Have you ever read Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley? It was Mosley's debut novel and received rave reviews when it came out in 1990. Mosley was hailed as the next Raymond Chandler, probably for his "gritty realism" (read: tough men, much violence, meddlesome yet sexy women who need to be straightened out by the protagonist whom they are reluctantly yet passionately attracted to--the typical male romance novel).
I began the book with as much trepidation as I watched Capote--I was doing it because it was supposed to be good for me, not because I was going to like it. Turns out I liked it AND it was really really good. You know how when you're at a movie that is so good that you forget you're in a theater? Devil in a Blue Dress made me forget I was reading a book.
Here are my two favorite sections, both of which give you a feel for the sense of place and voice throughout the novel:
"When I opened the door I was slapped in the face by the force of Lips' alto horn. I had been hearing Lips and Wilie and Flattop since I was a boy in Houston. All of them and John and half the people in that crowded room had migrated from Houston after the war, and some before that. California was like heaven for the southern Negro. People told stories of how you could eat fruit right off the trees and get enough work to retire one day. The stories were true for the most part but the truth wasn't like the dream. Life was still hard in L.A. and if you worked every day you still found yourself at the bottom.
But being on the bottom didn't feel so bad if you could come to John's now and then and remember how it felt back home in Texas, dreaming about California. Sitting there and drinking John's scotch you could remember the dreams you once had and, for a while, it felt like you had them for real."
That's good writing. Here's some more:
"I was sitting there, naked on the toilet seat, and watching her go through the mirror-doored medicine cabinet. I felt something deep down in me, something dark like jazz when it reminds you death is waiting."
Check out that language so tight it cries. And I enjoy mysteries with strong character development, ones that go below the surface and examine the human condition, and Devil in a Blue Dress does that. Lots. Oh, and it's a movie! You know it must be good then.
Today's blog freebies: Stuff on My Cat and Llewellyn's Free Tarot Readings. It looks like love is in my cards, and all I can say is that it's about freaking time. What's in your future? Or on your cat? And whaddya know about Mosley?