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.. "In each chapter of Walkin' the Dog, Socrates challenges a different conundrum of modern life. In "Blue Lightning," he is offered a better-paying job but has to consider whether the extra pay is worth the freedom he would have to give up. In "Promise," he keeps a vow made long ago to a dying friend, and learns that a promise to one person can mean damage to another. In "Mookie Kid," he gets a telephone and learns that the price of being able to reach others is that others can contact him - whether he wants to be reached or not.. "Walkin' the Dog builds to a stunning climax as Socrates takes on a rogue cop who has terrorized his neighborhood.
Mosley can readily manage more than one empathetic series hero, and in Socrates Fortlow, introduced in Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned, he has a winner. Socrates is a former jailbird doing his best to go straight in a seamy Los Angeles full of temptation, and the novel is an examination, as powerfully relaxed as Socrates himself, of how his life works. He lives in a tiny shack in a back alley in Watts, tries to stay out of the way of the ever-suspicious cops, does a little loving (the cheerful sensuality of Mosley's writing about sex strikes exactly the right note), unwittingly acts as a role model for an unhappy teenager and eventually becomes a national symbol for his placard-wielding protest against police brutality. Where some writers would make this the pivot of their plot, it is no more than incidental to this tale, as Socrates continues to go on his quiet, unostentatious way until the fuss dies down. This is a deceptively low-key book that sneaks up on a reader with the realization of how much can be revealed by artfully chosen, dead-accurate dialogue, and how fully a uniquely admirable and always unexpected personality has been brought to life. Time Warner audio; 6-city author tour.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Back Bay Books
October 09, 2000
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