All I did was shoot my man – Walter Mosley

Seven years ago, Zella Grisham came home to find her man, Harry Tangelo, in bed with her friend. The weekend before, $6.8 million had been stolen from Rutgers Assurance Corp., whose offices are across the street from where Zella worked. Zella didn’t remember shooting Harry, but she didn’t deny it either. The district attorney was inclined to call it temporary insanity-until the police found $80,000 from the Rutgers heist hidden in her storage space. 

For reasons of his own, Leonid McGill is convinced of Zella’s innocence. But as he begins his investigation, his life begins to unravel. His wife is drinking more than she should. His oldest son has dropped out of college and moved in with an exprostitute. His youngest son is working for him and trying to stay within the law. And his father, whom he thought was long dead, has turned up under an alias. 

This was very nearly the shortest review I’d ever written, but I remembered the days when I collected debts for a living and a previous collector had written simply on the notes: ‘attended, actions speak louder than words, paid’… didn’t do much to warn you of an impending baseball bat, so elaboration is needed.

Back in the early 90’s, Walter Mosley & James Lee Burke introduced me to crime fiction. I read a novel of each that was given out free with ‘Esquire’ magazine, whilst I was pondering where I would get drunk that night and looking at half undressed showbiz stars. The Mosley novel was either ‘Devil in a blue dress’ or ‘White butterfly’ by memory, and it introduced me to the world of Easy Rawlins.

I read a lot of Rawlins, there was a lot to read, but after a while, although I stayed with Burke, I drifted away from Mosley. Therefore, somewhere in the house is, I know, a number of unread Mosley novels, particularly RLs Dream. I even wondered whether I’d enjoy reading him again after so many years, the unsaid thought was that I’d done Mosley to death.

I needn’t have worried.

This book is superb, and the pages flew past as I didn’t want it to end. Its like Mosley’s other novels in that it is a complex story with a complex hero. The difference is that whilst Rawlins was compared to Marlow, its difficult to know who to compare McGill to. Easy and Mouse were very similar in ways to Dave Robicheaux and Clete Purcel, Patrick Kenzie and Bubba Rogowski, Elvis Cole and Joe Pike, the sidekick being the crazy/out there accomplice to the morally more upstanding if slightly more troubled main man. Where McGill differs is that he’s closer to a concoction of Clete, Bubba and Joe than the straighter trio of the more main three. He tries to prove it whilst trying to hold his family together and solve  the problems facing him, whilst walking around the city in a one man tidal wave of mayhem and destruction, an ex-boxer still bouncing around the canvas, riding and dodging punches. Whilst saying McGill is more akin to the aforementioned renegade sidekicks, that may well leave his own friend and accomplice, Hush, simply incomparable in his brutality and standing.

McGill makes you think and is complex and educated enough to be a contradiction in terms. To explain, I was reading him as though he was black with a Swedish wife, yet couldn’t definitely confirm his colour until page 240! Whether that says more about me or the speed I was reading I don’t know.

This book deserves to be read, and I’m about to purchase the previous three in the series on the kindle for just under twenty pounds. When he writes like this Mosley is at a level reached by very few, and I could only dream of writing a book like this. Reading this makes me feel like bumping into my first love in a bar years after parting, the crush still there somewhere, just hidden under dust.

Superb. Needs to be read.


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One Response to All I did was shoot my man – Walter Mosley

  1. Gordon Harries says:

    I honestly think the books PI novels that Mosley’s writing now are the equal of his classic run with Easy Rawlins (which I think has a claim to being the best P.I series ever) different city, different time, texture and problems.

    It’s not every writer who’d have moved away from a successful formula like that.

    To be honest, I’m slightly crestfallen that Easy’s getting (at least) 2 more books, but as long as the 10 volume Leonid series keeps a coming, I’ll be happy enough.

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