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White Butterfly by Walter Mosley

White Butterfly (1992)

by Walter Mosley

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A decade or so ago, while on vacation, I found that my spouse had loaded a Walter Mosley book into our box of books and enjoyed it quite a lot. I have since read many other Mosley books on vacation. I have a feeling that the ones I subsequently read that involved Easy Rawlins were books further along in the line of the series. That is, I might have begun around book 6 or 7, and read on from there. So, last summer, I thought to begin at the beginning, so to speak and put this book (the third in the series) and two others on hold. Well, at the time, it seems, the library didn't actually have a licence to lend those books. So, the books I put on hold back on 1 August 2017, didn't actually become available until the following May. White Butterfly is the first of the three books I'd waited some nine months to read. It is the third in the Easy Rawlins' series, but the earliest one available at the time.

It seems to me, in reading this, that Easy had had a few rough edges smoothed off by the time he showed up in later novels. I don't know if this was by intent, or if it just happened. I didn't so much like the Easy in this book as I came to like him in subsequent books.

Easy is living with his wife, Regina, their baby, Edna, and the young boy, Jesus or "Juice", whom Easy had picked up along the way in one of his earlier adventures. Perhaps it's just that Easy is wrapped up in his troubles that he treats Regina so badly. He doesn't so much resort to physical violence (well, there is a scene of spousal rape), more he treats her as an afterthought. I didn't much like that. He also drank way too much and womanized on the side way too much, neither of which I remembered as being features of his later life. I'd always remembered Easy as a decent guy who could get rough when necessary. Given that I'm a repressed, elderly Calvinist, I wasn't happy with Easy's not-so-nice behavior in this book.

I do realize that Easy had some serious life and death problems. It seems there was a serial killer raping, mutilating and then murdering women in LA. But the cops didn't much care until one of the victims turned out to be a white girl who was a coed at UCLA and whose father was rich and influential. The cops come to Easy for some help, because Easy has some contacts in the black community that white cops in 1956 would never have.

So Easy agrees, reluctantly, to investigate a bit. Perhaps if he can find clues to the murderer of the black women, he'll be able to help finger the guy who appears also to have been the murderer of the white woman. One thing Easy discovers is that the young, white woman worked in some rather seamy joints as a stripper, under the stage name, White Butterfly. Next thing you know, the cops are trying to finger Easy for the murders. So, he has to find a way out and so forth. It was a pretty interesting book, with lots of observations about racism, but as I said, Easy was rather more of an asshole in this book than in any of the others I've read. So, I'll put it at the bottom of my list of Easy Rawlins' novels. Which still doesn't mean that it is not a GoodRead.

( )
  lgpiper | Jun 21, 2019 |
The third book of Walter Mosley's "Easy Rawlins" series, this one set in 1956, features Easy as a married man and father, ostensibly employed as a handyman by a real estate rental agent known as Mofass. The LAPD virtually shanghais him to lead them to the killer of four girls. (Marks on the bodies suggest the same person killed all four.) The police aren't happy to be asking for some black guy's assistance. But three white men in suits, accompanied by a white and a black in uniform, show up unannounced and demand his cooperation. The black officer, Quinten Naylor, begins an explanation, but he's cut off by his superior, Anthony Violette.

"We're here to find out who's killing these girls," Violette said. He spoke with his upper lip tight against his teeth. "We don't want this crazy man running out streets."
  "That's some shit," I said. "Excuse me, but I'ma have to go me a beer if I gotta listen to this."
  "...What the hell are you trying to do, Rawlins?" Violette yelled.
  "Man, I'm in my own house, right? I ain't ask you over. Here you come crowdin' up my living room an' talkin' t' me like you got a blackjack in your pocket"—I was getting hot—"an' then you cryin' 'bout some dead girl an' I know there's been three before this one but you didn't give one good goddam! Because they was black girls an' this one is white!" If I had been on television every colored man and woman in America would have stood from their chairs and cheered.

Police information is sketchy at best, so Easy starts by compiling what he can from newspaper accounts. Where Willa Scott and Juliette LeRoi's were on the nights they were killed? Not known. Bonita Edwards reportedly was in a bar, had quite a few drinks, and was seen with quite a few men. But a witness said she left alone.

Robin Garnett
[ the white girl ] didn't make any sense at all. She lived with her parents on Hauser, way over in the western part of L. A. Her father was a prosecuting attorney for the city and her mother stayed home. Robin was a coed at UCLA. She was twenty-one and still a sophomore. She'd just recently returned from a trip to Europe, the paper said, and was expecting to major in education.
  ...It certainly didn't say why she was the fourth of a series of murders that started out with three black women. …[W]hy would somebody kill three good-time girls and then go after a bobby-soxer?

Not all is well at home either. He's telling Regina, his wife of two years, that he loves her, but his actions belie that sentiment. He's curt, withdrawn; he's holding her at arm's length, refusing to share the facts of his life (such as the fact that he owns the real estate and Mofass works for him), telling her precious little about what he's doing at all hours of the day or night. His anger is too near the surface. She's getting leery of him. She's pulling away. Easy's plan (fantasy) is to mollify her 'til the case is cracked and he can give her his full attention.

It's a lot of the tried and true motifs, visiting bars and chatting with friends and acquaintances who stagger along the murky, twisting path between good and bad, usually finding their safety lies in expediency. Yes, Mouse shows up; no, he doesn't kill anyone. Ya gotta read it. Goes fast.
1 vote weird_O | May 17, 2017 |
Easy he may be, but easy his life isn't. ( )
  Jon_Hansen | Apr 9, 2017 |
It's 1956; Ezekiel Rawlins ("Easy" to his friends) has a comfortable home, a lovely wife and baby, a loving adopted son who reads but does not speak, and at least one loyal (if lethal) friend. Money is never a problem. Still, he's a black man in a white world, and the cards are often stacked against him. He does his best to hang on to his dignity, his independence and his family while treading barefooted along the tack-strewn path laid out for him by a dubious police acquaintance who purports to need his help in solving a series of murders. Great stuff. ( )
2 vote laytonwoman3rd | Dec 30, 2013 |
Better than first two novels in Easy Rowlins series, maybe because narrative was more straightforward. Still, I see the same shortcoming as in other two novels - at some point Easy just figures everything out without some logical explanation as to how he got to that correct conclusion. ( )
1 vote everfresh1 | Sep 13, 2012 |
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For the stories he keeps on telling, I dedicate this book to Leroy Mosley.
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"Easy Rawlins!" someone called.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0743451775, Paperback)

The police don't show up on Easy Rawlins's doorstep until the third girl dies. It's Los Angeles, 1956, and it takes more than one murdered black girl before the cops get interested. Now they need Easy. As he says: "I was worth a precinct full of detectives when the cops needed the word in the ghetto." But Easy turns them down. He's married now, a father -- and his detective days are over. Then a white college coed dies the same brutal death, and the cops put the heat on Easy: If he doesn't help, his best friend is headed for jail. So Easy's back, walking the midnight streets of Watts and the darker, twisted avenues of a cunning killer's mind....

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:01:24 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

When three black bar girls are killed by a serial murderer the LAPD pays little attention, but when a white college co-ed becomes a victim it gets their attention. That's when they call on Easy Rawlins because he can go places and do things the police cannot.

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