Walter Mosley | Critical Review by Herbert Mitgang

This literature criticism consists of approximately 2 pages of analysis & critique of Walter Mosley.
This section contains 460 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Herbert Mitgang

Critical Review by Herbert Mitgang

SOURCE: "Mysteries That Reveal More Than Just Whodunit," in The New York Times, August 7, 1992, p. C25.

In the following excerpt, Mitgang determines that Mosley has grown "deeper and richer" with White Butterfly, noting that the author emulates the masters of the detective-fiction genre but "continues to reveal the inside of the black-and-white encounter in his own voice."

If you're not careful while reading detective fiction, you're liable to learn something. While taking the reader for a ride before solving the mystery, the best writers in the field have something to say, about a city, a profession, a just cause, a moral climate. Of course, the detective story must abide by the rules of pursuit and solution. But it doesn't violate the formula if, lurking between the lines, there's a novel of manners, mostly bad.

In White Butterfly, Walter Mosley, creator of Easy Rawlins, a black private investigator living on the edge of the law, returns with his most mature mystery. Mr. Mosley exposes underground life in the racial and interracial atmosphere of poverty and privilege in Los Angeles….

Mr. Mosley grows deeper and richer in his third Easy Rawlins story. The hard-boiled California school of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett is worth emulating; why not walk in the footsteps of the masters? He does, but he continues to reveal the inside of the black-and-white encounter in his own voice. White Butterfly surpasses his first two Rawlins stories, Devil in a Blue Dress and A Red Death, because his characters and their marginal behavior now seem more familiar and acceptable. Mr. Mosley makes us root for Easy Rawlins, a black knight-errant, and his lawless sidekick, Raymond (Mouse) Alexander, an armed and dangerous Sancho Panza.

The time is 1956, supposedly the sleepy Eisenhower era, but for the denizens of Watts it might as well be riot time in the 1990's. The rough behavior of some members of the Los Angeles Police Department seems all too familiar. Easy Rawlins—secret real-estate owner, wheeler-dealer, newly married man, father of a baby daughter and an adopted son—is called upon by the police to help find who has been killing black bar girls. When a white stripper, known as "the White Butterfly," is murdered, the political bigwigs suddenly become involved. Easy discovers that she was a University of California student.

Mr. Mosley keeps several trains of thought running on parallel tracks: the nightclub scene, the layers of black society, the attitudes of white public officials in the minority sections of Los Angeles, the need of middle-class blacks to conceal prosperity, the generosity of family life despite deprivations. White Butterfly is filled with violence and has an ending that somewhat strains credulity, but it's nearly all acceptable because Mr. Mosley's mean streets and racial attitudes are so authentic.

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This section contains 460 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Herbert Mitgang
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