To paraphrase the great Sugar Ray Robinson,” I said, “trouble is what I do.”
Walter Mosley is a poet. Sure, he writes detective novels, but the way he writes them can be pure poetry. From the names of the characters, to his descriptions, the words and phrases he chooses are a pleasure to read — but that’s only one of the reasons I loved Trouble Is What I Do, the latest Leonid McGill installment.
Let’s start with the character names. Leonid McGill is a pretty good name for a detective. His secretary is Mardi Bitterman and his son is named Twill. His client in this adventure is named Catfish Worry – Worry is the perfect name for a man who needs a private detective. Then there’s Ernie Eckles, the Mississippi Assassin. There’s Shorty Reeves, Foxy Donk, Wolfman Chord, Hush, and Captain Carson Kittridge. These are awesome names! No story with characters like this could possibly be bland.
The descriptions are also a joy to read – the kind of thing that make you want to stop for a moment and read them out loud, even if just to yourself.
“They both wore new blue jeans, checkered blue work shirts, and hard leather shoes that had counted more miles than a Fitbit could imagine.”
“He was as country as a bale of cotton on an unwilling child’s back.”
“That sharecropper, that poor black man from Mississippi who dared to stand up to the oldest oppressors this nation had to offer, Catfish had given me drink and song and trust. These were sacred gifts and, in a way, I was born again.”
And possibly my favorite (and a story I’ll be waiting for):
“The affable young man and I went to the counter, where I handed Sheila Normandy a ten-dollar bill. She smiled and handed it back along with a slip of paper that bore a phone number. That phone number got me a night of bliss, a broken wrist, and, in the end, it cost a man his life. But that’s another story.”
Sometimes, you read just for the sheer pleasure of a well-turned phrase.
Now, the story is well worth reading. It seems simple: McGill has been hired (with a mason jar full of 158-year-old bourbon) to deliver an envelope to a woman. That’s all! Nothing complicated. Not the sort of thing that should get your client shot at and your life threatened. But what is in that envelope is dangerous information, information that someone is willing to kill to keep under wraps.
It’s a great story, exciting enough to keep you turning pages at a rapid pace, but what brings me back to these novels is Leonid McGill. He’s such a fascinating character, the way he straddles the line between criminal and civilian, the way he tries to stay on the right side of things, and his acceptance of people and their failings. I’ve enjoyed every one of the Leonid McGill novels I’ve read, and this one is no exception.
My copy of Trouble Is What I Do by Walter Mosely came from the Akron-Summit County Public Library. Libraries are such a valuable community resource and even though my local branch is closed and I can’t browse the shelves, I’ve been able to load my Kindle with great reading. Please support your local library.
To add Trouble Is What I Do to your personal library, click on the link below.