Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley. Norton, 1990 Octavo hardback. Mustard quarter cloth, cinnamon paper boards. The novel that introduced Easy Rawlins to the world of crime fiction is surprisingly well constructed, with a striking art deco inspired cover. Paper is of much higher quality than typical for first authors, probably representative of the pre-publication praise and type. One would have thought that Mosley would open the door for a new world of African-American crime writers, and in a way he did, but none have had near his level of success, despite some being arguably better writers.

Your friendly neighborhood bookseller attended Mosley’s signing here in Memphis a few years ago. Unlike most signings, the majority of the audience was black, and I was thrilled by this. It was great to see such a turnout to support one of that community’s better writers. When one of the audience asked Mosley what other African-American mystery writers he would recommend, Mosley asked the audience who they would recommend before he answered. Nobody said anything for a while, so I did. Wow, did I get some dirty looks, as though I wasn’t supposed to read black authors. I recommended Gar Anthony Haywood and Robert Greer as my two favorites. Mosley then nodded and agreed those were the two best out there. He was a very nice man, if you ever get a chance to see him in person, take it.