By Walter Mosley
Norton Books, 208pages, 1998, $23.00.

Reviewed by Rick McMahan (5/98)

Walter Mosley's claim to fame has been tales of Easy Rawlins, but his collection of short stories in his latest book, ALWAYS OUTNUMBERED, ALWAYS OUTGUNNED introduces a new character Socrates Fortlow.

Fortlow is a 90s character. We learn that Socrates was recently freed after paying a debt of 26 years for a double murder he committed. Socrates has fled to Los Angeles when we first meet him. He's just a step above being homeless, living in small apartment, little more than a shack. In each of the stories, whether it's him befriending a young boy or trying to get a simple but honorable job as a bagboy at a grocery store, the tales are about Socrates and the struggles of living in the ghettos of LA. A poor black man, a felon with the mark of a Cain to live with for his life, Socrates is not an unsoiled hero. In fact, Socrates does not try to be a hero, all he tries to do is be a good and just man. He believes in loyalty to friends and his community. Socrates is not unsoiled, he has the mark of Cain on his hands, but he is a man of honor, and a man who has a homespun link to his philosopher's namesake.

As an aside, HBO has turned this into an original movie starring Laurence Fishburne which is a well made film and stays true to form of Mosley's novel. Hopefully, Walter Mosley will continue to take us along on the sometimes bumpy journey of Socrates Fortlow.

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