Re: RARA-AVIS: women PIs/fantasy worlds

From: Mark Sullivan (
Date: 22 Aug 2001

Mario writes:

"With Easy Rawlins we have a new prototype, one that so far has not been imitated (to my knowledge). He's not a P.I., so the conventions don't apply to him, yet he has the freedom and the need to do some sleuthing. He doesn't do it for money but for reasons of survival. It's a good idea, a good slant on the P.I. story. At the same time, it hardly shares any ground with the "amateur sleuth" story. It's hardboiled stuff."

Mario, I'm not as convinced that Easy Rawlins is as groundbreaking a character as you are. It seems to me that all of his investigations have fallen into one of two time-honored categories: the unlicensed PI
(much like early Matt Scudder) or the accused man forced to clear himself because no one else believes in his innocence. And, of course, the Easy/Mouse, ego/id split follows Parker's brilliant invention of having a psycho sidekick do the dirty work so the hero remains, relatively, clean.

That said, I think that Mosley does offer something new by defining Rawlins' outsider status by race. With white heroes, being an outsider is a choice, whether the alienation is defined as being an outlaw, a vigilante or the last honorable man. Much of the genre revolves around the hero being offered insider advantages, whichs/he refuses.

Rawlins has no such choices. His outsider status is worn on the outside for all to see. So most of his investigations involve his trying to get straight answers in places where society's insiders are themselves outsiders. In the first book, he is a white man's surrogate, supposed to find a woman in places the white man cannot look. Unfortunately for the white man, Rawlins is not as dumb as he is assumed to be.

So I don't find Rawlins to be a new type of character. Instead, I find that the different streets down which he walks lead to the telling of different types of stories.


# To unsubscribe from the regular list, say "unsubscribe rara-avis" to
#  This will not work for the digest version.
# The web pages for the list are at .

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 22 Aug 2001 EDT