If you have always believed that addiction is a bad thing, then you probably have never read a novel by the mighty Walter Mosley. In Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned, Mosley introduces Socrates Fortlow, a character who is as philosophical as his namesake. And every paragraph of the novel is potent. Not since Donald Goines has a writer been able to hypnotize and stimulate the mind of his readers with writing as fast-paced and habit-forming. Its successor, Walkin' The Dog, only leads one to question if Mosley was granted some rare magical pen once used by other powerful writers like Ayn Rand.
Vigorous, dynamic, and magnetic only begin to describe Mosely’s work. Reading his novels is similar to attending church for some. With the turn of each page, he leaves his readers saying “amen", or “tell it like it is.” His forceful and insightful writing is a spiritual journey through the streets of America. Mosley has mastered the ability to break through the surface of his fellow man’s world and penetrate the core of his being. That which makes him who he is anger, love, fear, hate. To be impressed by Mosley’s novels is typical, but to be possessed and transformed is necessary.
His latest novel, Little Scarlet, is the latest link in his long chain of great books. Smoke lingers in the air during the aftermath of the L.A. riots, the blood of the people still boils. In this shambled city, the police call upon Easy Rawlins to help prevent another catastrophe from occurring.
A woman, Little Scarlet, is found dead in Watts. In order not to draw attention from the press or people in this neighborhood, the police enlist Easy in the search for her killer. They suspect her murderer is a white man who fled into her building after he was wrenched from his car during the violent outbreak of the riots. The man and his car have disappeared; it is Easy’s job to find both.
As Easy hunts through back alleys and suburbs, he is faced with many obstacles. With help from old friends Mouse and Jackson, Easy is able to overcome them. He also finds his man. But after questioning him, Easy realizes he has the wrong guy.
The identity of the real killer is revealed to Easy soon after. He discovers a man who has been infected with the same disease that caused people to burn and loot their own neighborhood – self-hatred. It is this hatred he used as motivation to kill not only Little Scarlet but other women like her. Easy Rawlins is infuriated that no one cared enough to notice the pattern connecting the death of these women beforehand.
Although many of Mosley’s previous novels have dealt with the suffering of black men, this novel clearly explores the plight of black women in society. He illustrates what happens to a group of people when they are scrutinized and mistreated due to the “scarlet” mark – black skin – they have been forced to wear without their control. Little Scarlet is only a novel. However, it does the best job holding up the proverbial mirror to people of all races. The truth sometimes hurts, but in this case, it sets you free.