Monday, May 23, 1994

Book Review: Black Betty by Walter Mosley

Originally Appeared In The Boston Book Review

Black Betty by Walter Mosley
W.W. Norton & Company, NY, 1994
255 pp. $19.95

The impact of the first shot knocked him four feet backwards, big hands thrust out in front of him like a cartoon sleepwalker. This shooting occurs in the nightmare gripping Easy Rawlins on the first page of Black Betty. There’s a shooting on the last page of the book, as well. In between, there are no lack of fatalities due to a variety of unnatural causes. The cast of Black Betty has to be large to withstand a rate of attrition this high, and it is.

Easy Rawlins, the narrator and central figure of the novel, the fourth in which he is featured, is a black man trying to raise two adopted children in L.A.. Kennedy has been President for a year. The name of Martin Luther King rings across the land. The issue of race, never moot so far as Easy is concerned, is more volatile than ever now that desegregation is on the agenda.