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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 349

In the novel Black Betty, which is the fourth in a series of books featuring the character of Easy Rawlins, we find our hero in the year 1961, struggling to support his two adopted children. To make ends meet, Rawlins agrees to help track down a woman he had known when he was a child back in Houston: Black Betty. Rawlins had a huge crush on Betty, who was a prostitute at the time. We find out that Betty, who now lives in Los Angeles and and works as a maid, has disappeared and that her employer wants Easy to find her. Mosley is adept at writing about the disparity between the rich and the poor in the United States in the 1960s, especially in Los Angeles. Easy finds it hard to believe that the elegant Black Betty of his youth now works as a domestic in Beverly Hills. By contrast, Mosley writes about the conditions in the poorer areas of town:

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You could tell by some people's houses that they came to L.A. to live out their dreams. Home is not a place to dream. . . . Home meant that everybody already knew what you could do and if you did the slightest little thing different they'd laugh you right down into a hole. You lived in that hole.

The novel discusses race and what it means to be African American in 1960s America. Easy, being a private detective, has access to the "white" world, a fact that makes him slightly wary. All in all, we see a different Easy Rawlins, one who has changed significantly from the first book. Family has become more important to him than ever, and his yearning to be with his daughter Edna (who lives with her mother in Mississippi) is almost unbearable. Perhaps as a result of being unable to be with his daughter, Easy seeks to lavish his attention on his two adopted children. To summarize, the novel is about the continuing injustice of race relations in the United States, the unbreakable emotional ties of family, and growing older and perhaps more cautious.


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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 2070

Since the 1990 publication of his first Easy Rawlins mystery, Devil in a Blue Dress, Walter Mosley has become one of the most acclaimed writers of modern detective fiction. Although he now lives in New York City, Mosley, the son of an African American father and a white Jewish mother, spent his early years in Los Angeles, and it is there that he has set his ambitious series of novels. Drawing on an aspect of the city’s complex history that has been largely ignored—the changing character of the black community in the years since World War II—Mosley has found a setting and a context for his books that is both utterly original and steeped in the traditions of classic crime fiction.

Mosley’s black detective operates within a world that is far removed from the familiar “mean streets” traveled by Raymond Chandler’s private eye Philip Marlowe, although the communities themselves are separated by only a few miles. The series begins in 1948 with Rawlins, newly unemployed, falling almost casually into detective work when he is asked to use his connections within the black community to find a missing white girl who sometimes spent time in Watts. Although he never officially or legally becomes a private investigator, his reputation as a reliable man with a talent for detective work soon leads him to other cases. The second book, A Red Death (1991), finds Rawlins blackmailed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation into investigating a Jewish union organizer and suspected Communist who is working with a local black church. In White Butterfly (1992), Rawlins aids the police with a complicated case that begins with the serial murders of three black women and ends with a white man murdering his daughter for giving birth to a black child.

Black Betty  is the fourth book in the series, and it...

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