Monday, April 13, 2009

Karma by Walter Mosley

I rarely read an anthology straight through. I read a few stories in one and then go on to different anthology. Even though it may take me several years to finish every story in a book I do keep going back till I'm done.

In 2005 Otto Penzler published Dangerous Women, an anthology packed with good stories. My favorite is Karma by Walter Mosley, which is really a short novel about a sleazy private eye named Leonid McGill. I couldn't turn the pages fast enough and not only because of the cunning way Mosley sets up his cross and double-cross and double double-cross but also because of the people he gives us, not last his own family.

McGill has three children, at least one of whom was fathered by somebody else (as he knows) and who proves to be his favorite. His ex-wife has returned after many years because she's tapped out. She runs the house and keeps everybody in food and clean underwear but she sure isn't crazy about McGill. Then there's his ex-lover, a younger woman than his own sixty-something. She has the power to give him one of his few erections but she too keeps him at bay--he lied to her and she won't forgive him.

I've never met any of these people before, including the hoods sent out to collect on his ongoing juice loan. One of them's a nice guy; the other one should be pistol-whipped for a couple of days just for existing. And then there's the femme fatale. One of those sweet young fashionable things out of Chandler. Except in Mosley's hands she's not what you think.

The plotting here is flawless. As I said it's a true page-turner that manages, at the same time, to be a melancholy story about old age, betrayl and the kind of quick deadly violence that really hits you.


David Cranmer said...

I'm right there with you when it comes to reading an anthology. I'm still finishing the Big Book of Pulps and A Hell of a Woman. I like to take my time and savor them... Mosley is quite gifted. I never tire of reading the adventures of Ezekiel Rawlins.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great review, Ed. I believe this PI sounds like the one in WM's new THE LONG FALL. We enjoyed reading it.

Ed Lynskey

Todd Mason said...

Oddly enough, I just listened this evening to the delayed post of this interview with Mosley, conducted by Richard Wolinsky (Richard Lupoff was his former and occasionally still partner in the show on KPFA), in which he discusses "Karma" for a bit.