Walter Mosley is one of the more unique and versatile mainstream writers out there. Most noted for his Easy Rawlins mystery series, Mosley has also written some simple noir tales, science and speculative fiction, and other stuff that can be difficult to categorize. This one falls in the other. I’ve always meant to read a non-mystery by Mosley and what better time than being isolated during a pandemic?
This one is an interesting tale. There are crime elements but it’s not really a crime story. It’s more of an internal narrative from a female adult actress who is looking to quit the business. It’s a daring thing: a male author writing that perspective. And for the most part, I think Mosley pulls it off.
This one has strong echoes of James Cain’s Mildred Pierce in that it’s about a woman looking to make wholesale changes in her life while being trapped in a patriarchal system that makes change difficult. Mosley does a good job at laying traps for Sandy (“Debbie”) to navigate while slowly but surely parceling out what led her to live this life. It’s not pleasant; Sandy’s background mirrors many a Mosley black character who grew up in the environs of Los Angeles. But it makes for a compelling story as you don’t know where it’s going to go from moment to moment.
If I were to compare it to Mosley’s other works, I feel like it bears a strong resemblance to his Leonid McGill ones. It seems like later in life, Mosley has been content writing these moody, atmospheric mumble-noirs. This one, along with the McGill books, have this ethereal feel, like they’re happening on a sepia-toned screen in a life that mirrors our own but isn’t. I enjoy the uniqueness of his late career voice. It gives a distance to his stories that allows them to breathe and allows the reader to reflect.
I’m not a woman or an adult actor. I’ve read stories of both and I know there are probably issues with what Mosley is doing here. But I think this is a quality addition to his oeuvre. He takes his subject seriously and writes her a world.