Let’s Discuss — A Red Death by Walter Mosley

I didn’t believe in history, really. Real was what was happening to me right then. Real was a toothache and a man you trusted who did you dirt. Real was an empty stomach or a woman saying yes, or a woman saying no. Real was what you could feel…Chaim was a good man; better than a lot of people I knew. But he was dead. He was history, as they say, and I was holding my gun in the dark, being real (286)

We meet up with Easy Rawlins five years later, sweeping the floors of some apartment complex at the corner of 91st Street and 91st Place. We learn that life has been a little kinder to him, but it won’t last for long. It never does. Rawlins is forced to strike a deal with an FBI agent, to spy on Chaim Wenzler, a big, bad communist working within the First African Baptist Church.

Easy Rawlins is a great protagonist because he’s layered. In A Red Death it’s all about Easy’s possessions; the possession of self, and his desire to possess what is not his. As for the last part, I’m referring specifically to his affair with his best friend’s wife, Etta Mae. The dynamic between the members of what I call his inner circle, (Etta Mae and Mouse) is an interesting one. Easy respects Mouse, fears Mouse even, but that doesn’t stop him from sleeping with Etta Mae. Even though Easy knows Mouse is a bad man, there is still a great deal of envy. He never admits this, but the feeling is inherent in his willingness to help Mouse make things right with his family–the family Easy wishes he had.

The communist twist left me slightly ambivalent because Easy holds no intense animosity towards Chaim Wenzler. However, Easy has to deceive Wenzler to keep his possessions. In this case, communism isn’t a redefined “enemy”, it’s simply another added element of danger. Another risk for a man trying to do good for himself in a bad world.

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