The only mystery here is why I thought I going to read a whodunnit after having the book brought to my attention by a friend’s reviews. And, of course, the author, Walter Mosley, best known for his mystery series staring Easy Rawlins, the first of which is the remarkable Devil in a Blue Dress (made into a movie with the remarkable Denzel Washington). Once I got over my surprise that I was reading a collection of linked short stories, I settled in to enjoy Mosley’s evocative writing and unique voice.
“Socrates made Darryl sit in the chair while he turned over the trash can for his seat. He read the paper for half an hour or more while the rooster simmered on the hot plate. Darryl knew to keep quiet. When it was done, Socrates served the meal on three plates–one for each dish. The man and boy shoveled down dirty rice, green beans, and tough rooster like they were starving men; eating off the same plates, neither one uttered a word. The only drink they had was water–their glasses were mayonnaise jars. Their breathing was loud and slobbery. Hands moved in syncopation; tearing and scooping.”
Socrates Forlow, formerly of Indiana Penitentiary, is the center of fourteen short stories, set in Los Angeles and plotted around such things as a starving young kid, a group deciding street justice, black invisibility, a dying friend, persistence, finding a home, attraction and friendship, a black-owned bookstore, God, being a man, and so on.
“There seemed to be music in the room. Music in the way the chairs faced each other, music in the sounds from elsewhere in the building. Socrates wanted to dance for the first time in his fifty years.”
Mosley has done well with the form; each story is well contained, and together they cover a very interesting period as Socrates navigates post-incarceration life. They were often moving, and usually powerful. I wasn’t really tempted to devour the whole book at once, instead treating it like a rich and filling meal that needed pauses for digestion.
“Socrates walked for miles on the curving beaches. The surface of the sand was hot from the sun but cool when his foot sank to the layer of moisture below. He went north past Malibu and on toward the blue of the water and sky. He stayed close to the ocean remembering his aunt’s sermons about how God was always beyond reach but how people were always trying to get there.”
A great read, straying from 5 stars only because it isn’t one I want to add to my library. But certainly fabulous and insightful.