The Black Lives Matter campaign changed my re-read of this book. Mosley writes about the period before mobile phones videos but in such a vivid way that his images last a long time. Videos however are easy to disseminate and are irrefutable.* He writes about black folk lore. Walter Mosley’s novels often depict police violence in the 1950s and 60s. Racist police behaving as an army of occupation meted out ‘justice’ as they saw fit. Mosley’s novels are novels of survival, aspiration and courage.
His principal character learned the reality of racism as a child when he was taken into a library as a child of thirteen. He didn’t realise that he was been allowed in so that the racist librarian could taunt him for being black.
“This is the library,” the librarian said….
“It’s beautiful,” I said finally. “I never seen nuthin’ like it.”
“Of course you haven’t,” she said, “and do you know why?”……
“It is because this is a white library. And no matter how much you know how to read, these books are not meant for you. These books were written by white people for white people…. You have seen as much of this building as you ever will.” p117
As a man he says this
“Listen, I said.” You might not know this, but cops like to get target practice on Negro men when they see ‘em with white women. You get me?” p256
Los Angeles was brutal for black men and Mosley’s thriller welds together that reality with a novel which I devoured. It has the best aspects of Raymond Chandler in terms of plotting and characters but is superior. (Do I hear howls of rage?)
For the Rodney King video see https://www.bing.com/search?q=rodney+king+beating&form=ANNTH1&refig=6ae818e498db4a8c8804a4532cdebc64&sp=5&qs=AS&pq=rodney+king&sk=AS4&sc=8-11&cvid=6ae818e498db4a8c8804a4532cdebc64