Tag Archives: Walter Mosley

Desolation Row

All I Did Was Shoot My Man: A Leonid McGill Mystery by Walter Mosley (Riverhead Hardcover, $26.95, 336 pages)

“And the only sound that’s left/ After the ambulances go/ Is Cinderella sweeping up/ On Desolation Row.”   Bob Dylan

All I Did Was Shoot My Man is the fourth in a series of Leonid McGill mysteries by Walter Mosley.   This time an abrupt ending creeps up out of nowhere and doesn’t quite seem to relate to the closure of the rest of the plot – there are likely plans in place for a fifth book.

McGill introduces characters and events in a unique way that sometimes works and sometimes is frustrating.   Often plot twists are dropped on the reader as if they should know what’s going on, but these elements do not always come together or make total sense for a couple of pages or chapters.   Perhaps this may sometimes keep the reader’s interest level high, but it backfires at other times.

In this story, Zella Grisham murders her boyfriend for cheating on her, and McGill, a private investigator, allows himself to get pulled into proving her innocent of a crime for which she is falsely accused.   The proof involves a massive amount of money and a large international company.

The real perpetrators of the crime eventually come after McGill, threatening him and his family until McGill – who seems to have a love-hate relationship with just about every character in the book – manages to connect the dots.

McGill’s family is another story altogether.   Mosley uses the family by attempting to create some sense of normalcy within the chaos.   The characters have a rather bizarre definition of family, but they are one.   There are kids from multiple parties and partners, both married and otherwise, that form relationships built on varying combinations of love, convenience, and desperation.

Fortunately, the characters created by Mosley are interesting.   It is this fact that there are relationships and personalities, rather than just action and events, that makes this a better book than most of its kind.

Recommended.

Dave Moyer

A review copy was provided by the publisher.   “If you like your crime snappy, hard-boiled and razor-edged, Walter Mosley is for you.”   Victoria Clark

Dave Moyer is an educator, and the author of Life and Life Only: A Novel.

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A review of All I Did Was Shoot My Man: A Leonid McGill Mystery by Walter Mosley.

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Simple Survival

The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey: A Novel by Walter Mosley (Riverhead Hardcover, $25.95, 288 pages)

“Sometimes I wonder what it’s gonna take/To find dignity…”   Bob Dylan

When Robyn, a young woman of seventeen, rekindles in ninety-one year old Ptolemy Grey, either consciously or subconsciously, the will to actively engage in life, the phrase, “Be careful what you ask for,” comes to mind.

Ptolemy’s brain is a jumbled mess of neurons, and the fuzziness of his inner mind is adeptly reflected in Walter Mosley’s prose.   There are no chapters or definitive breaks in the storyline.   Rather, the book is 277-pages of a third person account of Ptolemy – an African-American man – trying to connect episodes of his past and present in a way that actually makes sense of them.

Ptolemy lives in squalor in a Los Angeles neighborhood where local characters threaten the old man in search of his pension checks.   The initial pages invite the reader to like, root for, and sympathize with Ptolemy, but as the story unfolds, the warts of all of the characters involved are revealed.   The moral high ground is a mass of gray in this violent world in which survival is the only reality that matters.

Reggie is Ptolemy’s caretaker.   He helps him cash his checks, buy groceries, and run errands.   When he doesn’t show up for a matter of weeks, the reader eventually learns that he has been murdered.   Through circumstance Ptolemy and Robyn forge a relationship.   She takes him to see Dr. Ruben, whom Ptolemy refers to as the Devil.   Ptolemy agrees to treatment with an experimental drug that will temporarily restore his clarity but ensure a rapid death.

In the weeks he has left, Ptolemy sets out on a quest to make sense of losses he endured throughout the various stages of his life:  his loves – successful, unsuccessful, and unrequited; and, as he becomes more cogent, seeks to put his finances in order to take care of those he considers deserving of a mysterious and surprisingly significant estate.

But defying Father Time comes at a cost.   Whatever the benefits for those that remain after Ptolemy departs, the reader is left at the end to wonder if the man who must inevitably slip back to his previous state is any better off than he was before and, for those inclined to consider such things, what might await him next.

Well recommended.

Dave Moyer

A review copy was provided by the publisher.   “Mosley’s depiction of the indignities of old age is heartbreaking, and Ptolemy’s grace and decency make for a wonderful character and a moving novel.”   Publisher’s Weekly

“Simple survival is the greatest victory.”   Bob Dylan

Note:   Some readers with a long memory will see some parallels between this story and the film Charly based on the novel Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes.

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Coming Up Next…

A review of The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey: A Novel by Walter Mosley.   “…a man is given a second shot at life, but at the price of a hastened death…”   Publisher’s Weekly

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