Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Devil in a blue dress

Radio Seven is broadcasting Devil in a Blue Dress and I really wanted to flag this up for people. Walter Mosley's classic detective novel had been made into a film with Denzel Washington in the starring role but as is so often the way it never quite lived up to the book. Partly because, in my opinion, the casting didn't quite get Denzel's right hand man, Mouse, quite right.

This radio version is read by Paul Winfield who has a lovely bourbon gristle in his voice. Of course no production will ever be as good as the book, but it's nice to hear it read with a smile in the reader's voice.

I'm not sure what it is about Walter Mosley's books that I love so much - possibly the mixture of cynicism, hard bitten poverty and moral center. Maybe it's the tight writing and authenticity. As someone might have said once; authenticity, once you can fake that you've got it made.

Devil in a Blue Dress was Mosley's first book of dozens, many featuring the same core characters of Easy Rawlins and Mouse, two black toughs who are always finding trouble whether they're looking for it or not.

This first book finds Easy, a war veteran, laid off from the Los Angeles aircraft factory and down on his luck. Along comes the opportunity to make easy money - but it turns out easy money comes at a price.

The books explore race, gender, poverty, the nature of the state, a changing political landscape and the character of fear. However, whilst there's plenty of political reasons to enjoy these books (and the radio play of course) actually it's the mellow smokey taste of the narrative that makes them such a joy.

Gold star quote; "You said don't shoot him, right? Well I didn't. I choked him. If you didn't want him killed, then why did you leave him with me ?"


Dave Riley said...

Yep. But Easy Rawlins has been retired. Bugger.

A couple of us have been exploring crime fiction here on LeftClick through a series of posts about crime fiction, politics and society.Mosley not yet though.

Jim Jay said...

I haven't read the last one yet!

That link looks excellent read some of the posts (no time to read them all right now).

Walter Mosley is a legand.

Dave Riley said...

You're wrong about Cheadie's Mouse. And the film, I think, is a near perfect movie. The later collaboration between Denzel Washington and Carl Franklin was not as effective -- Out of Time .

See a review I grabbed here: Putting the black into film noir.

That film and In the heat of the Night are the best of the crime pics that deal with race in America and for many, like me, the film version of Devil.. was an introduction to Mosely.

bob said...

Walter Mosley is a great writer. Good tip.

Jim Jay said...

I watched the film again intending to defend my post... actually I thought it was much stronger than I remember and retract my remarks about Mouse :)