Ezekiel (Easy) Rawlins, the protagonist in Walter Mosley's detective novels, was a World War II veteran who had earned a high school diploma in night school, migrated to South Central Los Angeles, and was “threatenin’ on some college” when he lost his job at Champion Aircraft. Needing to make the mortgage payment on his home, he accepted a job searching for a missing blonde. Several deaths later, Easy had solved the mystery, gained ten thousand dollars, rescued a sexually abused Mexican boy, and begun a career as a private investigator.
Unlike Grave Digger Jones, Coffin Ed Johnson, Aaron Gunner, Mari MacAllister, Joe Cinque, Tamara Hayle, and other African American crime fighters, Easy Rawlins is not an errant police officer struggling to maintain order in the midst of chaos. Rawlins is an ordinary working man with many loyal friends and a good reputation in his community. His forays into detective work, however, are generally marked by a certain amateurism that earns him bruises and beatings and fails to win him any permanent allies in the precincts. During the first four novels, Easy marries, divorces, and adopts two children, making him if not the only, at least one of a few, private investigators whose family life is integral to the plots. Rawlins's sidekick is his best friend, Raymond Alexander or “Mouse,” a five-foot-six-inch psychotic whose readiness to kill Easy for an imagined slight is only slightly offset by his willingness to die to save Easy's life.
—Frances Smith Foster