Reviewed by John Orr
Sad to say, ''Blonde Faith,'' the tenth Easy Rawlins mystery by the great Walter Mosley, may well be the last Rawlins book.
''You can never be that sure,'' said Mosley recently by phone. ''But I have no intention of writing any more'' Rawlins books.
Rawlins first appeared in 1990, in ''Devil in a Blue Dress.'' The Rawlins tales weren't just mysteries, but took on huge issues in their stories of a heroic veteran of World War II who came back to a continuing war of racism in the Los Angeles of the 1940s, '50's and '60s.
Mosley's sales received a big boost in 1992 when then presidential candidate Bill Clinton listed Mosley as one of his favorite writers. But Mosley's books -- and there are a lot of them, he publishes sometimes five or six books a year -- have sold on their own brilliant merits.
Mosley ''is not terribly in?hibited by most things that most writers think of as rules -- he goes off in all kinds of directions,'' said Ed Kaufman of M is for Mystery in San Mateo, after saying that Mosley is one of his favorite writers. ''And he takes on causes, ethical and moral issues, and does a very good job without being preachy. His plots are good, stories are very good.
''He's smart as hell, a straight shooter,'' said Kaufman. ''He tells you as he thinks it is. He's a good voice for the improvement of our society.''
And while a lot of fans may be saddened if there are no more Rawlins books, there are still plenty of other Mosley characters left, including Paris Minton, Fearless Jones, and Kaufman's favorite, Socrates Fortlow.
Rawlins was of an era, Mosley said, and he's ''done his thing.'' The new era in the Rawlins timeline -- ''Vietnam, hippies, the maturation of the civil rights movement,'' as Mosley put it, will just have to get along without Rawlins' perception of it.
Unless, of course, a new idea for Rawlins occurs to Mosley at some point.
But don't hold your breath.
''I'm just not feeling it,'' said Mosley.
''Blonde Faith'' is a powerful story for Rawlins anyway, whether it is the last one or not.
Once again Rawlins runs around Los Angeles like a knight in rusted armor, saving people whenever he can -- but the big story is what is happening inside Rawlins.
He saves a young woman from a pimp, finds a safe new home for his children and for the adopted child of his friend Christmas Black -- and tries to find Black, who has disappeared, along with Rawlin's friend Mouse.
But all the time he is doing that he is in the middle of a full-fledged emotional breakdown, stumbling through his life trying to do the right thing, but a dangerous man to himself and everyone else -- because in the previous Rawlins' novel, ''Cinnamon Kiss,'' he had broken up with Bonnie, the love of his life, and now he is regretting it, big time.
Mosley puts Rawlins through the emotional grinder by letting him know that Bonnie is going to marry another man.
It's a stunning piece of work and goes into emotional territory seldom found in other mysteries. And it can be said that Rawlins learns some truths about himself, not that they can save him.
''He's a tragic character,'' Mosley noted.
Mosley, though, is prolific. He has a new book coming out every three months over the next year or so. In January: target="_blank"''Diablerie: A Novel,'' a dark, erotic mystery. In April, ''The Tempest Tales,'' stories about a fellow who dies and goes to heaven but is assigned to hell; when he says no, exercising his free will, he is sent back to Earth, accompanied by an angel. In the fall of 2008 comes "The Right Mistake," further philosophy from Socrates Fortlaw. ''And another,'' said Mosley. ''Can't talk about it yet.''
Mosley has also found a way to exercise his political feelings, which tend toward the passionate.
''I've decided I live in an oligarchy,'' he says, ''Not a democracy. Even the people who vote only get to do so every four years -- or two or six -- the lobbyists spend the rest of the time influencing elected officials. Everything about the elections is based on that two-party system -- both of which are beholden to small groups who pay money.''
To counter that and to try to restore the nation to democracy, Mosley and some associates are planning the Democracy Initiative, which would be a web site with a data base and political experts who will give advice on a non-partisan basis.
The Democracy Initiative will organize people into special interest networks and every once in a while call them to action.
''Maybe one is pro-abortion, one is anti-abortion, but both believe in a living wage,'' Mosley explained. ''And we do a call for action for people who support a living wage.
''It will turn democracy as it exists today on its head,'' Mosley said.
''The system is completely owned by the wealthy. I don't want that anymore.''