WALKIN' THE DOG by Walter Mosley


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Mosley’s probing and stirring follow-up to Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned (1997) presents a dozen further adventures of Socrates Fortlow, the ex-con struggling to protect his marginal, yet deeply rooted, life in blasted Watts. Despite their resolute refusal of melodrama, “adventures” is the word for these episodes, because Socrates is so far from the American dream of upward mobility that he never changes anything in his life—moving up to a new job as produce manager at the Bounty Market, moving out of his rent-free alley squat to a proper home—unless he feels he has to. It’s an adventure for Socrates to plant a tree and sleep with a woman in memory of a jailhouse friend, or to follow the sound of a sad jazz horn to its source, or to invite the Wednesday night discussion group that usually meets at Topper Saint-Paul’s funeral home to his house and tell them the story of a slave revolt in long-ago Louisiana. Once he’s laid down the rhythms of Socrates’s life in a spare prose that makes it clear what a gift it is to be “safe at least for one night more,” Mosley describes his hero’s run-ins with criminals and the law in the same matter-of-fact way, shorn of the self-seriousness that sank his sci-fi thriller Blue Light (1998). Socrates kills a mugger and waits for the police to come and get him; even though they’ve been all over him for every crime in the neighborhood for months, they leave him unsettlingly alone. The casual reminiscences of another ex-con shake him so deeply that he disconnects his newly installed phone and gets an unlisted number. Finally, he goes up against a killer cop in a climactic story that shapes the series more firmly than Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned without going for easy answers or easy sentiment. Delicately balancing the demands of individual stories and the whole cycle, Mosley uses his perpetually angry, sensitive hero to show that “bravery ain’t no big thing . . . . It’s love that gives life.”

Pub Date: Oct. 14th, 1999
ISBN: 0-316-96620-7
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1999


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