A history of terrible violence including rape and murder followed by 27 years of incarceration in a prison with its own codified violence have helped shape Socrates Fortlow, previously featured in two short story collections, Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned(1997) and Walkin' the Dog(1999). The hardened ex-con living in South Central L.A. has been chiseled by his experiences into a hulking essence of wise humanity. An initial gathering of diverse characters (a Muslim, a Jew, a Buddhist, a gambler, a singer, a lawyer, two killers, etc.) brought together by Socrates becomes an agent of change. The weekly "Thinkers' Meetings" grow despite internal dissension and attempts at suppression and subversion by authorities. The talks forge bonds, lead to actions, spread beyond L.A. and take on a life of their own. In the face of gangs, drugs, poverty and racism, Mosley poses the deceptively simple question-"What can I do?"-and provides a powerful and moving answer. (Oct.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Socrates Fortlow returns in his third adventure (after Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned and Walkin' the Dog), ready to change his corner of South Central L.A. A reformed murderer and rapist, Socrates knows only too well his own emotional limitations and does his best to guide his friends, especially his ward, Darryl, in avoiding the same treacherous path. In an effort to stop talking and start doing, he gathers a diverse ethnic and religious group of community members for weekly "Thinkers' Meeting" discussions on different issues in his rented house, the Big Nickel. It becomes the spot for everyone to gather. From holding poetry slam nights to negotiating rival gang disputes, Socrates slowly starts to turn his community around but not without the constant harassment of local law enforcement. As the members of the meetings come away with their own personal victories and redemption, prolific author Mosley skillfully illustrates what can be accomplished in communities rife with racism and destitution. Highly recommended for popular fiction collections.
Joy St. John
Ex-con Socrates Fortlow, the conscience of South Central Los Angeles (Walkin' the Dog, 1999, etc.), returns for another dozen interlinked adventures, most of them revolving around dialogues on tough or taboo subjects. Years after he was released from prison for rape and homicide, Socrates has a new project: the Big Nickel, a community center whose premises he cleverly acquires in the opening story. Every week, the Thursday Night Thinkers' Meeting convenes. During the meeting members discuss "the world and what would be the right thing to do." Since the Thursday night group includes gambler Billy Psalms, murderer Ronald Zeal, his attorney Cassie Wheaton, singer Marianne Lodz, her silent friend Luna Barnet, carpenter Antonio Peron, wealthy junk man Chaim Zetel and karate master Wan Tai, lively disagreements are guaranteed, especially when the discussion turns, as it often does, to race. While Socrates and his friends celebrate the power of arguments in their safe space to produce deeper insights, events from outside keep intruding. A much younger member of the group confesses her love to Socrates. He finds an unexpected source of funding that helps him dramatically expand his outreach. His adoptive son Darryl is shot. The LAPD, suspicious of the Big Nickel, uses an informant to infiltrate the group. A baseless search of the premises leads Socrates to threaten Capt. Telford Winegarten, of the Anti-gang Tactical Division, with a lawsuit. Socrates and Billy Psalms, on a trip to San Francisco, get arrested for Driving While Black. And in the climactic story, Socrates once more stands trial for murder. The debates meant to be the volume's backbone are heartfelt dramatizations of familiarpositions, and the Big Nickel's achievements seem a little utopian. The main attraction, as usual, is Socrates, whose manful attempts to live out his dialectic on the mean streets of Watts make him a hero worthy of his namesake.