book world

No Easy ride this time, but Mosley's prose still sweet

By Carolyn See
Friday, November 19, 2010

the last days of ptolemy grey

By Walter Mosley

Riverhead, 277 pp.



By Walter Mosley

Riverhead. 277 pp. $25.95

For years I've thought that Walter Mosley, having created the incomparable Easy Rawlins, the coolest private detective in all of American literature, should just stick to Easy, and give us all the exquisite gift of that hero's wit and style every two years. A terrific series like that would be more than enough for most writers, a marvelous lifetime accomplishment.

But Mosley had other plans, evidently, and besides the 11 "Easy" books we have so far, he's given us two Leonid McGill mysteries, 17 other works of fiction and four pieces of nonfiction, including "What Next: A Memoir Toward World Peace."

World Peace! Obviously, Mosley is not hampered by lack of ambition, the rules of any genre or the rules of reality that govern this planet (some of his works come under the heading of science fiction or fantasy). He's playing by his own rules, and the instrument he uses is a prose style so sweet that sometimes you can't believe that you - cynical, grown-up person that you are - are actually reading these charming tales.

That's the reason we miss Easy Rawlins when a new book about him doesn't show up for a few years: Whoever heard of a private detective, working out of a very scary neighborhood, that you want to invite into your kitchen for cookies and milk? Imagine setting out Oreos for Sam Spade? It would never happen. Paradoxically, it's this very sweetness that makes fear, death and loneliness so appalling when they issue from Mosley's pen.

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