Thursday, May 28, 2020

Fearless Jones: Walter Mosley

The star of this book (and the narrator) is Paris Minton, but there would not be much of a story without his friend Fearless Jones. They are a case of opposites attracting; Paris is the brains and Fearless is the brawn (and in some cases, the conscience). The story takes place in Watts in 1954.

Description from the back of my book:
Bookshop owner Paris Minton is minding his own business when a brief encounter with a beautiful stranger gets him beaten, shot at, robbed, and then burned out of the store and home. Paris needs help but his secret weapon–brave, reckless WWII hero Fearless Jones–is in jail. Vowing to dish out some heavy justice, Paris plots to get Jones back on the street. But when these two men come together, they'll find themselves trapped in a bewildering vortex of sex, money, and murder–and a dicey endgame that's littered with dangerous players...
I love Paris Minton. I admire him because he has worked hard (and creatively) to own a bookstore and support himself, but I love him because he loves books.
Business [in the bookstore] wasn't brisk, but it paid the rent and utilities. And all day long I could do the thing I loved best–reading. I read Up from Slavery, Tom Sawyer Abroad, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Mein Kampf, and dozens of other titles in the first few months. Whole days I spent in my reclining swivel chair, turning pages and drinking Royal Crown colas.
Fearless Jones, his friend, is very big, a brawny guy, with anger management problems.
Fearless Jones. Tall and slender, darker than most Negroes in the American melting pot, he was stronger than tempered steel and an army-trained killing machine.
... and ...
Fearless was the kind of person who attracted trouble. He didn't know how to look away or back down. He couldn't even spell the word compromise. Whenever he called me, I didn't know if we were going to get drunk at a party or get jumped down some dark alley. 
In Fearless Jones, Paris Minton's life is disrupted by a beautiful woman in trouble. As a result of getting involved with her, his book store is burned down. Paris doesn't want to go looking for trouble, but he does want his store back. He needs Fearless Jones, so he gets him out of jail. There are a lot of characters, mostly bad guys. There is a crooked cop and there are good cops, but mostly it is up to Paris and Fearless to take care of themselves.

In my review of A Red Death, the second book in the Easy Rawlins series, I noted that I found the book dark, gritty, and violent, to an extent that it lessened my enjoyment of the book. This book also has those elements. But with all the crime and violence, I still enjoyed reading about Paris and Fearless. I think it is their friendship and loyalty to each other that I like.

As in A Red Death, there is an emphasis on the sympathy of blacks with Jewish people and vice versa, since both have suffered from prejudice and suppression. This book is set in 1954, so the effects and events of World War II are still on people's minds.

When I was about halfway through this book, I was thinking that I preferred the Easy Rawlings series more (I have only read two of those).  Then when I finished Fearless Jones, I decided I liked this one better. I guess that both series have their strong points and it is good that they are different.

I don't want to go too overboard in praising this book, because I think the plot is too fragmented. Like real life. The type of plot that has no happy ending. But I was focused on characters, not plot, and all I wanted was for Paris to get his book store back so it all worked for me.


Publisher:   Vision, 2002 (orig. pub. 2001)
Length:       337 pages
Format:      Paperback
Series:       Fearless Jones #1
Setting:      Los Angeles, CA
Genre:       Historical fiction / Mystery
Source:      On my TBR pile since 2013.


neer said...

Tracy, you seemed to have liked it better than I did. Perhaps my over-expectations kind of led to disappointment. Still remember, however, the Afro-American kid's horrifying experience in the library. Very raw and gutting.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I have read three or four of the Easy Rawlins series, which is brilliant. And I have a collection of stories I have read at. But not this one.

Margot Kinberg said...

I'm very glad you liked this one, Tracy. Mosley writes in a realistic, gritty way, and I respect that. I admit that I like the Easy Rawlins novels a little better, but both Paris and Fearless are great characters, and I do like Mosley's depictions of his settings.

TracyK said...

Neeru, I knew you had reviewed this book at your old blog and I thought I had searched for it on your new blog, but did not find the review. Today I searched again and did find it. I agree the story is a mess, or more complicated than it needs to be, but I did enjoy reading the book very much. Thanks for mentioning the part about his rejection at the library as a child. The book has lovely things to say about reading and libraries.

TracyK said...

Patti, I do have more of the Easy Rawlins series to read, and now I am motivated to try his two other series characters: Socrates Fortlow and Leonid McGill. I will be looking for the other two Fearless Jones books sometime.

TracyK said...

Margot, I thought I remembered that you liked Walter Mosley's books. He is a very good writer but as you say, very gritty.

col2910 said...

I haven't read any from this series and not enough from the Rawlins. I have enjoyed him and he's very prolific and I don't think I'll ever get caught up.

TracyK said...

I know what you mean, Col. When I look at the long list of Easy Rawlins books, then the other series, I don't know how I will read them all either (and all the other good authors out there). Right now I will just stick with the ones I have in house and then fill in more later.