Publisher: Riverhead Books
Publish date: January 24, 2012
List price: $26.95
Buy at Amazon.com
Paperback edition due out on February 5, 2013
of books by Walter Mosley
"Fear Itself," July 2003
"Little Scarlet," July 2004
"Cinnamon Kiss," October 2005
"Fortunate Son," May 2006
"Fear of the Dark," September 2006
"Blonde Faith," October 2007
all Leonid McGill did was frame her for something worse
Leonid McGill is a private eye in New York who is living a life of painful atonement. In his past, he had done some evil things. Now he is trying to make up for it, one victim at a time.
"Why would I ever plant false evidence on a poor woman already going to jail? A woman distraught over her faithless lover and the child in her womb? I tried to remember the state of mind that allowed me to take those actions. I knew the man that did those things intimately, had all his memories. I could enumerate each and every sin he ever committed. But try as I might I could not bring up the feeling inside that allowed me to do the things I'd done.
"Of course men were after me. Of course they wanted to destroy me. Of course they did."
When the great Walter Mosley's "All I Did Was Shoot My Man" opens, McGill, nursing a fever and headache, is waiting at a Port Authority bus station. A woman says she's waiting for her cousin's child. "I figured that if I met her here and bought her a sandwich or a dress or sumpin' she'd know that some'un cared about her and maybe she'd feel bettah about her chances of stayin' out," a woman says to him. Then he is propositioned by a pretty young hooker. Then he sees the woman for whom he's been waiting.
Zella Grisham is bitter, angry and suspicious. All she did was shoot her man when she caught him in bed with another woman - she didn't even kill him - but she was framed in the robbery of $50 million from the vault of Rutgers Assurance Corporation. That put her in prison for what was meant to be a long time. She gave up the baby she'd been carrying when she shot her man, because she expected to be an old woman if she ever got out of prison.
McGill was the man who'd framed her for the robbery, as a favor to his own lover. But since then, his lover was killed, and he himself has had an epiphany. So he spends his own money to hire a lawyer to get Zella out of prison and try to get her set up again in life. Without telling her what he'd done to frame her in the first place.
Things get more complicated when other people, who still think Zella knows about the $50 million, start doing some damage in an effort to find the money.
McGill, who has plenty of other problems - his wife, Katrina, is on a drunken, pill-popping rampage because one of her sons is moving out to live with his girlfriend, an ex-prostitute from Belarus with ties to organized crime; his father, who had disappeared decades ago, is apparently in town; and all of a sudden, professional killers are invading his home.
It's a great mystery novel that captures interest early on and maintains its pull throughout. McGill, a black American Buddhist who speaks four languages because of the early training of his socialist father, is a man of the streets, with all kinds of back-door resources and plenty of personal skills.
He knows only one of his three children actually has his DNA, but loves them all anyway and does the best he can with them.
This being Mosley, there are bits of amazing social commentary sprinkled throughout. In his Easy Rawlin's series, he limned the experience of black men in Los Angeles from the 1940s through the '60s, before driving Rawlins off a cliff in "Blonde Faith."
Now Mosley, himself half black, half Eastern-European Jewish and a resident of New York, puts a light on a more modern black American experience. He has McGill narrate a number of things about the way things are now. Such as:
"I'm a twenty-first-century New Yorker and therefore have little time to contemplate race. It's not that racism doesn't exist. Lots of people in New York, and elsewhere, hate because of color and gender, religion and national origin. It's just that I rarely worry about those things because there's a real world underneath all that nonsense, a world that demands my attention almost every moment of every day.
"Racism is a luxury in a world where resources are scarce, where economic competition is an armed sport, in a world where even the atmosphere is plotting against you. In an arena like that racism is more a halftime entertainment, a favorite sitcom when the day is done."
There are many ironies attached to that passage. Read the book to find them.
This is a fine book, filled with witticism, truths, irony and Mosley's usual brilliant observations of life in America.