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Book review: <i>Walkin’ the Dog</i> by Walter Mosley

The mistake a lot of writers make is believing that their story has to have lots of big, dramatic occurrences to make it good. Like explosions, young rugged heroes, missing treasure, conspiracy, blood… otherwise, who would be interested? Walter Mosley knows different and proves it to great effect in this glorious collection of short stories about Socrates Fortlow, ex-con, hard worker, honest man, murderer, unofficial foster-father, dog owner, confidant of revolutionaries, defender of his friends, fighter for justice.

The content

Socrates lives his life quietly through twelve loosely strung together short stories of 260 pages. Just because he works a menial job, lives in an illegal apartment, is pushing sixty and has a record for murder doesn’t mean he’s a simple soul. He deals with life’s little problems while making sure that everyone he cares about is looked after, that he gets things done so his responsibilities are covered, that he looks after his community and faces injustice in a socially responsible way. Socrates seems a real man, and the reader follows him through his everyday life and internal turmoils and struggles, revealing a whole and rounded character and a man of principles. While many of Socrates’ experiences were completely foreign to me—I’ve never been in jail, killed anybody, had to try and deal with prejudice in the most menial of situations or faced violence—I still gloried in this revelation of somebody else’s life. The stories aren’t told with fanfare or self consciousness, but with the sense of "this is how it is, this is what happened, read it if you like". No wonder Walter Mosley’s popular. He produces an authenticity in character that Brett Eastern Ellis could learn a thing or three from. There is a little bit of action, but the most revealing and enjoyable segments of the text occur when Socrates is thinking, or having meetings with his friends, or listening to other people talking about life. Here is where the action happens, when Socrates’ innermost thoughts and internal struggles are revealed to the reader. It feels like a privilege to be allowed to experience Socrates’ life with him.

Who is this book for?

This book is for anyone. I can’t think of any person who would not enjoy tagging along with Socrates during this snapshot of his life, and who would not be provoked into thinking about the issues that Socrates contemplates.

If you like this book, you would also like…

One of Walter Mosley’s other books (he has twenty five or so). Raymond Chandler. Kinky Freidman (in a totally different way). It’s gritty, it’s urban, it’s good, honest fiction. I can’t really think of many authors good enough to be up there with Mosley.

In short

Title Walkin’ the Dog
Author Walter Mosley
Publisher Serpent’s Tail
ISBN 185242754
Year 1999
Pages 260
Review Type: