I, CRIME FICTION
tradition epitomised by Raymond
1 that Marlowe and Spade inhabited,
Always Outgunned and continues in
Walkin’ The Dog (Serpent's Tail £14.99) With his Easy Rawlins series of novels (six bestsellers since President Clinton cited them as his favourite reads), Walter Mosley established himself as a player in the American crime writing
Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. Like Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade, Rawlins is a tough guy whose work solving seedy crimes belies his inherent nobility. Rawlins exists in the post-war period of California
and into which Mosley was born (Los Angeles, 1952).
Like his contemporary, James Ellroy, Mosley's period crime stories have subtext. With Ellroy, it's the unsolved murder of his mother; with Mosley it's the black American experience. Mosley continues to explore that theme in his new modern day cycle of novels featuring convicted murderer and ex-con, Socrates Fortlow. His story began in Always Outnumbered,
Walkin’ The Dog. Nine years out of prison, Fortlow is approaching the wrong side of 60 years of age, although he retains his
tough guy physical fitness with ’rock-breakin' hands'.
Fortlow shares the same neighbourhood - Watts — as
i Rawlins, but is in no position to follow his predecessor’s
efforts to upwardly mobilise his life; he is an easy target
for racist LAPD cops. Yet, in confronting his violent past, taking on board everyday responsibilities, Fortlow attempts self-improvement. ’Bravery ain't no big thing,’
he observes. ‘Bravery is just doin' what you do wit' what you got an’ where you find yourself.’ Fortlow is Mosley's black Everyman; his experience
encapsulates problems facing black communities, but he
is no stereotype. He’s not a private detective (neither is Rawlins, strictly speaking), he doesn’t solve crimes and right wrongs, and he doesn't always do right by himself. But neither is Fortlow a lowlife to be sacrificed
I for Mosley's social/political message.
Walter Mosley creates suspense from the tension between hope and cynicism
It's this complexity of character - presented in the crime genre's traditionally economical hard boiled prose — that makes Mosley's Fortlow series compelling. Breaking from tradition, Mosley creates suspense from the tension between hope and the genre's more common cynical view of human nature; will Fortlow do the right thing or fall back into his violent ways?
It's no coincidence that the film adaptations of Mosley's books attracted two of black America's biggest stars; namely Denzel Washington (who played Rawlins in Devil In A Blue Dress) and Laurence Fishburne (who played Fortlow in Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned) who is currently taking a second shot at the rock-breaker in the cable television film adaptation of Walkin’ The Dog.
Mosley now lives in New York and works in an Empire State Building office. And yes, he dines on occasion at the White House. (Miles Fielder)
I Wa/kin’ The Dog is published on Thu 27 Apr.
happening in the book, it is incredibly
'Music affects people in the same way that drugs and love do'
Needle In The Groove (Anchor £9.99) Jeff Noon has had his fill of Manchester. He has begun the new century by writing his sixth and final Manchester novel and moving to Brighton. He claims to have become bored with Madchester ’cool’, its independent spirit having abandoned the rainy city’s promise of liberty and fraternity.
Noon’s latest book Need/e In The Groove, follows bass player Elliot’s return into an intimate band world. lmmersing himself in the past, music and drugs, Elliot discovers worlds outside his own experience and a variety of substances take him to punk venues of the previous generation and to days of skiffle in the ZSpot Club, the world of his parents.
that music is a drug. I have no doubt at all that I am addicted to music. It affects people in the same way that drugs and love do.’
A CD of the book, which is being released simultaneously, is another narrative of Elliot’s story. Noon's voice is melded into an experimental backdrop created by sonic explorer David Toop. It works to a point as an interesting crossover between music and words, songs and fiction but the end result may sit too closely to similar work by William Burroughs for some tastes. The book, however, can stand alone. (Sally Mandar)
I Need/e In The Groove is published on Mon 8 May. See album review, page 46
’If you think about what's actually 5
Putting debut novelists under the microscope. This issue: Aleksandar Hemon
Who he? Aleksandar Hemon is a 36- year—old half-Serbian, half-Ukrainian born in Sarajevo. In 1992 he was invited to America as a guest of the United States Information Agency and on the day he was due to return, Sarajevo became under siege. Hemon opted to stay, basing himself in Chicago. He spent the next three years devouring English literature and canvassing door-to-door for Greenpeace (’they had an inherent interest in misfits’) before penning the first story in his second language.
His debut It’s called The Question Of Bruno and tells eight short tales set in Bosnia and Chicago concerning, unsurprisingly, the ravaging effects war has on societies and souls and how to make a fresh start. Among the subjects are the Sarajevo Olympics, the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and differentiating between romaine and iceberg lettuce.
First lines test The opening salvos include: ’Suppose there is a Point A and a Point 8 and that, if you want to get from Point A to Point 8, you have to pass through an open space clearly visible to a skilful sniper,’ ('A Coin'); ’We got up at dawn, ignored the yolky sun, loaded our navy-blue Austin with suitcases and then drove straight to the coast, stopping only on the verge of Sarajevo, so I could pee,’ ('lslands’). Recommendations corner He was among The Observe/s 21 writers for the let century and Colum McCann has described his work as ’extraordinary, provocative and anarchic’.
Compare and contrast His wit and elegance have brought comparisons to Vladimir Nabakov and Milan Kundera. What's next? Hemon is working on a PhD in English Literature and pursuing his half-baked passion for Liverpool FC. ’I'm half-baked because I can’t make myself hate Manchester United, or
even Arsenal.‘ (Brian Donaldson) shocking but it doesn’t really come :
across as that,’ Noon admits. ’l’m 3 presenting a kind of fantasy that says :
I The Question Of Bruno is published by Picador priced f 72. 99.
27 Apr—ll May 2000 THELIST101