Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2018

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Hill, Michael D

First Committee Member

Hill, Lena M

Second Committee Member

Porter, Horace A

Third Committee Member

Curtius, Anny Dominique

Fourth Committee Member

Sosale, Sujatha


This thesis analyzes six novels published by acclaimed detective fiction author Walter Mosley between the years 1990-1997: Devil in a Blue Dress, A Red Death, White Butterfly, Black Betty, A Little Yellow Dog, and Gone Fishin’. Collectively, these novels comprise what is referred to as the Easy Rawlins Mysteries Series. This analysis also identifies these six works as the “canonical novels” in the series due to the linear chronological progression of the first five narratives, which take place between the years 1948-1963, and their common Los Angeles setting. Mosley’s final novel of the nineteen-nineties, Gone Fishin’, is a prequel set in the year 1936, and before the events depicted in Devil. The series is currently ongoing. The following prolonged examination of the earliest installments in the series stems from close readings of the novels, related critical secondary sources, and interviews with the author.

I argue that as Mosley’s six narratives trace the gradual development of the protagonist, Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins, from a World War II military veteran into a skilled private investigator, the author also dwells upon the significance of Black male heroism, a bold and uncompromising brand of Black masculinity, and the importance of Black domesticity. During the course of my analysis, I concluded that Mosley’s initial introduction of the character to readers in the turbulent and transformative sociopolitical/economic landscape of the nineteen-nineties represents a profound reinterpretation of the Black male protagonist in the detective fiction genre. Easy Rawlins is a radically new iteration of the Black detective. Mosley utilizes his distinctive, and entertaining investigative persona in order to simultaneously return the Black private eye to a position of prominence within the reading public’s collective imagination, and to explore new possibilities for the literary portrayals of heroic Black men.


xxii, 186 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 181-186).


Copyright © 2018 Samuel Fitzpatrick