New York Times bestselling author Walter Mosley introduces an "astonishing character" (Los Angeles Times Book Review) in this acclaimed collection of entwined tales. Meet Socrates Fortlow, a tough ex-con seeking truth and redemption in South Central Los Angeles -- and finding the miracle of survival.
"I either committed a crime or had a crime done to me every day I was in jail. Once you go to prison you belong there." Socrates Fortlow has done his time: twenty-seven years for murder and rape, acts forged by his huge, rock-breaking hands. Now, he has come home to a new kind of prison: two battered rooms in an abandoned building in Watts. Working for the Bounty supermarket, and moving perilously close to invisibility, it is Socrates who throws a lifeline to a drowning man: young Darryl, whose shaky path is already bloodstained and fearsome. In a place of violence and hopelessness, Socrates offers up his own battle-scarred wisdom that can turn the world around.
Unveiling a new, bigger-than-life urban hero and a new series set in an updated version of Easy Rawlins's South Central Los Angeles, Mosley seems determined to confer on the mean streets of contemporary L.A. what filmmaker John Ford helped create for the American West: a gun-slinging mythology of street justice and a gritty, elegiac code of honor. Socrates Fortlow, an earthy ex-con with the stoic grandeur of an aging cowboy, who can "lift a forty-gallon trash can brimming with water and walk it a full city block," squats in a two-room apartment in Watts, tending a ramshackle garden and collecting bottles. Haunted by his 27 years in an Indiana prison and the murders he's committed with his own "rock-breaking hands," Socrates finds himself in a series of confrontations with a circle of friends and archetypal strangers (a thief, an adulterer and a Vietnam vet) with whom he frequently holds streetwise Platonic dialogues on ethics, remorse and retribution. He fraternizes with neighbors who, against the odds, have helped his community at the grass roots, like Right Burke, whose irascible wife maintains a rooming house for poor blacks, and Oscar Minette, who runs an independent bookstore. He teaches lessons about remorse and manhood to Daryl, a local teenager, finds a job bagging groceries in a more prosperous neighborhood and reluctantly helps the police catch a local arsonist. Fans of the intricately plotted Easy Rawlins novels may be surprised by the episodic format here, in which the linked stories are presented in short chapters with such didactic titles as "History" and "Double Standard" In creating such a maverick protagonist, Mosley has produced a not-quite novel that reads like a philosophical treatise, memorable less for any character insights or resolution than for its indelible vision of "poor men living on the edge of mayhem." BOMC and QPB selections. FYI: Mosley has written a screenplay for an HBO movie based on the novel.
Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned
A glorious book. Sweet and terrible. There is majesty and honor, dignity and joy in the hardest of places. Unbelievably inspiring. It's kinda like your heart folds in on itself, and then opens wider than you could ever imagine.
Sinking into the world of Socrates doesn't take long. The ride is as unpredictable as it is fun. Walter Mosley has a flare for the complexities of life that makes this story POP.
I am grateful to Mr. Mosley, not only for having written a marvelous book -entertaining, well crafted, sensitive- about an endearing character, Socrates Fortlow, but also for having allowed any of us who haven't been subjected to it to understand -to begin to understand- the cumulated effect of discrimination and biggotry. Socrates Fortlow not only tries to live, but tries to figure out why and how to live. For a man who has committed murder and has spent a good many years in jail, it is hard work and he is never sure that he entirely gets it, but it doesn't deter him from trying. LA is a character too, from Watts to Santa Monica, with its dangerous alleys and its breaking waves, racially diverse and yet balkanized. As a bonus, the writing is superb: at times it grates and at times it soars. Mr. Mosley is a great writer.