Socrates Fortlow, an ex-convict forced to define his own morality in a lawless world, confronts wrongs that most people would rather ignore and comes face-to-face with the most dangerous emotion: hope. It has been nine years since his release from prison, and he still makes his home in a two-room shack in a Watts alley. But he has a girlfriend now, a steady job, and he is even caring for a pet, the two-legged dog he calls Killer. These responsibilities make finding the right path even harder – especially when the police make Socrates their first suspect in every crime within six blocks.
Title: Walkin’ the Dog | Author: Walter Mosley | Series: Socrates Fortlow #2 | Publisher: Thorndike Press| Pages: 370 | ISBN: 9781852427023 | Publication date: 1st March 1999 | Source: Purchased
Walkin’ the Dog’ is the follow up to Walter Mosley’s excellent ‘Always Outnumbered, Always Outnumbered’ and it’s more of the same. That might sound like a criticism, but if you’ve read my review of the first Socrates Fortlow book you’ll know it’s high praise.
Like that book, this is a series of connected short stories about the life of a black ex-con trying to make a life for himself in Los Angeles. Also like the first book, it’s gripping, powerful, moving and deeply political. Fortlow is an amazing character, and spending more time in his company is an absolute delight. He’s determined, wise and filled with righteous rage.
I don’t know if it is the short story format that makes the difference, or Fortlow himself, but I definitely prefer these books to Mosley’s better known Easy Rawlins series. The tales in this volume have both punch and emotion, and allow Mosley to focus on character and place rather than worrying so much about plot. That’s not to say the story-telling isn’t great though, and the threads that run through the stories bind them together as a cohesive whole.
The dog of the title is one of those threads, and Fortlow’s care for it is touching, The implications of his actions also adds some real tension in one of the stories. More than anything though, these stories are about the day to day struggles of the underprivileged in modern America. Mosley’s writing is fierce and impassioned. His depiction of impoverished LA leaps off the page and Fortlow and his companions are memorable and as real as any fictional characters I’ve read. That adds up to another amazingly satisfying book. For me it cements Walter Mosley as being in the top tier of crime writers, someone who writes about the mystery of the human condition, rather than just churning out whodunnits.