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Fear of the Darkby Walter Mosley
Synopses & Reviews
Fearless Jones and Paris Minton, stars of the bestsellers Fearless Jones and Fear Itself, return in a high-velocity, larger-than-life thriller about family, betrayal, and revenge.
"I'm in trouble, Paris."
Paris Minton has heard these words before. They mean only one thing: that his neck is on the line too. So when they are uttered by his lowlife cousin Ulysses S. Grant, Paris keeps the door firmly closed. With family like Ulysses — Useless to everyone except his mother — who needs enemies?
But trouble always finds an open window, and when Useless's mother, Three Hearts, shows up from Louisiana to look for her son, Paris has no choice but to track down his wayward cousin.
Finding a con artist like Useless is easier said than done. But with the aid of his ear-to-the-ground friend Fearless Jones, Paris gets a hint that Useless may have expanded his range of enterprise to include blackmail. Now he has disappeared, and Paris's mission is to discover whether he is hiding from his vengeful victims — or already dead.
Traversing the complicated landscape of 1950s Los Angeles, where a wrong look can get a black man killed, Paris and Fearless find desperate women, secret lives, and more than one dead body along the way. Fear of the Dark is filled with the sheer-nerve plotting and brilliant characterizations that prompted the Nation to credit Walter Mosley for "the finest detective oeuvre in American literature."
"Though the prose is a bit rough in spots, Mosley's third outing for L.A. bookseller Paris Minton and the intrepid Fearless Jones is as entertaining as its predecessors, Fearless Jones and Fear Itself. Trouble comes to Paris's door in the form of his cousin Ulysses 'Useless' S. Grant IV,' who needs help after getting mixed up in a scheme that has gotten totally out of hand. Despite refusing to even let Useless cross his threshold, Paris is drawn, violently, into the fray. Mosley isn't afraid to cast his characters in heroic molds and does so explicitly when Paris recalls Bullfinch's Mythology and muses: 'Fearless was the hero, I was the hero's companion, Useless was the mischievous trickster.' As in any good heroic adventure, Fearless and Paris face a variety of monsters, traps, sirens and other temptations. Mosley's talent for sketching memorable minor characters of every hue ('buttery brown,' 'copper,' 'brick,' 'olive with a hint of lemon') is fully evident, while his reading of the racial temperature of the 1950s is as dead-on as ever. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Walter Mosley is best known for 10 novels starring the private eye Easy Rawlins, but he has another series in progress, also set in Los Angeles and also with a black protagonist, a dangerous character called Fearless Jones. 'Fear of the Dark' is the third of the Jones books. The two series are alike in some regards, but they differ in that the Rawlins novels address American racism in angry, often... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) polemical terms, whereas the Fearless Jones novels, while by no means ignoring that injustice, take a lighter, often comic look at black life. One of the best Easy Rawlins novels, 'Little Scarlet' (2004), was set during and after the 1965 Watts riots and amounts to a meditation on that event. Not on the burning and looting but on the black rage and white racism that caused them and on the possibility that by opening white eyes to that rage, the riots might bring progress. Rawlins was tolerant of the looters: He said they had earned the spoils of war. Their stolen goods, he declared, were 'simply another step toward the other side of our liberation.' He said he regretted the riots but asked, 'What good was law and order if it meant I was supposed to ignore the fact that our children were treated like little hoodlums and whores?' For all its hard-boiled trappings, 'Little Scarlet' was a cry from the heart. 'Fear of the Dark,' set in Watts in 1956, is comic relief by comparison. For much of the novel, Mosley is a black novelist poking affectionate fun at black characters — and black stereotypes — even as he reminds us of the decidedly unfunny realities of their lives in a segregated America. His often hapless characters call to mind the once beloved, later politically incorrect folks in the radio show 'Amos "n Andy.' We start with his narrator, Paris Minton, who owns a bookstore. Minton is a small man, a self-described bookworm and coward, but he also confesses to being 'what the genteel folks call well-endowed' and, therefore, a demon with the ladies. Minton's cross to bear is his cousin Ulysses S. Grant IV, better known as Useless, whom he describes as 'a petty thief, a liar, a malingerer, and just plain bad luck.' Fearless Jones says of Useless, 'Damn, he'd be runnin" numbahs in heaven an" sellin" holy water in hell.' We are told that Useless really is a descendant of President Grant, who 'had either loved or raped' the woman who was this rascal's ancestor. Useless, caught up in a blackmail scheme, has absconded with close to $100,000, and various killers are hot on his trail. The search for him by Minton and his friend Jones is spurred on by the missing man's formidable mother, Aunt Three Hearts Grant, whose 'evil eye' inflicts disaster upon those who disobey her. Fearless Jones, the novel's hero, is 'tall and thin, jet of color, and stronger of thew and character than any other man I had ever met. He wasn't afraid of death or love, threat or imprisonment.' Although only semiliterate, Jones is pure of heart, a killer when he must be, but a man 'trying to do right in a world where everything was wrong.' He is Mosley's updating of Stagger Lee, the indomitable black dude of song and legend. The novel's complicated plot is not terribly important. It keeps the wheels spinning, and bodies turning up, while Mosley takes us on a bittersweet tour of the Watts he knew during his childhood there in the 1950s. He introduces shady characters with Runyonesque names like the private eye Whisper Nately, criminals Bobo Handsome, Killer Van Cleve and Mad Anthony Jarman, pool hall owner Jerry Twist and a nightclub bouncer known only as Razor. We glimpse a jazz musician who 'would probably have been world renowned if he hadn't had an eye for every lady he met' and a woman called Typhoid Mary because her husbands keep dying off. Minton manages to get himself locked in a dark cellar with a corpse and later to be tossed in jail, which he doesn't mind because he figures he's safer there than out on the streets. But these lighthearted scenes exist within the context of racism that in 1956 seemed to have no end in sight. White cops harass Minton for reading a book in a park. A black woman compiles a list of 'those places in books where Negroes are denigrated by white authors, and colored ones too.' Mosley introduces a Japanese woman named Loretta who hates whites because her family was interned during World War II and a Chinese man who 'made Loretta's hatred of white people seem like mild perturbation. ... He hated white people the way Sitting Bull hated them.' Minton can't forget his childhood in the Deep South, where 'they wouldn't let me into the library. ... I wasn't even allowed to urinate where a white man had gone.' Nor, in Watts, can he help 'fearing the iron bars of California justice.' Throughout the book, Mosley walks a line. Like Richard Pryor in his prime, he makes us laugh even as he pricks our consciences. 'Fear of the Dark' is a funny, funky novel, but like all of Mosley's work, it's troubling, too — that's clearly what he intends, and he does his work well." Reviewed by Patrick Anderson, whose e-mail address is mondaythrillers(at symbol)aol.com, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"High-tension plot, comic characterizations, insightful history — it's a three-fer. Mosley is an author who rarely, if ever, disappoints, and the engaging Fear of the Dark is no exception." Dallas-Ft. Worth Star Telegram
"[T]his series remains an entertaining and insightful look at black life in postwar Southern California." Booklist
About the Author
Walter Mosley is the author of the bestselling Easy Rawlins series of mysteries, the novel R.L.'s Dream, and the story collection Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned, for which he received the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award. He was born in Los Angeles and has been at various times in his life a potter, a computer programmer, and a poet. His books have been translated into twenty languages. He lives in New York.
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