Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Each time I read a Walter Mosley book--which isn't very often--I wonder to myself why I don't read
every Walter Mosley book. Each one I've read is a beautiful, violent gem. In simple, unflinching, often poetic language Mosely writes hard-boiled detective fiction like no one writing today.

The Long Fall introduces a new character, Leonid McGill, an African American private investigator in his fifties. For those who wonder how a black man comes by such a name, McGill--or LT, as most people call him--replies that, "My father was a Communist. He tried to cut me from the same red cloth. He believed in living with everybody but his family. McGill is my slave name." LT boxed in his youth, and still spars to keep in shape; his short compact frame is heavily muscled and deceptively strong. In the past LT pursued a less than ethical career path, working for the mob and other lowlifes, killing--or, at least, being the conduit for information that would lead to death--when the job called for it. In recent years, though, he's gone, well, if not straight, then, as he would put it, just slightly bent. It's a struggle.

The Long Fall opens with LT tracking down, for a client once removed whose identity he doesn't know, the last of four young men known only by their youthful nicknames. One, he discovers is dead, one is in prison, one is out on bail and awaiting sentencing, and the fourth has made a good life for himself in the straight world. Within days of his finding these men, the two out in the world are dead and an attempt has been made on the life of the imprisoned man as well. Not long after, an attempt is made on LT's life.

The next couple of hundred pages follow McGill's quest to discover why. Why was he hired to find these men, and by whom? Why are they now being killed? Why does somebody want him dead? Why is it so hard to do the right thing? During the course of his investigation LT is beaten, interrogated by the police and even has to go to Albany (he's a Manhattanite born and bred).

The novel is rich with detail, yet there's nothing in it that shouldn't be there. Leonid McGill's home life is as complex as his work life. He's married to a Scandinavian woman and is father to three children, only one of whom is actually his biologically (although they don't know this). His wife recently left him but has now returned, amping up the housewife meter and turning LT's domestic world into a surrealistic dream (or maybe nightmare).

There are several subplots which are nicely resolved, as well as a number of tantalizing references to events in McGill's past. Mosley evokes present day New York as spot-on perfectly as he does the Los Angeles of decades past in his Easy Rawlins novels.

Disclosure: In accordance with new FTC guidelines for bloggers I must let you know that I received a free review copy of this title.  My reviews are just that: reviews.  They are not endorsements, nor am I ever compensated for posting my opinion.  

No comments: