Walter Mosley is a 62-year-old man who’s written countless novels featuring strong male leads.
His protagonists — most notably Easy Rawlins, a World War II veteran and reluctant private eye, and recently Leonid McGill, a former New York City fixer for the underworld — are flawed men driven to do the right thing, even though they are far from perfect.
It’s not an uncommon theme in the world of crime fiction, and Mosley does it better than most.
And that’s why his new novel, Debbie Doesn’t Do It Anymore, is such a standout success and pleasurable tale.
This time, Mosley steers clear of the familiar. His main character, Debbie Dare, is an L.A. adult film star who has an epiphany concerning her life’s path just hours before her husband, Theon, and his young lover meet their untimely demise.
Quitting the business that gave Debbie fame and fortune is harder than you can imagine, and contains untold obstacles. She soon discovers Theon, a former adult star both in front of and behind the camera, had wasted their wealth and owed a substantial sum to a dangerous man.
Debbie also knows more about the circumstances surrounding Theon’s death and isn’t totally forthcoming with the police, which allows her to try to set things right, and in her own way.
Plus, a mysterious friend of Theon’s emerges. Is he friend or foe?
Mosley, as well as he can, lends empathy to Debbie and her plight, showing the reader how young women (and men) end up as adult film stars. How they start out as broken children. How they are ostracized by members of their family. How they are enslaved by their profession. And, ultimately, how they are all alone in this world. Just like Debbie.
But Debbie has backbone. She’s used her drop-dead looks and female wiles to her advantage in the past, but now she’s going to have to rely on her inner strength and intuition, as well as her once-dormant street smarts to survive — if she really wants to.
Mosley is skilled at creating worlds often unfamiliar to his readers.
With Mosley’s iconic Easy Rawlins, the character’s race is a driving factor in the series. But race takes a backseat in the Leonid McGill stories because it’s set in modern times and the world has changed. Instead, McGill isn’t mistrusted or underestimated because he’s black, but rather due to his criminal past. With Debbie Dare, her value as a person isn’t devalued by other characters in the book because of her race or gender, but due to her involvement in the sex industry.
Mosley, however, never lets us forget that we’re all human, we all make mistakes, we’re all flawed. And he does it with flair and often with a staccato rhythm unmatched by his contemporaries. Mosley is Thelonious Monk with a pen.
From the opening lines in Debbie Doesn’t Do It Anymore, Mosley is having fun. And there’s no reason why readers shouldn’t either.
Contact Bob Cunningham at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6506.