The first time I ever read Walter Mosley, I was on my way home to a part of Hackney that was far less gentrified than it is now. I’d got off the bus but I couldn’t bear to stop reading for the walk to my door. It was as though Raymond Chandler had turned up in Obama’s America and was writing cool, pacy thrillers – but real-world, street-smart cool, not vintage cool.
So I tried to walk and read, sidestepping cars but otherwise in a world of my own or, more precisely, a world of razor-sharp wisecracks, hot pursuits down fire escapes, mysterious fraud at City Hall, gritty Lower East Side cool, enthralling shoot-outs in dingy alleyways . . .
And I was so captivated by this Walter Mosley, whom I’d barely heard of before, that by the time I sensed something was wrong, I’d walked straight into the scene of a shooting. Mosley’s writing had been so cinematic, so much more vivid than the real world, that I’d assumed the shots and getaway screeches were accompaniments to the drama going on in my head.
I went home shaken, but with a new favourite author, to a bemused flatmate who claimed no book could be so absorbing, and that I should stop reading on that electronic book box thing, which was never going to catch on anyway. I like to think she was as wrong on the first count as she was on the second.
The manuscript I was reading was called The Long Fall, the first novel in Mosley’s Leonid McGill series. All four Leonid McGill mysteries take you on a wild ride through the dark side of New York, with twists and turns enough to give you a crick in the neck. But the McGill mysteries are also much more than crime novels. They contain utterly believable, flamboyant characters, whose dilemmas off the detective trail intrigue you just as much as the mysteries they improbably but brilliantly solve. And these books are wonderful portraits of contemporary New York.
In the same way that reading Mosley’s renowned Easy Rawlins mysteries showed what it meant to be a black man in post-War America so much better than many social histories or, dare I say, worthier novels, the McGill series articulates what it feels like to live in Obama’s America, with all the social tension and hope that entails, but also with cracking dialogue, effortlessly cool writing and brilliant, deadpan humour.
So I hope you’ll join Bill Clinton and me in deciding that Walter Mosley is one of your very favourite authors.
To celebrate the acquisition of the hotly anticipated new Easy Rawlins title Little Green, we’re giving away two proof copies. Email us by 28 February for a chance to win.