Mosley (Known to Evil) plays out an intriguing premise in his powerful latest: a man is given a second shot at life, but at the price of a hastened death. Ptolemy Grey is a 91-year-old man, suffering from dementia and living as a recluse in his Los Angeles apartment. With one foot in the past and the other in the grave, Ptolemy begins to open up when Robyn Small, a 17-year-old family friend, appears and helps clean up his apartment and straighten out his life. A reinvigorated Ptolemy volunteers for an experimental medical program that will restore his mind, but at hazardous cost: he won't live to see 92. With the clock ticking, Ptolemy uses his rejuvenated mental abilities to delve into the mystery of the recent drive-by shooting death of his great-nephew, Reggie, and to render justice the only way he knows how, goaded and guided by the memory of his murdered childhood mentor, Coydog McCann. Though the details of the experimental procedure are less than convincing, Mosley's depiction of the indignities of old age is heartbreaking, and Ptolemy's grace and decency make for a wonderful character and a moving novel. (Nov.)
The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey.
Mosley, Walter (Author)
Ptolemy Grey is a 91-year-old African American living alone in violent South Central L.A. Frail and
suffering from dementia, largely forgotten by his extended family, he can’t remember to eat, his mind
“scattered over nearly a hundred years.” He relives events marked by racism, lynching, poverty, and
longing for his long-dead wife. His great-grand nephew, Reggie, takes him to the grocery store and
prompts him to eat. When Reggie is killed in a drive-by shooting, Ptolemy’s days appear to be numbered.
But Robyn, a beautiful, resourceful 17-year-old, steps in. As she sees to Ptolemy’s needs, she awakens his
desire for the lucidity he once had, and he meets a doctor who offers him a chance for several months of
mental clarity before almost certain death. Mosley’s dramatic departure from his Easy Rawlins and Leonid
McGill crime novels appears to be a very personal one, a deeply thoughtful, provocative, and often
beautiful meditation on aging, memory, family, loss, and love. Ptolemy and Robynare truly indelible
characters. Mosley’s story is ultimately life affirming, and his writing is by turns gritty and sublime. Baby
boomers caring for aged parents, or thinking about their own mortality, will line up for The Last Days of
Ptolemy Grey. Mosley’s fans of any age will also embrace it, and every library will be better for adding it.
HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: A return to top form for Mosley, who has slumped a bit since ending
his Easy Rawlins series. An aggressive marketing campaign and a poignant autobiographical connection
(Mosley helped care for a relative with dementia) will draw deserved attention to a very fine novel.--(Thomas Gaughan)
Los Angeles Times
With his 30th novel, "The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey," the fascinating Walter Mosley not only returns to top form, but also extends once again the boundaries of the hard-boiled suspense genre in which his best work always has been rooted.
No other writer of the 58-year-old Mosley's generation has done quite as much to keep the style of Hammett and Chandler from lapsing into mere mannerism. His popular Easy Rawlins mysteries — probably his best books until now — extended the genre's affinity for social realism and added a dimension of historical recovery in portraying African Americans' vital but bittersweet life in postwar Los Angeles.
Obviously, Mosley is not hampered by lack of ambition, the rules of any genre or the rules of reality that govern this planet (some of his works come under the heading of science fiction or fantasy). He's playing by his own rules, and the instrument he uses is a prose style so sweet that sometimes you can't believe that you - cynical, grown-up person that you are - are actually reading these charming tales.
New York Times Book Review
The character study at the heart of THE LAST DAYS OF PTOLEMY GREY ... is a tour de force. Narrated in an intimate whisper, the story draws us deep into the mind of an old man wandering through the remnants of his memories, searching for the key to an old mystery. Physically fragile and mentally lost, 91-year-old Ptolemy Grey lives alone in shocking squalor, dependent on his great-grandnephew Reggie for the basic necessities of life. Ptolemy is still capable of holding a conversation — but mostly with people from long ago, like Coy McCann, the charismatic friend and mentor who entrusted the young Ptolemy with a stolen fortune and the mission to “take that treasure and make a difference for poor black folks.”
Mosley is best known for his critically acclaimed crime novels featuring Easy Rawlins, Socrates Fortlow and Leonid McGill; but he has always resisted being categorized, venturing into mainstream novels, science fiction and social commentary. Making an aged dementia patient the main character of "The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey" is the author's most daring effort to date.
Fanciful and reassuring, this quietly charming Australian import examines universal experiences and emotions. Clancy, a young boy, has just moved from what appears to be a small-town setting to an imposing urban block. His parents, seemingly oblivious to his discomfort, extol the virtues of their large, modern new home while Clancy yearns for the cozy comfort of the familiar. Gleeson's straightforward, child-centered text highlights this discrepancy in attitudes, contrasting the parents' sweeping pronouncements about the new house with the repeated phrase, "Clancy remembers..." Blackwood's softly scratchy illustrations support the text, pairing large, empty, monochromatic rooms as Clancy views them with small, colorful images he remembers from home, varying perspective effectively to communicate mood. Before Clancy (and readers) can get too distressed, however, the action moves outside, where Clancy finds a new friend. Absorbed in building towers, trains and fairy-tale houses from the empty packing boxes (the last game explaining the otherwise bewildering pig-shaped clouds on the cover), Clancy clearly begins to feel more at home. Cozy and sweetly empathetic.
The plot, the pure sweetness and believability of this story, comes from the romance that springs up between the 17-year-old girl and the 91-year-old man, as together they create a world where nothing can be stolen, only given, with the limitless generosity of love.
The Washington Post
Mosley's (www.waltermosley.com) latest work is a significant departure from his classic Easy Rawlins series (Devil in a Blue Dress). Ptolemy Grey, 91, lost in his memories and with every thought a terrible struggle, lives as a recluse in his filthy apartment. When a 17-year-old family friend moves in to help out, the pair find a doctor who will treat Grey's memory with an experimental drug, but it will hasten his demise, a cost that is acceptable to Grey. Actor/narrator Dominic Hoffman (dominichoffman.com) perfectly presents Grey's last days. A provocative, thoughtful novel that will leave listeners debating how they would behave under similar circumstances, this is sure to do well among Mosley's fans and would make a terrific book club listen. [The Riverhead hc was recommended for "Mosley's dedicated fans as well as comprehensive, contemporary American fiction collections," LJ 10/1/10.—Ed.]—Donna Bachowski, Orange Cty. Lib. Syst., Orlando, FL