Mosley's sixth Easy Rawlins novel is the chronological first--and less mystery or crime fiction than a powerfully raw, lyrical coming-of-age story. Here is 19-year-old Easy in 1939 before his war experiences and before his departure from Houston for L.A. Here, too, is Raymond Alexander, better known as Mouse, the most colorful and unpredictable series character. It's Mouse (""nuthin' but bad news wit' a grin"") who uses a familiar blend of threats and bribes to pry Easy away from his uncertain job in Houston and onto the road in a borrowed '36 Ford. Their destination is desolate Pariah, Texas--Mouse's home once, and still home to his hated stepfather, Reese Corn. Along the way, they pick up a young couple running from trouble--not knowing that Mouse is worse trouble than any they've seen. Easy, drawn along in Mouse's wake, spends much of this novel in such a feverish state that his memories of his father are as real as the extraordinary people of Pariah--Momma Jo, the big, strong woman who lives alone in the swamp; her hunchbacked son, Domaque, whose literacy shames Easy; Miss Dixon, the white woman who owns Pariah. Encountering (sometimes precipitating) violent and unexpected threats, Easy and Mouse forge bonds that will link them in the decades that follow, though they choose very different paths. This late encounter with the early Easy offers an extra dimension to readers who have met, in previous stories, the man he grew to be. 150,000 first printing; author tour. (Jan.) FYI: Mosley, also published by Norton, chose Black Classic Press to bring out this novel to bolster the independent African American-owned press. Publisher W. Paul Coates will tour with Mosley to support this partnership.