DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS is a noire work that takes place in LA about 1948. It centers around a young war veteran Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins, his sociopathic best friend Raymond “Mouse” Alexander and the mysterious femme fatale Daphne Monet. Easy wants to make something of himself but he has a few strikes against him: he’s black, he’s from the south and he’s bull-headed.
In the novel he loses his job because of a disagreement with his white boss at an aircraft manufacturing plant. Without the job he can’t pay the mortgage on the little house he’s bought. In an attempt to get enough money to tide him over to the next job, Easy takes on the chore of looking for a missing white girl. The job comes from a silky white gangster who says that the white girl “…has a predilection for the company of Negroes.”
In the ensuing tale, people start dying. Easy finds that he has to dig in his heels and solve the crimes if he wants to stay free and alive. He is assisted in his investigations by his murderous best friend, Mouse.
The novel presents a parade of corrupt politicians, financiers, police and one, memorable, woman. This story is in the tradition of the noire mystery. The difference, of course, is that Easy and his friends are black. These black people are displaced southerners who came to LA after the war to try and make something of their lives. They are mechanics, domestics, waiters and cab drivers. They dream of equality and the kind of freedom that money can buy.
Mosley notes: “What I would like the film to do is depict this world and the struggle of its characters.” Easy, the moral would-be real estate entrepreneur, trying to do what is right for himself and the people he comes in contact with. Mouse, the lovable sociopath who knows instinctively that Easy cannot survive in this world of racism and poverty without a ruthless gun to back him up. And, finally, Daphne Monet (the white femme fatale) who has been on the hard end of the stick ever since she can remember. For her, the world is made up of evil and comfort, with a moment taken out for love now and again. Daphne has finally found herself a rich man and is willing to do anything to hold onto him.
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