Joint Review of Walter Mosley’s BLONDE FAITH (Little, Brown, October, 2007) and Bill Cosby and Alvin Poussaint’s COME ON PEOPLE: ON THE PATH FROM VICTIMS TO VICTORS (Thomas Nelson, October, 2007)
The ad for the latest Easy Rawlins saga, BLONDE FAITH (Little, Brown, October, 2007) says Easy is dead. But Easy Rawlins can’t be dead. Or shouldn’t be. The leading light of Walter Mosley’s ten Easy Rawlins books has got to stick around. He’s too important to readers, black and white, to die.
Easy Rawlins, smoking, drinking, cussing, private investigator, exemplifies the responsibilities of black dignity, purposiveness, and fatherhood so necessary for black men to carry black youth to victory. Easy, Mosley’s hero—warts and all—embodies all the wisdom, the call to arms that Bill Cosby and Harvard psychiatrist, Dr Alvin Poussaint have encapsulated in their emergency call to black men everywhere, COME ON. PEOPLE: ON THE PATH FROM VICTIMS TO VICTORS (Thomas Nelson, October, 2007). Easy’s focus on fathering and mentoring of lost black young people exemplifies the man--the men--sought by Cosby and Poussaint.
But something happens in this latest Easy saga. It ends with Easy caught at the top of a cliff between a 16-wheeler and an oncoming car. A storm is raging as he forlornly “toasts dead men women whom I’d known and lost over the decades.” The book ends with Easy reporting, “I think I smiled, and then the world went black.”
Of course, Easy is telling this story, so maybe he made it.
A father himself, Easy is father to all the children of father-failures he knows. His last (maybe) thoughts are of his own children, “safe and living in a mansion. I wasn’t there to watch over them, but they had Jesus. Jesus—the boy who had always been the better man.”
Never defeated, never hopeless, despite the loss of his longed-for love, Bonnie, to an African immigrant ("Africa was closer to the Caribbean than was America"), Easy’s apparently last words are said with a smile. But for Easy to die in an auto accident would be an abdication of the role that Mosley has chosen for him through ten eminently readable novels.
Yet why would Mosley kill off Easy? Is Mosley sick of Easy? His readers hope not. Easy’s possible death is reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes’s death long ago. Conan Doyle, tired of his cerebral detective's popularity and wanting his public to read his long, boring spiritualist novels instead, did the only logical thing: he killed him off.
Sherlock dies, locked in mortal combat with his archenemy Professor Moriarty, ring-leader and organizer of Victorian crime in England. Fighting bitterly, the two men fall from the top of Reichenbach Falls to the rocks below.
But the present-day epidemic of black self-destruction, its mythologizing of victimhood as the only way out, as described by Cosby and Poussaint, is more virulent than was Moriarty's criminal organization. As Cosby and Poussaint make pellucidly clear, it takes an army—not just a village--of real and fictitious Easy Rawlins figures, to mentor, monitor, and most of all, act as fathers to fatherless African-American children who believe in self-fulfilling prophesies of defeat before they even try.
Many of Mosley’s books about Easy, especially CINNAMON KISS and FEAR OF THE DARK, make more cogent social commentaries than does BLONDE FAITH. Still, it's much more than than just a fast read for a rainy night. BLONDE FAITH hones in on a black man who shoulders his responsibilities no matter what.
As such, Mosley shouldn’t let Easy Rawlins die. Cosby, Poussaint, and the black mythology that blames Whitey for its victimization need Easy and a litany of Easys to come. For the world described by Mosley—and by Cosby and Poussaint--is not an "easy" place. It needs black heroes like Easy to make it a place for young African-Americans to learn how go forward and triumph.