cover image Walkin' the Dog

Walkin' the Dog

Walter Mosley. Little Brown and Company, $35 (272pp) ISBN 978-0-316-96620-7

Mosley can readily manage more than one empathetic series hero, and in Socrates Fortlow, introduced in Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned, he has a winner. Socrates is a former jailbird doing his best to go straight in a seamy Los Angeles full of temptation, and the novel is an examination, as powerfully relaxed as Socrates himself, of how his life works. He lives in a tiny shack in a back alley in Watts, tries to stay out of the way of the ever-suspicious cops, does a little loving (the cheerful sensuality of Mosley's writing about sex strikes exactly the right note), unwittingly acts as a role model for an unhappy teenager and eventually becomes a national symbol for his placard-wielding protest against police brutality. Where some writers would make this the pivot of their plot, it is no more than incidental to this tale, as Socrates continues to go on his quiet, unostentatious way until the fuss dies down. This is a deceptively low-key book that sneaks up on a reader with the realization of how much can be revealed by artfully chosen, dead-accurate dialogue, and how fully a uniquely admirable and always unexpected personality has been brought to life. Time Warner audio; 6-city author tour. (Oct.)