RL'S DREAM by Walter Mosley


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Mosley's Easy Rawlins mysteries (Black Betty, 1994, etc.) always seemed to be moving away from tightly plotted whodunits toward his trademark high-energy riffs, and here he makes his move to the mainstream with a hazy, tender tale of a dying bluesman taken in by a hard-bitten urban survivalist. Kiki Waters, released from the hospital after taking the wrong side in a mugging, finds her downstairs neighbor being evicted for nonpayment. Anointing herself Soupspoon Wise's goddaughter, she installs him in her place, invites him into her bed (an offer he can easily refuse), and sets about hustling him an insurance card. In these early scenes Kiki comes across with the likable aplomb of a cartoon heroine, but she's battling monsters like nothing Supergirl ever faced: Soupspoon is riddled with cancer and haunted by scenes from a life eternally on the move. "Storyteller need somebody wanna hear what he got to tell," he announces to Kiki and, armed with a tape recorder, spills his fragmentary memories of the women he's slept with, the men he's seen killed, and his formative stint with legendary mentor Robert (RL) Johnson. Then, once he's in a groove, Soupspoon takes his act on the Manhattan streets one last time, hunting down Alfred Metsgar, a bass player he once worked with, and Mavis Spivey, his forgotten ex-wife--neither of whom is overjoyed to see him--to get their memories on tape. Meanwhile, Kiki has begun to dredge up her own suppressed recollections of an abusive father back in Arkansas and the nursemaid who rescued her. Even Randy, a storekeeper with the hots for Kiki, turns out to have a story of his own. As Soupspoon's delirium deepens, he and Kiki inevitably drift apart--though the final separation arrives with a bang--until their stories, magically cross-pollinated, find the separate endings they've been heading toward all along. About what you'd expect if Flannery O'Connor had had the time to expand "Judgment Day" to novel length: as dark and rich as the Easy Rawlins stories, but without the persistent lure of Easy's search for the truth.
Pub Date: Aug. 7th, 1995
ISBN: 0-393-03802-5
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1995


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