Monday, March 4, 2013

Walter Mosely: All I Did Was Shoot My Man

This is a relatively new novel (New American Library, 2012) in Mosley's Leonid McGill Mystery series. McGill has a past full of regrets. He is a private investigator with a criminal past, a father that went missing 44 years earlier, three children, a wife, and a former lover. This novel opens as he waits to make amends for one of his more recent wrongs. On request, he framed an innocent woman, implicating her in a massive theft for which she received a heavy sentence. After doing some work to clear her and earn her an early parole, McGill finds that, mysteriously, the crime continues to follow her and its tentacles are wrapping around McGill, his family, and everyone connected to Zella. As he follows the various threads, he attempts to protect his family from the fall out. On the way, McGill's son Twill is learning the art of investigation, his former lover seeks to win him back, and his father surfaces.

Mosley's characters, like the names he gives them (Leonid, Socrates, Ptolemy, Tolstoy, for instance), carry a lot of weight. They are strong with their hands and their hearts, brilliant, and worldly wise. They have insight into the characters and motives of those they encounter, and their senses are sharpened by the injustices and hardships they've had to survive.

I am not a lover of mysteries, although I know there are good ones out there. I don't want to read a book that I can pretty much follow by reading a sentence here or there on the page--its fat, but there are way more words than necessary. Nothing engages with your brain--ho hum. With Mosley, every word is necessary and every word is a pleasure to read. I'll quote a trio of paragraphs from near the end of the novel:

"I'm a twenty-first century New Yorker and therefore have little time to contemplate race. It's not that racism doesn't exist. Lots of people in New York, and elsewhere, hate becaues of color and gender, religion and national origin. It's just that I rarely worry about those things because there's a real world underneath all that nonsense; a world that demands my attention almost every moment of every day.

"Racism is a luxury in a world where resources are scarce, where economic competition is an armed sport, in a world where even the atmosphere is plotting against you. In an arena like that racism is more a halftime entertainment, a favorite sitcom when the day is done.

"That said, Antoinette was one of the racists. She hated her own people because they didn't see her for what she was. She felt betrayed by black men and then I came along. I brought out a thrill in her heart, and maybe her nether regions. That was all good and well; she was a handsome, brave, and intelligent woman, but I was preoccupied with pain so profound that could barely tell if it was mine alone."

Find a copy at your local library or favorite bookstore.


Walter Giersbach said...

I found Mosely belatedly with reading "The Wave" (2006), which leaned forward the spec fic side. Thanks for tipping me to go back and look for his superfluous langage.

Walt Giersbach said...

Happily, I found Mosely's "Fearless Itself" at our library, a bargain at 50 cents. I'll check closely to see if there are any supernumerary paragraphs.

It is refreshing, though, to hear a black man describing what it's like to be black in 1950s L.A.

Rebecca Stuhr said...

Wait... not superfluous, every word is perfect. I think my writing was a bit superfluous. I was describing what I don't like in sort of bulk produced mysteries, which is what Mosley's books are not. I find Mosley pretty amazing. He does have some more science fiction, magical realism types stories too. The Man in the Basement for one. Thanks for the comments

Walter Giersbach said...

I am getting tired of "Fearless Itself" and I'm just two-thirds of the way through. To much traveling from one address to the next and too little character development. I simply don't care what the reveal is. A stolen necklace? A two-timing beauty-products queen?

My problem is that I write too much short genre fiction and I'm impatient. But, I don't have to slow down and savor a Richard Ford or John Updike. Pity.

Rebecca Stuhr said...

Sorry to hear it Walter. I guess our tastes diverge! You would definitely have a different sense of his writing based on your style and preference. I'm glad to hear your thoughts!