I’m across a few different books this week. Mind is wandering. I’m eking out my reading of INVISIBLE CITIES, because I like to savour each small section of it. But! I did accidentally fall into a rather marvellous little book.
I can’t remember when I bought it or even why, but I blearily stabbed at my Kindle around midnight on Wednesday and opened the wrong book. Said fuckit and started reading TROUBLE IS WHAT I DO by Walter Mosley. The next thing I knew, it was 2am.
“This man you’re walking up on is Leonid McGill. He’ll break half the bones in your body for business and the other half for fun.”
It appears to be the sixth of the Leonid McGill Mysteries. I actually don’t mind dropping in on the middle of a series like this one, that has clearly established its own mythology. When you don’t know what is referring to a previous book and what is part of the weave of the mythology that Mosley may have just invented on that page.
When chasing down capitalist criminals, I follow the money as tradition demands. But for anarchists and other political extremists, I find it useful to step outside the box. The best radical detective in the world is a man who goes by the name Archibald Lawless.
I mean, that’s just a wonderful paragraph all on its own.
Also, it sent me to search, and it turns out there is in fact a Mosley novella called ARCHIBALD LAWLESS, ANARCHIST AT LARGE, which I have immediately purchased for 99p. But I digress.
Leonid McGill is pushing sixty, Black, maybe five foot six, son of a failed revolutionary, a one-time career criminal who half-crossed the tracks some time back to become a private investigator in search of his own atonement, and is possessed of the most fearsome of New York City reputations.
Mosley writes in an amused and amusing neo-hard-boiled style, but, my god, he can make it sing when he wants to:
It felt as if they’d set music free in the world and, like some invisible alien god, that music was moving us, men and women, to a higher plane.
Obviously, like everyone else in the world, I’ve seen DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS, and, if you’re mostly into comics, Mosley once curated a wonderful-looking FANTASTIC FOUR retrospective art book. It’s possible that I picked this up because I had no memory of actually reading one of his books? Even though I’m fairly sure I read one in the 1990s. But holy shit I was not ready.
It’s a simple setup. Ancient bluesman shows up at the office with a letter he needs delivered to someone. He wants the recipient to know about her history. It’s about heritage, hard choices, love and regret. And it just flies. Crime plotting and heartbreak and eccentricity and murder, all launched into fast air that lifts you along with it before you even know it’s happening. This is the definition of being lost in a book.