Charcoal Joe

COMPETITION …Win a copy of Charcoal Joe!

OUR COMPETITION couldn’t be more simple. The prize is a lovely hardback copy of Walter Mosley’s latest novel – Charcoal Joe. All you have to do is answer one question, which is:

Which world famous novelist became Walter Mosley’s mentor, and encouraged him to start writing?

Send your answer via email to


  1. Competition closes 10.00pm London time on Saturday 20th August 2016.
  2. One entry per competitor.
  3. All correct entries will be put in the proverbial hat, and one winner drawn.
  4. The winner will be notified by email, and a postal address requested.



CHARCOAL JOE … Between The Covers


“This money is from me, Easy. I’m the one hirin’ you”
“Cheddar or blue?” I asked, taking the cash.
“Say what?”
“I just wanna know what kind of cheese is in this trap.”

Thus Walter Mosley’s Los Angeles PI Ezekiel ‘Easy’ Rawlins takes a thick wad of cash from his long term buddy Raymond ‘Mouse’ Alexander, as a down payment on his latest case, to extricate 25 year-old Dr – of physics – Seymour Brathwaite from a murder rap. The fact that Easy, like a huge number of fellow Angelinos, could never say “no” to Mouse, is one thing; Mouse may well be the most dangerous man in the city, but the legendary Charcoal Joe is probably next in line. And it’s Joe who had called in a favour of Mouse.

Seymour Brathwaite has been found at a murder scene in Malibu beach with two corpses lying on the floor. When LAPD’s finest catch a black man at the scene of a shooting, that’s normally case closed, give or take a few minutes of paperwork, but this is different. Brathwaite has no connection with either the corpses or crime in general, and he seems to have a very powerful friend in underworld fixer, arranger of violent death and generally lethal string puller Rufus Tyler – better known as Charcoal Joe.

Joe is currently residing in one of LA’s more relaxed and well appointed correctional facilities, serving a short sentence for some minor infraction. Easy pays him a visit to learn more about why young Dr Brathwaite was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and finds Joe attended by his minders and gophers. He asks why Joe is so convinced of Seymour’ innocence.

“The young man is a doctor of science,” Rufus Tyler the prodigy intoned. “He’s teachin’ at UCLA right this semester while he finishes his postgraduate work. Now how’s a man like that gonna be some kinda niggah like the people you and me consort with?”
I could think of a dozen ways. The universities in the late sixties were hotbeds of bombers, Liberation bank robbers and stone-cold killers.

Despite his misgivings, Easy sets about his work. At this point, it may be the moment to bring people new to the series up to speed with the who, what and why of the world of Easy Rawlins. Our man fought for Uncle Sam in WW2, and returned to an America where the yoke of oppression may have been lifted in Western Europe, but not in hometown USA. Battling everyday racism, put-downs and casual affronts, he has survived death on several occasions by the thickness of a cigarette paper, managed to earn the grudging respect of certain members of the LAPD, and has raised a family – albeit an unconventional one. Conscious that his work is always attracting new readers Mosley – like the weaver of dreams he is – fills in the biography with the deftest of touches, as he goes along.

Inevitably, Easy is being lied to by pretty much everyone involved in the case of the naïve Dr Brathwaite. The body count is spectacular, and even as he mourns the loss of his best love, Easy manages to squeeze in a couple of ‘romantic encounters’. The euphemism is mine. One of Mosley’s skills is to dance his way deftly through the minefield that faces writers who tackle sex scenes. Where many tread too heavily and die, Mosley escapes unscathed.

Mosley009The plot, as they say, thickens – to the point where you may need to skip back a few pages just to be sure that you are certain who has done what to whom. To me, this is neither here nor there. Sometimes cliches are unavoidable because they tell a simple truth, and with any Easy Rawlins novel it is all about the journey rather than the destination. An Easy Rawlins tale is what you get when a poet writes crime fiction. If Raymond Chandler were a deity, then I would worship him, but I would be hard pressed to summarise the detailed plots of Philip Marlow’s cases. I could, however, rattle off a dozen one-liners and brilliant descriptions which have made Chandler immortal. So it is with Mosley.

Easy goes to an illegal club called The Black Door Bar, and is reunited with an old flame.

“Hey, Easy,” Louise Lash said.
She was maybe forty with a face that would be beautiful twenty years after her death. Her skin was black and flawless. Even when she wasn’t talking her mouth seemed to be saying something elusive.

Read this book, and cherish it. Mosley is not an old man by today’s standards, but there will come a time when there will be no more Easy Rawlins, and the world will be a poorer place for his passing.

Follow the link to get your copy of Charcoal Joe.



THE POSTMAN DELIVERS …Charcoal Joe, The Storykiller

Mosley and HumfreyTODAY’S DELIVERY brought two books which in different ways could not offer more of a contrast. One is by a writer who has achieved near-legendary status in his own lifetime, is believed to be Bill Clinton’s favourite author, and who has created a handful of truly memorable characters. The other is by an author making his crime fiction debut, but who is no stranger to the world of books and people who write them, as he is a former journalist who now runs a literary agency in London.

HumfreyHumfrey Hunter certainly knows his way around the London literary scene, and his novel Storykiller is set in the English capital. We meet Jack Winter, a former hot-shot reporter who now puts his knowledge of how to make the headlines to a very different use – that of making them disappear if the client is rich enough. After unwisely accepting a new client, he finds himself in danger of becoming one of the headlines himself – as a corpse. Humfrey is known for being the only publisher in the UK willing to put out books critical of the church of Scientology, which include Going Clear by Lawrence Wright, The Church of Fear by John Sweeney and Ruthless by Ron Miscavige, the father of the church’s leader, earlier this year. A few days before its release date, the church of Scientology threatened to sue Humfrey if he went ahead with the publication of Ruthless, in a move which made headlines around the world. The book was published as planned and the church did not sue. The Storykiller will be out in September, but can be pre-ordered from Amazon.

MosleyMost critics have run out of superlatives to describe the work of Walter Mosley. British crime author Harry Bingham tells us, on the cover of Mosley’s latest book, “Easy Rawlins is my new god”. Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins is, of course, Mosley’s most celebrated creation, who first came into being in 1990 in Devil In A Blue Dress. Rawlins is a world-weary but basically honourable PI who, having seen service in World War 11, tries to earn an almost honest living in the Los Angeles of the 1950s and 60s. Readers who are familiar with Rawlins and his world will be aware of his loyal – but lethal – acquaintance, Raymond ‘Mouse’ Alexander. Alexander’s nickname may refer to his relatively unimposing stature but, make no mistake, he is the most feared hitman in town, and when he comes to ask a favour of Rawlins, the PI knows he has little choice but to agree. The favour? To investigate the case of Charcoal Joe, and underworld fixer who is languishing in jail – for a crime he didn’t commit. Charcoal Joe is available in all formats from the usual sources.

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