The return of Paris Minton and Fearless Jones is cause for
rejoicing around this desk. Though it might be considered heresy in
some circles, Minton is my favorite creation of Walter Mosley's.
Yes, Easy Rawlins is certainly better known and more popular, and I
will readily and happily concede that Rawlins deserves all the
attention he gets. But...but...there are so many unique elements
Minton possesses that he gets my nod. Maybe it's the fact that he's
a short guy who likes to read...well, it's more than that, actually
--- a lot more.
FEAR ITSELF picks up where FEARLESS JONES left off, in the uneasy
racial turbulence of Los Angeles in the 1950s. Minton has reopened
his bookstore and, while not independently wealthy, is at least
keeping his head above water. His life is quiet and he is
content...at least until his friend Fearless Jones comes knocking.
Jones, it soon develops, has inadvertently landed himself in
trouble again, and he turns to his friend Minton for help. Minton
and Jones make an unlikely but somehow realistic pair. Minton is
well schooled and bookish, a veritable encyclopedia of unrelated
but always useful facts. Jones is a graduate of the streets, an
enigmatic individual with a quiet but stalwart courage and rumpled
nobility that manifests itself in unusual but notable ways. Minton
will go blocks out of his way to avoid trouble, but when Jones
comes knocking he is unable to turn his friend away and soon finds
himself involved in a set-to between two very different
The story starts off simply enough. An attractive woman, seemingly
in distress, has asked Jones to find Kit Mitchell, a man who had
briefly employed Jones for day labor and who is now missing. Jones
starts making inquiries but soon finds himself to be the subject of
some police inquiries. Jones, on the run, asks Minton to assist him
in locating the man. It only takes a few hours, however, before a
suspicious --- and dangerous-looking --- stranger is knocking on
Minton's door, looking for Jones. Minton reluctantly becomes
involved in Jones's inquiry and is soon caught between warring
factions of two different worlds that are both jockeying for
position in the lucrative gas station business in Los Angeles.
Minton soon realizes that what was supposed to be a missing person
matter now involves theft, kidnapping and murder --- and that he
inadvertently possesses the key to resolving the situation.
The plot of FEAR ITSELF is extremely challenging and complex; it is
best to take this novel a bit at a time to avoid becoming lost in
some of the machinations of the characters. The reading, however,
is worth every minute. Mosley is quite simply at the top of his
game here, contrasting two extremely interesting characters against
the social and cultural backdrop of mid-20th century Los Angeles.
And the ending, while extremely satisfying, has an element that
will leave you who are blessed with hindsight groaning in sympathy
for Minton and wanting to see more of him in future novels. This is
one not to be missed.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 21, 2011