The New York Times
The Long Fall (Leonid McGill Series #1)by Walter Mosley
His name is etched on the door of his Manhattan office: LEONID McGILL , PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR. It's a name that takes a little explaining, but he's used to it. "Daddy was a communist and great-great- Granddaddy was a slave master from Scotland. You know, the black man's family tree is mostly root. Whatever you see aboveground is only a hint at the real story."
His name is etched on the door of his Manhattan office: LEONID McGILL , PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR. It's a name that takes a little explaining, but he's used to it. "Daddy was a communist and great-great- Granddaddy was a slave master from Scotland. You know, the black man's family tree is mostly root. Whatever you see aboveground is only a hint at the real story." Ex-boxer, hard drinker, in a business that trades mostly in cash and favors: McGill's an old-school P.I. working a city that's gotten fancy all around him. Fancy or not, he has always managed to get by—keep a roof over the head of his wife and kids, and still manage a little fun on the side—mostly because he's never been above taking a shady job for a quick buck. But like the city itself, McGill is turning over a new leaf, "decided to go from crooked to slightly bent." New York City in the twenty-first century is a city full of secrets—and still a place that reacts when you know where to poke and which string to pull....
The New York Times
The Washington Post
Mosley leaves behind the Los Angeles setting of his Easy Rawlins and Fearless Jones series (Devil in a Blue Dress, etc.) to introduce Leonid McGill, a New York City private detective, who promises to be as complex and rewarding a character as Mosley's ever produced. McGill, a 53-year-old former boxer who's still a fighter, finds out that putting his past life behind him isn't easy when someone like Tony "The Suit" Towers expects you to do a job; when an Albany PI hires you to track down four men known only by their youthful street names; and when your 16-year-old son, Twill, is getting in over his head with a suicidal girl. McGill shares Easy's knack for earning powerful friends by performing favors and has some of the toughness of Fearless, but he's got his own dark secrets and hard-won philosophy. New York's racial stew is different than Los Angeles's, and Mosley stirs the pot and concocts a perfect milieu for an engaging new hero and an entertaining new series. (Mar.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Mosley, a master of detective stories best known for his Easy Rawlins series, introduces Leonid McGill, a reformed bad man who strives to hold to his own principles in the roughest situations. Cops don't trust him, hard guys pressure him, and most people underestimate him. His wife abandoned him but now wants him back, two of their kids aren't his, and he's in love with a beautiful woman who's trying to kick him out of his office. McGill is hired to find the names and addresses of four men. Soon, they're all dead, and he wants to know why. The violence escalates, but he refuses to give up. Mosley always tells a compelling story, and this is no exception. But, unlike the Rawlins novels, it has an air of the formulaic. It takes too many digressions to explain McGill's past, and while the Rawlins's Mouse comes across persuasively as a particularly lethal product of the harsh ghettos, McGill's Hush, an ex-hit man who now drives a limousine, seems too good (or bad) to be real. For all its flaws, though, once you start reading this mystery, you won't want to stop. Recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 11/1/08.]
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Table of Contents
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
ALSO BY WALTER MOSLEY
EASY RAWLINS MYSTERIES
Six Easy Pieces
Bad Boy Brawly Brown
A Little Yellow Dog
A Red Death
Devil in a Blue Dress
The Tempest Tales
Killing Johnny Fry
The Man in My Basement
Fear of the Dark
Walkin’ the Dog
The Right Mistake
This Year You Write Your Novel
What Next: A Memoir Toward
Life Out of Context
Workin’ on the Chain Gang
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Copyright © 2009 by Walter Mosley
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
Published simultaneously in Canada
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
The long fall / Walter Mosley.
eISBN : 978-1-101-01137-9
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
While the author has made every effort to provide accurate telephone numbers and Internet addresses at the time of publication, neither the publisher nor the author assumes any responsibility for errors, or for changes that occur after publication. Further, the publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
I’m sorry, Mr. um? . . .” the skinny receptionist said.
Her baby-blue-on-white nameplate merely read JULIET.
She had short blond hair that was longer in the front than in the back and wore a violet T-shirt that I was sure would expose a pierced navel if she were to stand up. Behind her was a mostly open-air-boutique-like office space with ten or twelve brightly colored plastic desks that were interspersed by big, leafy, green plants. The eastern wall, to my right, was a series of ceiling-to-floor segmented windowpanes that were not intended to open.
All the secretaries and gofers that worked for Berg, Lewis & Takayama were young and pretty, regardless of their gender. All except one.
There was a chubby woman who sat in a far corner to the left, under an exit sign. She had bad skin and a utilitarian fashion sense. She was looking down, working hard. I immediately identified with her.
I imagined sitting in that corner, hating everyone else in the room.
“Mr. Brown isn’t in?” I asked, ignoring Juliet’s request for a name.
“He can’t be disturbed.”
“Couldn’t you just give him a note from me?”
Juliet, who hadn’t smiled once, not even when I first walked in, actually sneered, looking at me as if I were a city trash collector walking right from my garbage truck into the White House and asking for an audience with the president.
I was wearing a suit and tie. Maybe my shoe leather was dull, but there weren’t any scuffs. There were no spots on my navy lapels, but, like that woman in the corner, I was obviously out of my depth: a vacuum-cleaner salesman among high-paid lawyers, a hausfrau thrown in with a bevy of Playboy bunnies.
“What is your business with Mr. Brown?” the snotty child asked.
“He gives financial advice, right?”
She almost answered but then decided it was beneath her.
“I’m a friend of a friend of his,” I said. “Jumper told me that Roger might show me what to do with my money.”
Juliet was getting bored. She took in a deep breath, letting her head tilt to the side as she exhaled.
It wasn’t my skin color that bothered her. People on Madison Avenue didn’t mind dark skins in 2008. This woman might have considered voting for Obama, if she voted. She might have flirted with a rap star at some chic nightclub that only served imported champagne and caviar.
Roger Brown was black. So were two of the denizens of the airy workspace. No. Juliet didn’t like me because of my big calloused hands and no-frills suit. She didn’t like me because I was two inches shorter and forty pounds heavier than a man should be.
“If I leave you my card, will you make sure that he gets it?”
After another sigh she held out a hand, palm up.
My fat red-brown wallet was older than the child, no doubt. I opened it and rooted among the fake business cards that were the hallmark of my trade. I decided on one that I hadn’t brought out since a woman I hardly knew had died at my feet.
Van Der Zee Domestics
and In-home Service Aides
I went down on one knee, taking a pen from the red plastic desktop.
“Excuse me,” Juliet said in protest.
I scrawled for Roger (aka B-Brain) Brown across the bottom. Beneath that I added a number from a lost, or maybe stolen, cell phone that I had purchased specifically for this job. I stood up easily, without grunting, because, unknown to Juliet, most of my extra weight was muscle. I handed her the card and she took it gingerly by a corner.
“Is that all?” she said.
The chubby woman in the corner looked up at just that moment. I grinned at her and waved. She returned the gesture with a slightly puzzled smile.
“Thank you for your time,” I said, pretending I was talking to the woman under the exit sign. “This means a lot to me.”
Juliet sucked a tooth and pulled in her chin.
I remember a time when only black women did that.
STOMPING DOWN THE two flights to the street, I was thinking about when I would have pushed harder to get past that girl. All I had to do was get a look at Roger Brown. I had never even seen a photograph of the man but I knew he was black and in his thirties with a small crescent scar under his right eye. All I needed was one look.
At an earlier point in my career I would have probably done something extreme to achieve that simple goal. I might have raised my voice and demanded to see her supervisor, or just walked past her, looking into offices until Roger Brown showed his face, or not. I could have pulled the fire alarm in the hallway or even put a smoke bomb in a trash can. But those days were pretty much over for me. I hadn’t given up on being a private detective; that was all I knew. I still took incriminating photographs and located people who didn’t necessarily want to be found. I exposed frauds and cheats without feeling much guilt.
In other words, I still plied my trade but now I worried about things.
In the years before, I had no problem bringing people down, even framing them with false evidence if that’s what the client paid for. I didn’t mind sending an innocent man, or woman, to prison because I didn’t believe in innocence—and virtue didn’t pay the bills. That was before my past caught up with me and died, spitting blood and curses on the rug.
I STILL HAD a family that looked to me for their sustenance. My wife didn’t love me and two out of three grown and nearly grown children were not of my blood. But none of that mattered. I had a job to do, and more than one debt to pay.
So I had contracted to find four men. I’d already located three of them. One was dead, one in prison, and the third was awaiting trial. Of the four, only Roger Brown, if this was indeed the Roger Brown I was looking for, had made some kind of life for himself, the kind of life where a pretty young white girl protected his privacy and called him Mister in an office of first names.
Maybe I went easy on Juliet because I was worried about Roger. The job was presented as a straightforward case, with no criminal prosecution involved. But if you find three bad apples, you know there’s got to be something rotten somewhere.
I walked down Madison in the bright summer sunshine, hoping that this Roger wasn’t the Roger I was looking for; and even if he was, I would have been happy if he never called.
From the Sixties on the East Side of Manhattan I took a yellow cab down to Thirty-fourth Street, a little west of Penn Station. Gordo’s Gym took up the entire fifth floor of a dirty brick building that was built sometime before Joe Louis knocked out the Cinderella Man. At noon on a Wednesday the ring was empty, as most of Gordo’s hopefuls were out plying day jobs to pay for their protein and locker space.
I set myself up in the corner where a heavy bag hung. That particular piece of real estate was next to a big window that was painted shut and so murky that you couldn’t see a thing through it. But I didn’t go to Gordo’s Gym three days a week for the view or the smell of men’s sweat, or for the company, for that matter.
I stripped down right there, put on my thick leather gloves (which were also older than Juliet), and started in on a rhythm of violence that kept up my balance in the rotted infrastructure of my city and my life.
Throwing a punch is the yang of a boxer’s life. The yin is being able to avoid getting hit. I’m pretty good at the yang part. Everybody knows but few can exploit the fact that a good punch comes first from the foot, moves in circular motion around the hips, and only then connects with the arm, fist, and if you’re lucky, your opponent’s jaw or rib cage. Fighting therefore is like the dance of a mighty Scot stamping and swinging in a dewy Highland morning.
For nearly twenty minutes I did my barbarian dance, punishing the big bag, allowing it to swing forward and hit me in the chest now and again. Since I’d given up smoking my wind was getting longer.
I needed anaerobic exercise to vent my anger.
I hated Roger Brown and Juliet along with so many things I had done over the years. At one time I had been able to live with myself because I could say that I only set up people who were already crooked, guilty of something—usually something bad—but not any longer.
I hit that bag with dozens of deadly combinations but in the end I was the one who was defeated, crouched over with my gloves on my knees.
“Not half bad,” a man said, his voice raspy and familiar.
“Hey, Gordo.” I didn’t raise my head because I didn’t have the strength.
“You still know how to give it yer all when you decide to give.”
“And even with that I come up short nine times out of ten.”
“You shoulda been a boxer,” one of New York’s unsung master trainers said to me.
“I liked late nights and cheap wine too much.”
“Beard like you got belongs in the ring.”
I’m a clean-shaven guy. Gordo was complimenting the iron in my jaw.
“Hit me enough,” I said, “and I’d go down like all the rest.”
“You coulda cleaned the clock of every light heavy in 1989.”
“Somebody woulda beat me.”
“That somebody was you,” Gordo said with emphasis. “You hung back when you coulda stood tall.”
“Lucky for the world that I’m a short man in inches and stature.”
I straightened up and turned to face my best friend and toughest critic.
Gordo was a short guy too, somewhere between seventy-five and eighty-eight. He was black by American racial terminology but in actuality he was more the color of untanned leather informed by a lifetime’s worth of calluses, hard knocks, and hollering. The blood had risen to his face so often that his mug had darkened into a kind of permanent rage-color.
I was still breathing hard. After all, I’m past fifty.
“Why you wanna put yourself down like that, LT?” the veteran trainer said. “You coulda been sumpin’.”
He wouldn’t have been talking to me if any of his young prospects were in the gym. Gordo hovered over his young boxers like a mama crocodile over her brood.
I slumped down on the floor, letting my wet T-shirt slap against the wall.
“That’s just not me, G. I never could take any kinda order or regimen.”
“You know how to hit that bag three times a week.”
“Is that enough?”
The sour-faced little guy frowned and shook his head, as much in disgust as in answer to my question. He turned away and limped toward his office on the other side of the big, low-ceilinged room.
After five minutes or so I made it back to my feet. I pawed the bag three or four times before my knees and hips got into it. After a minute had passed I was in a kind of frenzy. Before, I had just been angry, now I was desperate.
I think I went to Gordo’s just so that he could kick me in the ass. The foundation of our friendship was the simple fact that he never held back. I was a failure because I wasn’t a boxer—at least in his eyes. He never cared if his boys lost, only if they didn’t try.
I pounded that bag with everything I had. The sweat was streaming down my face and back and thighs. I felt lighter and lighter, stronger and stronger. For a moment there I was throwing punches like a real contender in a title match; the underdog who intended to prove the oddsmakers wrong. Everything fell into place and I wasn’t anything but ready.
And then, in an instant, the feeling slipped away. My legs gave out and I crumpled to the floor. All that I had was spent.
Gordo leaned back in his office chair and glanced out the door in my direction. He saw me lying there and leaned forward again.
Ten minutes later I got to my feet.
Twenty minutes after that I’d showered and gotten dressed. A few guys were in the gym by then. Not boxers but office workers who wanted to feel what it was like to work out next to real athletes.
I was headed for the stairs when Gordo called out to me.
The visitor’s chair in his matchbox office was a boxing stool. I squatted down on that and took a deep breath.
“What’s wrong with you, kid?”
“It’s nuthin’, G. Not a thing.”
“Naw, uh-uh,” the man who knew me as well as anyone said. “For over a year you been comin’ in here hittin’ that bag hard enough and long enough to give a young man cardiac arrest. You wasn’t all that friendly before but now even the smart-asses around here leave you alone. Don’t tell me it’s nuthin’. Uh-uh. It’s sumpin’ and it’s gettin’ worse.”
“I got it under control,” I said.
“Talk to me, Leonid.” Gordo never used my given name. He called me Kid or LT or McGill in everyday banter. But there was no humor in him right then.
“You once told me that you didn’t want to know about what I did to make a living,” I said in a last-ditch attempt to stave him off.
The old man grinned and tapped his forehead with the four fingers of his left hand.
“I got more dirty secrets up here than a slot machine got nickels,” he said. “I didn’t wanna know about your business ’cause I knew that you couldn’t talk about it an’ still come around.”
In order to be a good trainer you had to be a teacher, a counselor, a psychologist, and a priest. In order to be a great trainer—add to that list, an irrefutable liar.
“You can do it, kid,” the trainer says when his fighter is down on points with his good eye swollen shut.
“He’s gettin’ tired. It’s time to pour it on,” the trainer says when the opponent is grinning and bouncing on his toes in the opposite corner.
Gordo never wanted to hear about my shady doings before. But before ceased to exist and all we had was now.
But I couldn’t tell him the truth. I mean, how could I confess that after twenty years a young woman had found out that I’d framed her father, sending him to prison and ultimately to his death? His daughter called herself Karma, and she framed me for her own murder using seduction and a hired assassin. I killed the killer but still the young woman, Karmen Brown, died in my arms cursing me with spittle and blood on her lips.
Karmen’s last breath was a curse for me.
“Let’s just say that I realized that I’ve done some things wrong,” I said. “I’m tryin’ to backtrack now. Tryin’ to make right what I can.”
Gordo was studying me, giving away nothing of his own thoughts.
“I got a kid tells me that he can be a middleweight,” he said at last. “Problem is he thinks he’s an artist instead of a worker. Comes in here and batters around some of the rejects and thinks that he’s Marvin Hagler or somethin’.”
“Yeah? What’s his name?”
“Punterelle, Jimmy Punterelle. Italian kid. He’ll be in here the next three days. If I put some fifty-year-old warhorse in front of him and point he’ll put on a shit-eatin’ grin and go to town.”
I pretended to consider these words for a moment or two and then said, “Okay.”
It was Gordo’s brief smile that eased my sadness, somewhat. He was my de facto confessor, and Jimmy Punterelle was going to be my Hail Mary.
I checked my illegal cell phone for messages but Roger Brown hadn’t called. So when I was out on the street again I felt lighter, easier. Maybe everything would be okay. It didn’t matter if my client only found out about three lowlifes. It didn’t matter at all.
Meet the Author
Walter Mosley is one of America’s most celebrated, beloved, and bestselling writers. His books have been translated into at least twenty-one languages, and have won numerous awards. Born in Los Angeles, Mosley lives in New York City.
- New York, New York
- Date of Birth:
- January 12, 1952
- Place of Birth:
- Los Angeles, California
- B.A., Johnson State College
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Albany, New York private investigator Ambrose Thurman hires Manhattan based sleuth Leonid McGill to find four black men who were close friends to two decades ago. He gives Leonid their nicknames as that is all his client gave him. Leonid has turned over a new leaf about being morally correct when it comes to working cases to include no jobs for the mob and being straight with his wife Katrina to include no more affairs with Aura and raise his three children; two not sired by him. He learns James "Big Jim" Wright is dead; Frankie "Jumper" Tork is in the Tombs awaiting sentencing for B&E; Theodore "Toolie" Nelson is doing 86 years; and Roger "B-Brain" Brown is a successful financier. He reports the information to Ambrose, but soon afterward Jumper and B-Brain are killed; Toolie is stabbed; followed by Ambrose whose real name is Norman Fell also being murdered. As NYPD Detective Kitteridge tries to nail him, Leonid works on finding who the client was as he feels he owes B-Brain for exposing him; he also works a case involving a mobster seeking an accountant hiding in Coney Island and his teenage son Twill planning to kill an abusive pedophile father. This is an intriguing private investigative Noir starring a man who in his fifties has found scruples that makes his job that much more difficult. The prime investigation is action-packed as Leonid realizes he indirectly caused the murders and almost dies too; yet feels he must uncover the truth even flying in a prop to Albany to do so. The other two sleuthing subplots, some musings by the hero into his unprincipled past and his family drama are well handled and enable the audience to better understand Leonid's motives. Although the king of the city seems over the Empire State Building, fans will enjoy this Walter Mosley's fine opening Manhattan (and Albany) murder mystery. Harriet Klausner
Being a long time fan of Walter Mosley I was very much looking forward to this new series. Unfortunately, I found the plot to be all over the place and to have too many characters. This is the first Mosley book that I didn't have to fight not to finish in one sitting.
Big fan of WM; however this is a very poor effort. I am disappointed. Character development is poor; the plot wanders; the main character rambles. I have often given WM books to new readers. I will not pass this one along.
I personally couldn't get into the Easy Rawlins series. I tried years ago but I didn't like the movie Devil in a Blue Dress so it just didn't work for me. Maybe I'll try them again, years later and after reading this book. I read Man in the Basement and that was waaay too freaky for me but I highly commend Mr. Mosley with Leonid. I loved him from the very beginning. I can't see how anyone doesn't. I'm looking forward the other series. Yes, it has a lot of characters and yes there are some words I have to look up in the dictionary and ask...why didn't he just say that in the first place?! But I'm a nerd like that!! I enjoy flipping back and re-reading about a character. I keep a list of the words I dont' know & look them up later. I enjoy being challenged and Mr. Mosley challenges you but keeps you entertained.
This is not a good write for Mosley. I did not enjoy the book because it was not well written like Mosley other books. The characters were just too many to keep up with the story and the plot was not all that good. I felt Mosley was trying to hard to introduce this new PI.
The Long Fall by Walter Mosley introduces a new PI named Leonid McGill. A little background on McGill: He is African-American, average height, a boxer in a previous life, the son of a communist, married to a woman who had children by other men during their marriage and used to take on unscrupulous jobs if paid the right price. With all that said, McGill is trying to make up for his past by taking jobs that won't ruin the lives of others. But sometimes getting out of the life is hard to do. Mosley weaved together a great story of personal redemption while maintaining an excellent mystery. McGill, with all his flaws, is a likable character that you want to see succeed. By using his experience as a former boxer and using his own interpretation of what his communist father was trying to teach him as a child, McGill fights his way through several dangerous scraps and uses insight that is uncommon in most mystery novels.
Private detective Leonid McGill is trying to go straight, leaving his less than legal life behind. But honesty becomes challenging as he is hired by Albany private detective Ambrose Thurman to find four young men. The only information that Ambrose provides him with is the street names the young men used when they were teenagers. Leonid finds the men in question but there is something fishy about the whole situation and he is uncomfortable with certain aspects of the case. But the rent on his office is due and he needs the money so he shelves his doubts and hands over the names and addresses of the men to Ambrose. But all of Leonid's fears are confirmed when he finds out that the young men are suddenly turning up dead. In addition to all of this, Twill, Leonid's son is involved in something non too legal, his estranged wife has recently returned to his life and the woman who he truly cares for, is unavailable to him. Worst of all, as the men die, the police begin to look at him as a suspect. There is much to like about the story. I was drawn in almost from the beginning and intrigued by Leonid's life and dealings. The author has created a character who you know has a very checkered past but you almost can't help rooting for. But one of the first things that really bothered me about the book was the author's constant references to race. Characters were almost always described on a racial basis and interactions had many racial undertones. In a very small way I understand what the author was driving at when he first made certain racial references but after awhile it was extreme overkill. Also the resolution of the story was just not good enough. You spend all this time getting invested but when you find out what really happened you feel cheated. The author tried very hard to give the reader a feel for who Leonid was and brought in other story lines that were not related to the main mystery. Unfortunately, the detours became distractions and as interesting as they may have been, they became hindrance rather than help. But despite these problems I am not averse to reading more in this series(this is the first Leonid McGill mystery). I will definitely look out for the next book as I want to see what Leonid gets into the next time around.
Those women who stay at home and read e g over fifty and there are a lot and from library not buy
Walter Mosley is a great author. I have read a great number of his books, and have never been disappointed
Just when you thought there could never be a character as cool and engaging as Easy Rawlins Walter Mosley gives us Leonid McGill. It's a great read, I went on to get and read the last three books in the series. I'm finishing up #4 right now. I don't want the series to end.
If you generally like the irreverent, sometimes intense or offbeat style of Mr. Mosley, you should enjoy this book. There are a lot of nuances that some may miss the humor in, like the main character's name (the spelling), Leonid... or maybe it's just me- I thought that was funny. But I love these stories and his Fearless Jones series.The characters are just right, reminiscent of the old school detective novels. Leonid McGill is not a super hero. He is just barely legal and looking over his shoulder for those who would do him bad.There are enough twists and turns to keep you turning pages and an occasional laugh-out-loud moment. I think The Long Fall is worth the read and if you like it, try the Fearless Jones series.
An excellent novel that sweeps up the reader for.a twisting fast paced journey.
Leonid McGill stories are not the stuff of Easy Rawlins' stories. And yet, I found it entertaining, descriptive,and vivid. I could empathize (however unlikely it seemed) with McGill. I could see what he was made of, what he had done, who he wanted to be. And why. So, just put Easy Rawlins out of your mind and try this other world on, on it's own measures. You might just find, that, like me, you are entertained and want to read more. In some ways, I see McGill as Danny Glover, (known as Murtough in the Leathal Weapon movies.) Black, solidly built, long years in as a detective, McGill could almost say the same phrase "I'm too old for this..." and yet he continues the work.