Tuesday, April 08, 2003

Walkin' the Dog by Walter Mosley

Walter Mosley is my new favorite writer.

I've been reading about Mosley for several years, seeing recommendations of his Easy Rawlins mysteries. He's been one of the many writers whom I intend to read at some point. Well, a year or two ago I saw a hardcover copy of this book on clearance at Amazon and figured it was a good excuse to pick up something by the man. And I finally got around to reading it.

Walkin' the Dog is the second book about Socrates Fortlow, the first being Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned. That book is apparently structured similarly to this one, as a series of interconnected stories which also make up one story. Socrates is an ex-con, a man who served time for murder but is now out and trying to build a new life on the outside. Socrates has a deep anger inside him, but he also has awareness of himself and the evil he's done. He struggles with his rage and the violence which is always close to the surface, but largely he is a thoughtful man with a desire to do good when he can. His Watts neighborhood is a dangerous place, and the police suspect him of everything that happens within a five-mile radius from his home, but Socrates is equal to the struggle with a bit of help from his friends.

This is not a loud book. Many of the stories are largely about the thoughts Socrates has, and the ideas he encounters in those he meets. There is always the undercurrent of violence, however, and when it breaks through to the surface of the story it is heartbreaking and real. Mosley is effective at making the reader share in Socrates's struggles, and in making us empathize with him while never forgetting his crime. What is most amazing about this book, though, is how hopeful it is, despite the difficulties Socrates faces, despite the injustice all around him, despite the conflicts it illustrates between Socrates's community and that of white society, and the conflicts within his society itself. So when I say that Walter Mosley is my new favorite writer, I am not exaggerating. I must find more of his books.