#MarchMysteryMadness

#MarchMystery Madness has been in full swing since March 1st and I decided to participate for the first time.  I’m also doing #ReadingBlackout this month for the second time.  January was a #ReadingBlackout month and February was of course #ReadSoulLit, specifically in honor of African-American writers.

March Mystery Madness is giving me the opportunity to explore mystery crime novels specifically written by African-American writers.  I started 2018 discovering the Easy Rawlins series written by Walter Mosley.  In January I read Devil in a Blue Dress, February I read A Red Death, and I’m currently reading White Butterfly.  The series starts in the late 1940s and each novel moves on in time.  So, once you get to White Butterfly the series will have already moved to 1956.  There’s a lot to say about this addictive series, which has a strong group of recurring characters, set in Los Angeles, and an ambience that will draw you in and won’t let you go.  The additional bonus is that the Easy Rawlins series gives you the authentic historical background while you’re trying to figure out whodunnit.  Reading this series so far has been like meeting up with an old friend.

The first book I read this month was Icognegro – a graphic mystery written by Mat Johnson and artwork by Warren Pleece.   Johnson examines the idea of “passing” (=the ability for a fair-skinned black person to move in society as a white person because of his/her light skin color) through the storyline involving a journalist from the New Holland Herald newspaper.  Zane Pinchback, alias icognegro,  travels south as a “white” man from New York to report on lynchings. However, his last incognegro story almost goes wrong and he barely escapes when he is recognized as being black.  He makes it back to New York to the unfortunate news that his brother has been arrested in Mississippi for brutally murdering a white woman.  And the story unfolds……

Incognegro is a good mix of mystery and history.  Johnson gives you the facts about the horrors of lynching and the troubled race relations between whites and blacks.  The story takes place in the early twentieth century so the setting and ambience drag the reader into a very dark place.  I was on edge from page one and it got worse and worse as the story moved on.  I couldn’t put it down.  Beautifully executed and there was even some humor in there believe it or not.  The artwork complemented the story perfectly and the black and white images help accentuate the brutality of the time period.  Check out the video below where you can hear Mat Johnson talking about how he got the idea for this ingenious graphic novel.

 

 

 

The second book I picked up this month for March Mystery Madness was called Blanche on the Lam by Barbara Neely. This is the first book in the Blanche White cosy mystery series.  It contains three other books, Blanche Among the Talented Tenth, Blanche Cleans Up, and finally Blanche Passes Go.  This one was a big surprise to me because it is definitely an atypical mystery novel.  Blanche on the Lam begins with Blanche standing in front of a judge for writing bad checks for the second time.  The judge decided to condemn her to spend some time in jail and that’s when Blanche’s bladder starts to nag her.  You’ll just have to read the book for the rest of the details.  Anyway, this novel will appear to be slow-moving but Neely is giving you the clues and information with her detailed storytelling, which may appear to be off the subject.  It’s not. The reader follows the story through Blanche’s eyes and through her thoughts.  She is hysterical but mostly she’s very intelligent and intuitive to people’s behavior.  Neely uses the story to astutely talk about racism, sexism, and classicism.  It’s brilliant! I can’t wait to pick up book 2 Blanche Among the Talented Tenth.  You can already see from its title that it will be as vivid if not more than Blanche on the Lam.  You can check out the video below where Barbara Neely talks about using her writing as a way to talk about her activism. There’s one thing I’d like to know and that’s where is Barbara Neely these days.  Why hasn’t Neely hasn’t Neely written anything else since the Blanche White series?  Her writing is a breath of fresh air in this genre.  The Blanche White series is a must read.

 

Incognegro – Mat Johnson, hardcover, 136 pages (Berger Books)

Blanche on the Lam – Barbara Neely, Kindle edition, 304

White Butterfly – Walter Mosley, paperback, 309 pages (Washington Square Press)

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#ReadSoulLit Photo Challenge Day 24 #ReadSouLit TBR in March

I’m going to do my best to stick with these, although I might change something. I’m so difficult about sticking to TBRs.  My reading goals for March are to read for #marchmysterymadness and for #readingblackout.  There are a few new ones on this stack I need to get to, especially The Obama Inheritance, which I’ll be buddy reading with Morgan Gayle.  A big Thank You to Three Room Press for sending it to me for review. Another big Thank You to Dutton Books for sending me an ARC of Bad Men and Wicked Women too. I will also be buddy reading White Butterfly with Monica from Monlatable Book Reviews. She has an excellent blog you should definitely check out.  I’m so happy Freshwater arrived today because I’ve been anticipating it.  Are you planning on reading some mysteries next month? If so, which ones?  Check out the video below with Margaret Wilkerson Sexton reading an excerpt from her debut novel A Kind of Freedom.  Below that is a short clip of Attica Locke introducing her latest book Bluebird, Bluebird.

I’m an affiliate for The Book Depository. It would be much appreciated to click the link below if you’re interested in picking up any of my recommendations. It will help fund my incessant book buying, reading, and reviewing.
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#ReadSoulLit Photo Challenge Day 17 Must Read Mystery

I had to choose Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlins series. It starts in 1948 Los Angeles. Easy Rawlins is the main character. He’s a nice fair man with good intentions. He’s also very seductive too. Even though, he can sometimes get himself in quite a lot of mess. You’ll be routing for Easy right from the beginning and until the end. Another important part of these books is the way Mosley writes about race relations between whites and black. This adds to the realism of the books. The setting always gives a particular unsettling feeling, with a mystery to crack. When the story gets really good, Mouse appears. Mouse is Easy’s crazy good friend. I’ve read the first 2 of this series – Devil in a Blue Dress and A Red Death. They were both excellent! I can’t wait to get to White Butterfly next! Have you got any mystery books or series to recommend? Drop them below.

The books in the picture above are the Washington Square Press Series edition.

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Book to Movie Review – Devil in a Blue Dress

Book to movie adaptations never seem to be quite right.  In spite of the great idea to adapt the book because the story is good, it seems as if all the good points about the book get literally lost in cinematography translation.  I know you’re probably thinking, you can’t expect the same thing from a movie that you get from a book and rightfully so, but I still can’t help comparing them and being disappointed most of the time.

After my second reading of Devil in a Blue Dress I was so happy to have reconnected with Easy Rawlins.  My memory of the story is even more vivid.  He is an all around good guy that revels in his freedom.  He owns his own house, has no wife, and kids and is as free as the time period will let him be.  In the beginning of the story he loses his job and has no way to pay his mortgage.  He is then enticed into a job working for a white man called Dewitt Albright, who hires Easy for $100, to find a white woman who hangs out in predominantly black bars.  The setting is Los Angeles 1948.  From there the story takes off on a criss-cross of events leading Easy down dangerous paths.

So, I decided to check out the movie which I watched late on a Saturday night on my computer.  Devil in a Blue Dress was released in 1995 staring Denzel Washington as Easy and Jennifer Beals as Daphne Monet.  Firstly I was happy with Denzel being Easy because he seemed to fit the part perfectly.   The other character that was really good was Lisa Nicole Carson as Coretta James.  She was flirtatious, while being evasive about what she knew.  However, Jennifer Beals as Daphne Monet absolutely didn’t work.  I couldn’t understand the choice.  Daphne Monet is described as being a very beautiful blond, sultry woman.  She’s supposed to be the kind of woman who can tun the head of any man.  So no, Jennifer Beals didn’t exude sexy nor mysterious.  She looked more aloof and absent on-screen than crafty and sultry.

Another character that didn’t work for me was Tom Sizemore as Dewitt Albright.  He looked like a typical Italian mafia type and that wasn’t at all how I pictured him.  Albright’s character in the book is cold, calculating, and unpredictable.  I pictured him blond, tall, and slim – a man who could pass as a businessman.  Instead the Albright character was played as a mafia type like what we’d see in a New York city gangster movie.  Another character that didn’t work was Mouse played by Don Cheadie.  His character seemed to appear out of nowhere and was too crazy in the film.  I think I preferred Mouse in the book because his presence was more believable.  His character was explained, so he didn’t appear in the story like a bull in a china shop.  I felt as if Cheadie took away from Washington when they were on-screen together.  I believe that was because Mouse’s character seemed to have the upper hand in every scene they were together, not to mention we aren’t in Easy’s head as much as we are in the book.

The setting and the costumes were perfect.  These two things are visually necessary in making the story come full circle,  since the time period is the late 40s.  The prominent scenes in the book seemed to be played out far too quickly in the film, therefore losing the ongoing tension of the story.  Throughout the book the reader has an on-going fear that something tragic is going to happen to Easy from the police, Albright, Frank Green, passing cars,… Mosley paints a picture of a black person living in the late 40s in a very realistic manner.  The simple act of walking down the street can be dangerous.  The book makes the threat against black people an ongoing fear throughout the mystery.  This adds supplementary tension to the story.  That aspect is lost a bit and seems to focus more on the storyline which slightly changes the last third of the book.  I think that is what disappointed me the most.  Seeing that the movie was produced in 1995, I should have expected these changes.

So should you watch it?  I guess I’d say yes if you don’t ever plan on reading the book.  Having said that, if you read the book first the movie adaptation won’t bring you anything more than a watered down version that you’ll be disappointed watching.

 

Devil in a Blue Dress (Easy Rawlins #1) – Walter Mosley (hardcover)

Washington Square Press

263 pages

Rating – 4 stars

 

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