Description via Goodreads
I didn't believe in history, really. Real was what was happening to me right then. Real was a toothache and a man you trusted who did you dirt. Real was an empty stomach or a woman saying yes, or a woman saying no. Real was what you could feel...Chaim was a good man; better than a lot of people I knew. But he was dead. He was history, as they say, and I was holding my gun in the dark, being real (286)
We meet up with Easy Rawlins five years later, sweeping the floors of some apartment complex at the corner of 91st Street and 91st Place. After some explanation, we learn that life has been a little kinder to him....but it won't last for long--it never does. Rawlins receives a letter from the IRS, detailing an ongoing investigation into his tax records. His mix up with Daphne Monet from five years ago is coming back to haunt him, in the form of jail time for tax evasion. Somehow he ends up striking a deal with an FBI agent, to spy on Chaim Wenzler, a big, bad communist working within the First African Baptist Church. If Rawlins gets the right information, then the FBI will keep the IRS off his back. If he doesn't well...he's shit out of luck. Naturally, the self-preservation instinct kicks in and Easy agrees to help the FBI.
Easy Rawlins is a great protagonist because he's layered. In A Red Death it's all about Easy's possessions; the possession of self, the struggle to keep what is his, and his desire to possess what is not his. As for the last part, I'm referring specifically to his affair with his best friend's wife, Etta Mae. The dynamic between the members of what I'm calling his inner circle, (Etta Mae and Mouse) is an interesting one...Easy respects Mouse, fears Mouse even, but that doesn't stop him from sleeping with Etta Mae. I think he's envious of Mouse, even though he knows Mouse is a bad man. He never says this straight out, but the feeling is inherent in his willingness to help Mouse make things right with his family--the family Easy wishes he had.
I took special note of Easy's admiration of Jackson and his business of trading valuable information. Jackson is not only book-smart, he has a hand in the rumor mill, and provides thoughtful commentary on the reality of Easy's current political environment.
'One day they gonna th'ow that list out, man. They gonna need some movie star or some new bomb an' they gonna th'ow that list away. Mosta these guys gonna have work again,' he said then he winked at me. 'But you still gonna be a black niggah, Easy. An' niggah ain't got no union he could count on, an' niggah ain't got no politician gonna work fo' him. All he got is a do'step t'shit in and a black hand t'wipe his black ass.' (258)
The idea that Easy had to spy on a communist was interesting. Easy has no animosity at all towards the communist, Chaim Wenzler, but he has to deceive him to keep his possessions. In this case, I don't think of communism as a redefined "enemy", it's simply another added element of danger, another risk for a man trying to do good for himself in a bad world.