Review

Fearless Jones

by Walter Mosley



Where has Walter Mosley been, lo these past few years? He certainly
has not been forgotten and he hasn't been gone by any means,
either, but the sad truth of it is that he hasn't written any
mysteries since Easy Rawlins's appearance in A LITTLE YELLOW DOG in
1996. Mosley has tried his hand at science fiction and at more
"mainstream" fiction, if you will, and has proven himself as
capable at both as he is when working in the thriller genre. With
FEARLESS JONES, Mosley has confounded expectations once again by
returning to mysteries, though not to the world of Easy
Rawlins.

FEARLESS JONES is set in early 1950s Los Angeles, a city whose
black and white citizens rub shoulders uneasily and, by legalistic
fiat, only occasionally. Paris Minton is a rarity, a black
entrepreneur running a small but successful used bookstore in
Watts, and he is used to interesting effect here. One of the
elements of Mosley's writing that has made him such a favorite of
readers is his inclination to test and stretch literary limits,
coupled with his ability to be quite adept at doing so. This
quality is thoroughly demonstrated in FEARLESS JONES. While Jones
is ostensibly the hero of the piece, the story is narrated by
Minton, Jones's friend and occasionally reluctant sidekick. This
type of writing, where the action of the piece is described in the
first person by a supposedly secondary character --- think Dr.
Watson narrating the Sherlock Holmes stories --- is not easy to do.
The author risks losing focus of the story as well as the interest
of the reader if the narrator overwhelms the character described;
yet if he does too good a job of focusing on the protagonist, the
narrator's presence becomes superficial. Mosley quite deftly deals
with this problem by focusing on Minton and Jones as a team, whose
relative strengths and weaknesses compliment and balance each
other. Minton is more cerebral than the streetwise Jones; thus
when, but a few pages into FEARLESS JONES, Minton is confronted
with a thug, he tries to talk his way out of the situation, only to
be summarily pimp-slapped into unconsciousness. When Jones later
confronts the guy, he summarily lays the bully out for the count.
Yet it is Minton, ultimately, who figures out the labyrinthine
mystery that is presented so well in FEARLESS JONES.

Minton's knuckledusting comes as the result of his chivalrous
attempt to rescue Elana Love, who has rushed into Minton's used
bookstore with her angry boyfriend in hot pursuit. Love is looking
for a church and, more specifically, a minister of the church that
used to be in the neighborhood, and her boyfriend is looking for
her. Minton's attempts to assist the lady, besides getting him
summarily beaten, also get him chased and shot at. Even a night of
lovemaking with Elana Love is a two-edged sword; he awakens to find
that he has been robbed and that his bookstore has been burned to
the ground. Jones, a hero of World War II, has demonstrated to
Minton on many occasions that he has the bravery to deal with any
situation and the chops to back it up. Thus, Minton, fearing that
the next 12 hours of his life will be as bad as the previous 12,
bails his friend Fearless Jones out of jail. The men quickly
discover that Love, for all her talent and charms, is of only
secondary interest to her pursuer. Love holds a German bond that is
worth more money than any of the principals involved could ever
reasonably hope to acquire in a lifetime. The bond, of course, is
not hers; the people attempting to acquire it from her, and the
true owner of the bond, are elements that make FEARLESS JONES a
welcome return for Mosley to the mystery racks. Mosley, despite his
extended absence from writing mysteries, shows no rust at all,
deftly leading his reader through a tight plot to a convincing and,
incidentally, satisfying ending.

Mosley introduces enough secondary characters and loose ends in
FEARLESS JONES to indicate that he might be returning to the
environs of 1950s L.A. in the near future. And who knows? Perhaps
the future portends a meeting between Rawlins and Jones. We can
only hope.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 21, 2011

Fearless Jones
by Walter Mosley

  • Publication Date: June 1, 2002
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Mass Market Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Vision
  • ISBN-10: 0446610127
  • ISBN-13: 9780446610124