Book Report: Bad Boy Brawly Brown by Walter Mosley (2002)

I read this book right after the Gates thing and right after a conversation on race that pretty much ended with my black friend saying, “You’re not black, so you can’t understand and you’re wrong.” Maybe this book was penance. Or maybe it’s because it was the first Mosley book I saw at a book fair after I read Transgressions. Pick whichever you want to fit into your narrative of Brian.

This book is later in the Easy Rawlins canon, and it fits into the mold of good hard-boiled detective fiction. Rawlins helps a friend by finding what his wife’s child, the titular Brawly Brown, is into. He peels away the layers and finds that the young man is indeed in over his head in something bad and he has to go to extraordinary means to extract him (in a fashion).

That said, the retro feel of it, the strange lingo, and a certain alienation of the reader from the argot of the story keeps with what one encounters reading the oldies today. However, Mosley pulls the white reader out a little with continued that’s what it’s like to be black asides. The situations Rawlins encounters aren’t that much different from the things encountered by the regular private eye, but the first person narrator dwells upon his blackness an awful lot. I don’t dwell on my race that much, so that’s very alien to me. I’m not sure if it’s authentic or not, either, but if it is, that’s a real tragedy.

Still, I liked the book enough to not shirk other Mosley books in the future.

Books mentioned in this review: