My last couple of books have been real work. Rewarding, but still work. So for a break, I turn to one of my favorites. I haven’t visited Walter Mosley for almost two years–August, 2008–when I was unimpressed with Blonde Faith. For The Long Fall, Mosely has asked Easy Rawlins to take a walk and has moved to NYC, where he’s taken up with Leonid McGill, a guy all us Mosley fans will be glad to meet.
Unlike Rawlins, McGill is a legitimate PI, not someone who falls into adventures out of a good heart and a quick wit. Leonid was named by a father who was fascinated by the Russian (and any other anti-authoritarian) Revolution. Besides the odd and distinctly un-African-American name, McGill’s father left him with a collection of maxims which he quotes from time to time–“A person with no books is inconsequential… but a peasant who reads is a prince in waiting”–as he’s sorting through the facts and personalities of a case.
McGill is also trying to go straight. He’s never served time, but he’s dealt with some brutal people and performed brutal and illegal deeds for them. He’s a retired boxer, but in his early fifties. he still works out and packs a wallop in both fists. Finally, he’s in a loveless marriage, staying there out of conscience and a need to do penance even though his true love awaits elsewhere.
Mosely was born and raised in L.A. and has written thousands of pages set there, but he seems somehow more at home in NYC. Maybe it’s because I feel more at home in NYC, though I don’t have any trouble with Raymond Chandler.
After all these meanderings, it’s maybe time I got to the book. McGill’s behind on his office rent and against his better judgment takes a job he’s afraid might drag him back into the ways he’s trying to give up. It’s nothing much on the surface. He’s given four nicknames and is paid to deliver the real names and locations of the men involved. Trouble is, the nicknames are over twenty years old, and his instincts tell him that when he hands over the names, he’s giving the four a death sentence. Of course, he’s right, and he has to subsequently track down the killer to make up for his own indiscretion. He also has to straighten out a couple of subplots along the way.
It’s easy and exciting reading, but Mosely is not simple. He slings many characters at us, but not a one is wasted. They all figure in either the action or the thematic scheme of the book. McGill is not simple either. He’s a mass of contradictory feelings, actions, and motivations. It’s a quick and juicy trip, The Long Fall is, but don’t blink or you’ll miss something that would have made your life a teensy bit better.