The Washington Post
Fear of the Dark: A Novelby Walter Mosley
When his cousin Ulysses S. Grant IV comes knocking, Paris Minton would rather keep the door shut, because "Useless" is a snake who brings bad luck wherever he goes. But trouble always finds an open window, and soon there's a man murdered on his bookshop floor, evidence of blackmail is discovered, and Useless has vanished. To get out of this mess, Paris turns to his
When his cousin Ulysses S. Grant IV comes knocking, Paris Minton would rather keep the door shut, because "Useless" is a snake who brings bad luck wherever he goes. But trouble always finds an open window, and soon there's a man murdered on his bookshop floor, evidence of blackmail is discovered, and Useless has vanished. To get out of this mess, Paris turns to his solid-hearted but quick-fisted friend Fearless Jones. Traversing the complex landscape of 1950s Los Angeles, where a wrong look can get a black man killed, Paris and Fearless find deperate women, secret livesand more than one dead body.
The Washington Post
This is Mosley's third mystery featuring the timid and erudite Paris Minton and his intimidating friend Fearless Jones. Paris owns and operates a bookstore in the Watts area of 1950s Los Angeles. He can't help but overthink the dangerous situations he gets pulled into; the simpler and more confrontational Fearless just does what feels right to him at the time. Here, Paris is compelled by his Aunt Three Hearts to search for his missing cousin Ulysses ("Useless"), who, he will discover, has been involved in a high-stakes blackmailing scheme. Along the way we meet many memorable characters, truly one of Mosley's strengths. Reader Michael Boatman does justice to all of the voices, from the most intellectual to the most informal street slang. Mosley's other great talent remains the evocation of time and place, including the social themes of black culture, racism, and injustice. Highly recommended.
Kristen L. Smith
Read an Excerpt
Fear of the Dark
By Walter Mosley
Thorndike PressCopyright © 2006 Walter Mosley
All right reserved.
Chapter OneI WAS EXPECTING ONE KIND of trouble when another came knocking at my door.
A year or so after I opened my Florence Avenue Used Book Shop, I installed four mirrors; one in the upper-right-hand corner of the door frame, one just outside the lower-left-hand side of the window, and the third, and second-largest, mirror was placed inside the window. So by daylight or lamplight at night, all I had to do was pull back the bottom hem of the inside drape to see who was knocking.
I installed my little spying device because if a man wanted to kill you and you asked "Who is it?" on the other side of a thin plank of wood, all he would have to do is open fire and that would be it. You might as well just throw the door open and say "Here I am. Come shoot me."
Someone might wonder why the owner of a used-book store would even think about armed assassins coming after him at any time, for any reason. After all, this is America we're talking about. And not only America but Los Angeles in the midfifties-1956 to be exact.
We aren't talking about the Wild West or a period of social and political unrest. That was the most serene period of a democratic and peaceful nation. Most Americans at that time only worried about the cost of gas going above twenty-nine cents agallon.
But most Americans weren't black and they sure didn't live in South Central L.A. And even if they were my color and they did live in my neighborhood, their lives would have been different.
Through no fault of my own I often found myself in the company of desperate and dangerous men-and women. I associated with murderers, kidnappers, extortionists, and fools of all colors, ages, and temperaments. By nature I am a peaceful man, some might say cowardly. I don't care what they say. It does not shame me to admit that I would rather run than fight. Sometimes, even with my mirrors, I didn't go anywhere near the door if the knock was too loud or too stealthy.
And during business hours, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. Monday through Saturday, I sat at my desk at the top of the staircase so that if someone dangerous walked in I would be able to get away before they even knew I was there; the fourth, and largest, mirror was on the ceiling at the head of the stairs for just that purpose.
Don't get me wrong; most of my customers were readers, primarily women and children, and unlikely to be looking for trouble. Whole days could go by and no one came to my bookstore (which was also my home), so I could spend long days reading books, uninterrupted and blissful.
But even though I was alone most days and the people who sought me out were, 999 times out of 1,000, looking for a book, there was that one time now and again when someone came to my door bearing malice and a gun.
I often think that this was true because of my decade-long friendship with Fearless Jones. Fearless was 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. Fearless Jones wasn't even afraid of poverty, which made him a rare man indeed. No one could intimidate him and so he went wherever he wanted and associated with anyone he cared to.
Those anyones often came to me when they were looking for my friend and expressed themselves in ways that Fearless would not have stood for-if he were there.
Sometimes Fearless came to me when he was in a jam and needed the clear eye of logic to see his way out. And, because he'd saved my life more than once, I most often agreed to help, with the caveat that my aid wouldn't throw me into trouble.
The problem was, Fearless didn't ever feel like he was in trouble.
"Don't worry," he'd tell me. "It ain't all that bad."
And then someone was shooting at us, and Fearless did some impossible maneuver, and the gunman was disarmed, and Fearless was there smiling, saying, "You see? I told you it was all right."
So when I heard that knock on my door at 3:51 in the afternoon, I moved the hem of the drape expecting one thing, but instead I saw Ulysses S. Grant IV staring up into the mirror and waving.
"Open up, Paris. It's me."
I was a fool. I knew it even then. So what if Useless saw me in my mirror? I didn't have to open the door. I could have walked upstairs, opened up a copy of Don Quixote that I'd just acquired, and read to my heart's content.
"Come on, Cousin," Useless said. "I know you there."
I should have walked away, but Useless worried me. The kind of trouble he brought was like an infection. He never had a simple yes-or-no kind of problem; it was always "You're already in a mess. Now how do you plan to get out?"
I opened the door and stood to bar his entrance.
"What do you want?" I asked him.
"Let me by, Cousin," he said with a grin. "I need some ice water."
"I'm not askin' you again, Useless."
We were the same height, which is to say short, and he was fairly light colored, where I am considered dark (that is unless you see me standing next to Fearless Jones). Ulysses S. Grant IV, whom everyone but his mother and Fearless called Useless, was a petty thief, a liar, a malingerer, and just plain bad luck. His mother and mine were half-sisters, and I'd been dragged off by the ear because of him as far back as I could remember. As young as nine years old I was avoiding Useless.
The last time we'd seen each other was at my previous bookstore. He'd come over asking for a glass of ice water and use of the toilet. After he'd gone I didn't think much of it. But that night, while I was sleeping, I began to worry. Why had he been there? Who drops by somebody's place in L.A. for a glass of water?
It was three o'clock in the morning, but I pulled myself out of bed and went into my bathroom. I searched the medicine cabinet and behind the commode and in between the bath towels stacked on a shelf. Nothing.
I made coffee in my hot-plate kitchen and then went back to lift the heavy porcelain lid off the tank of the toilet. Down in the tank was a waterproof rubber sack filled with gold chains of various lengths and designs. Solid gold. The whole thing must have weighed two pounds.
That was 4:00 a.m.
Fearless was at my place in less than half an hour and he took the swag to hide it elsewhere.
I was in bed again by five.
At 6:47 the police were at my door with a warrant.
They went right to the toilet. Somehow they managed to shatter the lid.
It was late morning before they stopped turning over my bookstore. Those cops flipped through more books in that one day than most librarians do in a year.
After all that they arrested me. Milo Sweet, the bail bondsman, got me a good lawyer who told the cops that they had nothing on me and that any accusations made against me had to be proven or at least strongly indicated.
A week later an ugly guy named Jose Favor came by my house.
"Where the gold, mothahfuckah?" he said to me right off. One of his nostrils was wider than its brother, and the knuckles of his fists were misshapen, probably from beating on smaller men like me.
"You will have to speak to my agent," I told the man, who had already grabbed me by the collar of my shirt.
"Fearless Jones," I said, and he let me go.
"What about him?" the ugly black man with the round eyes asked.
"He told me that anyone wanna know anything about gold they should come and see him."
Jose didn't say any more. I never heard about the gold again. Fearless came by the next week and took me to Tijuana, where we drank tequila and met some very nice young ladies who taught us Spanish and made us breakfast four mornings in a row.
I hadn't seen Useless since then and I hadn't missed him for a second.
"I'M IN TROUBLE, PARIS," Ulysses said, looking pathetic.
"I need help."
"I sell books, not help."
"It's about that time with the gold chains, right?" he asked me.
I didn't even answer.
"That wasn't my fault, Paris. The cops got a hold'a me and like to beat me half to death. I told 'em that I hid 'em in yo' sto'. I told 'em you didn't know nuthin' about it."
I could have asked him why did they arrest me, then? But that would have opened a conversation, and I didn't want to have anything to do with Useless Grant.
"I need a place to hide out," he said.
"We blood, Paris."
"That might be, but I ain't bleedin' for you."
I thought Useless was going to break down and cry. But then he looked at my face and saw that I wouldn't let him in if he was having a heart attack. He wasn't getting across my threshold even if he fell down dead.
"Well, do me one favor, okay?" he said.
I just stared at him.
"Tell Three Hearts that there's a man named Hector wrote my name on a black slip'a paper. Tell her that I tried to make it work with Angel, but I guess I was mudfoot just like she said."
I didn't say a thing. Nothing. Useless was less than that to me. I heard his words and I would repeat them if I ever saw his mother again, but he wasn't going to make it into my house.
No sir, not in a thousand years.
Excerpted from Fear of the Dark by Walter Mosley Copyright © 2006 by Walter Mosley. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Walter Mosley is the author of the acclaimed Easy Rawlins series of mysteries including national bestseller CINNAMON KISS, LITTLE SCARLET, BAD BOY BRAWLY BROWN, the Fearless Jones series including FEARLESS JONES and FEAR ITSELF, the novels BLUE LIGHT and RL'S DREAM, and two collections of stories featuring Socrates Fortlow, ALWAYS OUTNUMBERED, ALWAYS OUTGUNNED, for which he received the Anisfield-Wolf Award, and WALKIN' THE DOG. He was born in Los Angeles and lives in New York.
- New York, New York
- Date of Birth:
- January 12, 1952
- Place of Birth:
- Los Angeles, California
- B.A., Johnson State College
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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I loved this book and this series. I am typically an Easy Rawlins lover, and was skeptical about these new series but, I was proven wrong. I can't wait for the next book to come out.
I STARTED THIS BOOK WITH HIGH EXPECTATIONS. FINISHED IT WITH A SENSE OF RELIEF. GLAD THAT THE TORTURE WAS OVER. I DON'T GET WHAT ALL THE HYPE IS ABOUT THESE BOOKS. PARIS MINTON, ULYSSES, FEARLESS JONES, AND THREE HEARTS ENOUGH ALREADY. I JUST COULD NOT GET INTO THIS STORY. IT HAD ME HOOKED RIGHT UP TIL PARIS GETS IN THE CELLAR WITH THE DEAD BODY, AT THAT POINT EVERYTHING FROM THEN ON OUT WENT DOWN HILL, AND FAST FOR ME. SAVE THIS BOOK FOR A RAINY OR SNOWY DAY, WITH NOTHING ELSE EXCITING TO DO.
Ya gotta love Fearless Jones and the other crazy characters that inhabit this book! Filled with murders and convoluted con games in a part of Los Angeles where no one is straight, this book is at times very funny but always easy to read.
This book was a true thiller. If you enjoy reading mysteries, this is a great read. The mix of suspense, humor, characters and story was a marvelous blend.
Simply stated: EXCELLENT! If you liked the previous books in the Fearless Jones series, you'll LOVE this one! Keep up the good work, Mr. Mosley.
Worth every dime and more. I was reading it when I should have been working and I made sure I put my name on the inside of this one just in case it comes up missing. Walter Mosley writes about our neighbors, our crazy family, and all the legends that lived in our neighborhood with reputations so horrible or so sweet, either way, one didn't believe any of it. Walter Mosley is an urban legend.
¿I was expecting one kind of trouble when another came knocking at my door.¿ Thus starts another Paris Minton and Fearless Jones mystery, and it starts when Paris¿ cousin Ulysses, better known as Useless, comes by to ask for his help. Useless always gets Paris into trouble, and his visit begins a sequence of events that begins with Paris meeting Jessa, the white girl who causes the invasion of Paris¿s perfect niche, his Florence Avenue Used Book Shop, by a huge white man called Tiny. Tiny¿s murder in his shop continues the sequence until Three Hearts, Ulysses¿ mother and owner of the dreaded evil eye, comes to Los Angeles carrying a gun and looking for her missing boy. At that point the search for Useless is truly on as Paris and Fearless uncover a trail of murder, sex, and blackmail. As Paris tries to figure out what Useless and his mysterious girlfriend, Angel, were up to and what to do next, he and Fearless encounter bad guys, befriend hapless characters, survive jail, and manage to capture a dangerous bail skipper. This is a compelling epic in the Greek sense told well by a master storyteller. What's unfortunate is that sometimes Mosley's insights into people and motivations make many people uncomfortable and thus, his stories will not find the wide audience they deserves.
In 1956 Watts, Ulysses 'Useless' S. Grant IV visits his cousin bookseller Paris Minton with his usual request he needs his help to extract him out of a potentially lethal but definitely dangerous situation that he insists is a misunderstanding that got out of control. With a personal philosophy to avoid trouble, Paris, who refuses to allow Useless into his home or store, knows he needs to say no because assisting his cousin means you bought into strife you do not need. Still he loves his aunt, Useless¿ mom, so cannot refuse the creep needing a hero, he turns to his friend Fearless Jones.-------------- Fearless has his own problems at the moment as he fears the dark ever since he was buried in a crawl space with a dead Tiny Bobchek, former boyfriend of his lover Jessa Brown and all he could think of when he was in the crawl space was sharing eternity with this loser. Still he will do anything for his friend Paris even saving the sorry butt of blackmailing trickster Useless. Enlisting the dirty dozen, Fearless and his allies seek the leader of the blackmailing ring leaving behind with each clue a corpse or two.------------- In his latest appearance (see FEARLESS JONES and FEAR ITSELF) Fearless faces his fears as he assists his friend Paris help his useless cousin out of love for the cretin¿s mom, Aunt Three Hearts. The violent exciting story line contains an interesting philosophical underpinning that ties ancient Mythos musing to 1950s street corner thinking as the hero, his loyal sidekick, and the fool do what it takes to survive, thrive, and jive in pre Dodger Los Angeles.-------------- Harriet Klausner