own, Mosley's depiction of an inherently decent man in a violent world of intrigue and corruption rang up big sales when it was published in 1990 (although the movie version, with Denzel Washington as Easy, never found the audience it deserved). The minor characters are deftly and brilliantly developed, especially Mouse, who saves Easy's life even as he draws him deeper into the mystery of Daphne Monet. Like many of Mosley's characters, Mouse makes a return appearance in the succeeding Easy Rawlins mysteries, such as A Red Death, Black Betty, and White Butterfly, every one of which is as good as Devil in a Blue Dress, his first. --Jane Adams --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

This jaunty crime novel, set in L.A. in 1948, introduces Ezekiel "Easy" Rawlins, a recently laid-off mechanic who is young, black and--but for the need to meet the mortgage on his new house--a most reluctant sleuth. Easy hails originally from the tough Fifth Ward in Houston; he served his country, landing on the Normandy Beach. He knows racism firsthand and seeing too many white men in one day unnerves him. But a white businessman, Dewitt Albright, engages Easy to locate a beautiful French woman named Daphne Monet who has a "predilection for the company of negroes." She also has $30,000 of someone else's money. Easy becomes entangled in a chain of events that takes him to bar after bar to meet a range of characters, most of whom are seeking their own advantages in the pursuit of Daphne. With bodies piling up, there is no turning back for Easy, as he is dogged by brutish white cops and a few "brothers" none too friendly. The language is hard-boiled ("Somewhere between the foo young and the check I decided to cut my losses") and the portrait of black city life gritty and real. But the first-person narrative, which hurtles along with improbable transitions and sketchy psychological portraits, leaves the reader winded rather than exhilarated at the book's predictable conclusion. 25,000 first printing; $25,000 ad/promo; movie rights to Reuben Cannon ; Mysterious Book Club and QPB selections.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Murder and Temptation in 1948 Los Angeles Aug. 1 2003
"Devil in a Blue Dress" takes the reader to post-War Los Angeles, a city burgeoning with new industry and opportunity in 1948. The hero is Ezekiel "Easy" Rollins, a war veteran who came to L.A. for sunshine and good jobs, but now finds himself laid off and in danger of losing his home. A friend introduces him to a sleazy character named DeWitt Albright, who offers Easy the opportunity to make some money fast. Albright is looking for a woman named Daphne Monet. In a city that is largely socially segregated, Miss Monet, who is white, frequents black night clubs and has black friends -some of the same clubs and friends as Easy. Whether in desperation or out of pride, Easy accepts the job and sets out to find her. His search takes him on a tour of the city's shadows: underground jazz clubs, bootleggers and blackmailers, political corruption, and finally to the irresistible and mysterious Daphne Monet.
"Devil in a Blue Dress" is a pleasant, brisk read. Walter Mosley paints a colorful and intriguing picture of post-War Los Angeles. And his prose effectively expresses the fear and temptation that constantly compete for Easy Rollins' psyche. Easy Rollins is a working class detective who is lent a certain romanticism and distinction by the time and place in which the novel is set. This combination of qualities make Easy an ideal detective novel protagonist who will appeal to a wide array of readers. The character of Daphne Monet is less than believable, I'm afraid. But it is more essential that she be sexy and mysterious than that she be believed, so it is not a serious flaw. "Devil in a Blue Dress" has a little of everything -a likable hero, period ambiance, hard-boiled dialogue, sex, violence, mystery- without losing its focus. It won't appeal to fans of "cozies ", but most mystery buffs will find something enjoyable in it.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Don't be fooled, this novel is not that great May 20 2003
While most of the preceding critics of Mosley's mystery rave about this and that, my opinion on the literary merit rates about average. While it is an entertaining mystery to most, the underlying themes and syntax are suitable merely for the high school freshman.
The main character, Easy Rawlins, virtuously overcomes the social injustices of racial prejudice blacks faced at the time while also noting similar bigotry against the WWII Jews. The mystery holds suspense but the plot line overall is not fully satisfying. Overall I was bored reading it, and the class discussions I participated in (I am a student at UCR) were less than lively.
The part about this book that I hated most is that it portrays the white man in disgusting fashion. All the white characters Easy Rawlins meets are somehow seriously flawed. They are either homosexual, racist gangsters, filthy-rich love-crazed maniacs, teenage bigots, liquour store black market operators, etc. There is not a decent white man among them, and Easy's attitude of self-restraint, although admirable, further paints a dirty picture of the white man. Why can't there be at least one white man that has any admirable characteristics? It makes it seem like Mosely targeted a black audience rather than trying to appeal to all demographics.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A Fine Book, But Hardly A Masterpiece Jan. 26 2003
By A. Ross
The first Easy Rawlins book is more enjoyable for its physical and cultural setting than it is for its mystery or characters. Set in Los Angeles a few years after WWII, Mosley does a masterful job of depicting a multiethnic city that's still a sleepy collection of neighborhoods in many senses, but has a distinctly seedy side (not unlike James Ellroy's LA Confidential). The story is about Easy, an ex-soldier who loses his job for standing up to his white boss at an aircraft manufacturing plant. Desperate for money so he can meet his mortgage and not lose his pride and joy of a house, he's offered a lot of money to look for a white woman who's been hanging out at illegal after-hours black clubs. Of course, he's not the only one looking, and soon he's up to his neck in bootleggers, crooked politicians, racist cops, and round-the-way girls.
In noir fashion, the mystery is fairly complicated, perhaps overly so with a number of minor characters who run together. As events move beyond Easy's grasp, he has to call on his old friend from Houston, Mouse, to help him out. Mouse is a thoroughly nasty bit of work, and there's some good tension between him and Easy. Ultimately, the "big" twist at the end isn't that surprising. The book is so thoroughly steeped in race that it's the only plausible solution to a number of thorny questions.
As an average hardworking black man, just trying to live with dignity in a racist world, Easy is well-drawn and sympathetic. What doesn't work as well is when he hears "the voice" inside his head, which appears at moments of stress and urges him not to take any [...] and stand up for himself. It's a device that's remarkably amateurish, given the solid control Mosley exhibits over the rest of the narrative.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Slumming Angel Sept. 7 2002
By A Customer
This book was our introduction to Ezekiel Rawlins, 'Easy' as his only real friend calls him. It is fast moving and very complex in a bare bones kind of way. Mosley takes us into an LA after the war we rarely see as Easy becomes a private eye of sorts to find a blonde French girl named Daphne Monet, who likes black men and haunts the world of dusty underground bars and hole in the wall jazz joints Easy knows all to well.
A white man Easy doesn't quite trust is willing to pay a hefty sum to find her. But finding her may not be Easy's only problem as someone is out to kill him and he calls on his old friend Mouse to watch his back. Mouse is sharply drawn by Mosley as an amoral yet likeable killer, deadly as an enemy, unequaled as a friend.
Easy is a decent man who understands his world but doesn't like it. He is one of the great characters in American detective fiction, on a par with Ross Macdonald's Lew Archer, and like Archer, more comfortable as an observer of human cruelty and frailty than a participant. His attraction to the beautiful white girl when he finds her, and his uneasiness about what is really going on here, and why, leads to money and murder, and everyone might just have underestimated Easy.
It is a complex and riveting story you can't put down. It's about a good man in a not good world, trying to detatch himself from it, and finding it is part of who he is. Mosley's "Mouse" is unforgettable and would become to Easy what Hawk is to Spenser in this wonderful and ever changing series that spans decades.
Daphne has more to hide in this novel than just money, and it's truth is the impetus for everything that happens. There is murder here, and greed, and something Easy has seen way to much of, even for a black man in post WWII Los Angeles, sorrow.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Detective novel
I didn't like this book, mainly because their was too much explicit sex in it. A little bit is okay, but when every page is filled with it, I don't enjoy the book. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Hugh Murray
4.0 out of 5 stars Fine Noir Thriller
I read this book for a book club discussion and it introduced me to the work of Walter Mosley.

A fine noir look at LA in the 1940s which doesn't pull any punches. Read more
Published on Feb. 8 2012 by James A. Anderson
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Amazing!
This book is truly a masterpiece. The characters are amazing and the story is great. This is the kind of book that you can visualize in your head, you can see every scene... Read more
Published on April 2 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty Good
I read this particular novel in about a week and at first it seemed slow, but towards the middle part of the book my interest started to peak. Read more
Published on July 30 2003 by P. A Lewis
5.0 out of 5 stars Enter Easy Rawlings
Devil in a Blue Dress established Walter Mosely's reputation as a master of the mystery genre. The creation of Easy, the murderous Mouse, the seductive Daphne and the setting... Read more
Published on April 19 2003 by Geoffrey Philp
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read with a unique cast of characters
This is an excellent example of why Walter Mosely's books are becoming 'cult' classics. A great cast of characters, including of course the hero 'Easy', and a plot that although a... Read more
Published on Dec 24 2002
3.0 out of 5 stars Somewhat overwritten, but I've seen much worse.
Walter Mosley, Devil in a Blue Dress (Pocket, 1990)

Walter Mosley's first novel featuring detective Easy Rawlins is a good one; the characters are well-drawn, the plot... Read more
Published on Sept. 25 2002 by Robert Beveridge
2.0 out of 5 stars Lot of fuss over nothing
What is the fuss all about.
I picked this up ,read two thirds of it at one sitting.
It ain't much,believe me. Chandler won't be losing any long sleep over this. Read more
Published on Sept. 16 2002
4.0 out of 5 stars Post-War Era Brought To Life
The year is 1948 and Easy Rawlins has just lost his job. Seemingly coming to his rescue with an offer of some good money for a simple job comes the shady character Dewitt Albright. Read more
Published on July 29 2002 by Untouchable
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