Readers who mistakenly believe all the great detective writers are dead should investigate Walter Mosley. The novelist has the moxie to set his series of Easy Rawlins tales in Los Angeles, which the late Raymond Chandler etched in memorably acid prose, and the talent to turn his narratives into an Afrocentric history of the community. Little Scarlet takes place in 1965, following riots that reduced large sections of Watts to rubble. Police suspect that a white man pulled from his car and beaten by a crowd eventually murdered a black woman who tried to help him; moreover, they fear that if this information leaks out, a new round of violence will erupt. While looking for the truth in areas inaccessible to Caucasian cops, Rawlins discovers that the riots sparked the beginnings of a racial power shift sure to shake the city for years to come. Mosley explores the sociopolitical dimensions of these changes, effectively stretching the genre into shapes Chandler might never have imagined.
Mosley will read from and sign copies of Little Scarlet at 7:30 p.m. tonight at the Tattered Cover Cherry Creek, 2955 East First Avenue. The event is free; call 303-322-7727 for more information. -- Michael Roberts