Walter Mosley is a writer not afraid to push his craft in new
directions. In KILLING JOHNNY FRY, he writes a first person novel
containing some of the most explicit sex scenes written by an
established American author since Henry Miller and Philip
Trying something new is not unusual for Mosley. He burst onto the
literary scene in the early 1990s with the brilliant mystery series
featuring a black Los Angeles private detective named Easy Rawlins.
Mosley could have spent the next 30 years comfortably writing
nothing but books about Rawlins.
But instead he did what great writers do. He has written literary
novels, science fiction books and even nonfiction works about
politics. He went, in other words, where his muse and considerable
talent would take him without ever abandoning Rawlins. KILLING
JOHNNY FRY is a harrowing, extremely well-written story that grabs
you from the first page and doesn't let go.
Of course, this being America, anything this sexually explicit is
bound to set off all sorts of alarms in some circles. Think of our
archaic movie rating system that allows a film with the most
gruesome, gratuitous violence to get an "R" rating while anything
that seriously and realistically depicts human sexuality has to
fear being labeled "pornographic." Yet another reason why people
laugh at us in Europe.
Well, anybody who dismisses KILLING JOHNNY FRY as pornography or
salacious misses not only the point of the book but deprives
themselves of the pleasure of reading one of America's greatest
writers. Yes, there is some frank, really frank, sex in this book,
but it is not an erotic novel by any means. Mosley coined the term
"sexistential noir" to describe this work. It is a good description
because the book is not about sex.
Consider the first sentence: "I decided to kill Johnny Fry on a
Wednesday, but it was a week before that I was given the reason."
That tells us right away that those expecting cheap thrills will be
disappointed; Mosley plunges us right into the midnight world of
Cordell Carmel is a successful 45-year-old freelance translator
living in New York City. He had one failed marriage but has been in
a monogamous relationship with his girlfriend for several years.
They live apart, but he spends weekends at her apartment. They are
like any other successful, comfortable couple you are likely to see
having brunch together on a Sunday on the upper west side of
Manhattan while reading The New York Times. Life is good,
if a little ordinary.
Then one day he encounters a problem familiar at one point or
another to all New Yorkers: being far from home and in need of a
bathroom in a city that strangely seems to pride itself on not
having public toilets. So he drops by his girlfriend's apartment on
a weekday when he knows she will not be there in order to use the
facilities. And you can guess the rest: he finds her involved in
rather vigorous relations with one Johnny Fry, a fellow they met
through his agent.
The man cuckolded: a story not quite as old as Adam and Eve but
right up there. Then the novel takes a startling turn. Rath