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    Review of FEAR OF THE DARK by Walter Mosley (see his website)


    Little, Brown & Co., September 2006

    Paris Minton's cousin 'Useless' is as useless as his name. Any time he comes around, Paris knows it's trouble. But trouble seems to be coming for Paris, even when he turns Useless away at the door, When Paris's current (white) lover's ex-boyfriend follows her to Paris's bookstore and catches them in the midst of sex, Paris barely gets away with his life. The ex-boyfriend isn't so lucky, and Paris has to call in his friend Fearless Jones to help with the body.

    When Useless's mother, Three Hearts, shows up looking for Useless, Paris is roped into the search--and so is Fearless. Paris discovers a strange web of beautiful women, black gangsters, and blackmail. Without Fearless, Paris wouldn't survive more than a couple of hours, but Fearless has his own duties, including bodyguarding a bail bondsman.

    Set in Watts (Los Angeles) during the 1950s, FEAR OF THE DARK is filled with the racial tension of a time when most of America wanted to shut its eyes to prejudice and institutionalized racism. Within the black community, anger and frustration are the most common feelings. Paris knows better than to go to the police when a white man ends up dead in his store--the police would look no further for their suspect. And a white philanderer and blackmail victim commands more respect from the police than does even Fearless Jones himself. Echoing the hatred and fear that the blacks feel for the whites, Paris's Chinese love interest hates the Japanese and a Japanese friend hates the Americans for the internship during World War II.

    Author Walter Mosley (see more reviews of novels by Mosley) writes big. Fearless is heroic figure, with a simple philosophy that astounds and sometimes enlightens the intellectual Paris. Violence is never far from the surface, and life is cheap. Still, Mosley manages to summon some nostalgia for a Los Angeles destroyed in the Watts riots of the 1960s. Jazz clubs welcome both black and white, and white businessmen serve black clients with shops and restaurants not yet destroyed by that orgy of destruction.

    FEAR OF THE DARK doesn't seem quite as tight as some of Mosley's other novels, and occasionally gets a bit heavy-handed with message, but the book is hard to put down and left me, at least, with plenty to talk about.

    Three Stars

    Reviewed 12/01/06

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