Mosley's "Socrates Fortlow" Series of Novels
By Walter Mosley:
- "Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned."
- "Walkin' the Dog"
- "The Right Mistake: The Further Philosophical Investigations of Socrates Fortlow," Basic Books, 269pp, 2008
Mosley is a prolific novelist, but these three are my favorites. These are pretty crude books, but realistically so, and the crudity isn't over-riding, or a mask for lack of writing ability or worthwhile ideas. Socrates Fortlow, the main character in the books, is a 60 year-old muscle-bound ex-con who has just got out of prison after serving 27 years for a drug and alcohol-induced double murder when he was young. He knows he was wrong, and doesn't consider himself a good man, but a murderer. His life in prison was nothing but a long battle of keeping his integrity in a constantly hostile, fatally dangerous (from both guards and prisoners) environment, and becoming nothing but a ball of will-power in the process. He's released into the bad side of Los Angeles, and makes himself a residence in an alley shed between two abandoned buildings, stealing electricity from one that still has power.
The books are a series of minor and major adventures of "life in the hood," of Fortlow trying to do "the right thing" when he gets a chance in the most hostile environment, and using the tools he has - his fearlessness, muscle, and the "rep" he has because of it. He befriends a young gang-banger who's committed a murder, and brings him back from his fate, to worthwhile existence with a mentor. There's many such episodes and eye-openers. The books are a real study of ethics in situations where every choice is a serious compromise. Is it a theosophic choice when the only thing one can do to keep some guy from beating up people, is to beat him up yourself?..... etc.
In the third of the series, "The Right Mistake," Fortlow obtains use of a house by somewhat dubious means, and sets up a "Thinker's Club" with meetings in which people from every level of society - drug-slingers, house-wives, pastors, lawyers, an undercover cop - to try to come to some solutions of what can be done to change things in a world where no individual can seemingly change anything.
The Fortlow character in these Mosley novels seems to me a real "salt of the earth" Theosophist in an extremely difficult environment. It brings to mind the point Blavatsky makes in this short piece from "Christmas Then and Christmas Now" (and timely too.)
A CHRISTMAS TALE
..........In our modern times, the bishops and the clergy join no more with the populace in open carolling and dancing; and feasts of "fools and of a****" are enacted more in sacred privacy than under the eyes of the dangerous, argus-eyed reporter. Yet the eating and drinking festivities are preserved throughout the Christian world; and, more sudden deaths are doubtless caused by gluttony and intemperance during the Christmas and Easter holidays, than at any other time of the year. Yet, Christian worship becomes every year more and more a false pretence. The heartlessness of this lip-service has been denounced innumerable times, but never, we think, with a more affecting touch of realism than in a charming dream-tale, which appeared in the New York Herald about last Christmas. An aged man, presiding at a public meeting, said he would avail himself of the opportunity to relate a vision he had witnessed on the previous night. "He thought he was standing in the pulpit of the most gorgeous and magnificent cathedral he had ever seen. Before him was the priest or pastor of the church, and beside him stood an angel with a tablet and pencil in hand, whose mission it was to make record of every act of worship or prayer that transpired in his presence and ascended as an acceptable offering to the throne of God. Every pew was filled with richly-attired worshippers of either sex. The most sublime music that ever fell on his enraptured ear filled the air with melody. All the beautiful ritualistic Church services, including a surpassingly eloquent sermon from the gifted minister, had in turn transpired, and yet the recording angel made no entry in his tablet. The congregation were at length dismissed by the pastor with a lengthy and beautifully-worded prayer, followed by a benediction, and yet the angel made no sign.
Attended still by the angel, the speaker left the door of the church in rear of the richly-attired congregation. A poor, tattered castaway stood in the gutter beside the curbstone, with her pale, famished hand extended, silently pleading for alms. As the richly-at-tired worshippers from the church passed by, they shrank from the poor Magdalen, the ladies withdrawing aside their silken, jewel-bedecked robes, lest they should be polluted by her touch .
"Just then an intoxicated sailor came reeling down the sidewalk on the other side. When he got opposite the poor forsaken girl, he staggered across the street to where she stood, and, taking a few pennies from his pocket, he thrust them into her hand, accompanied with the adjuration, 'Here, you poor forsaken cuss, take this!' A celestial radiance now lighted up the face of the recording angel, who instantly entered the sailor's act of sympathy and charity in his tablet, and departed with it as a sweet sacrifice to God."
A concretion, one might say, of the Biblical story of the judgment upon the woman taken in adultery. Be it so; yet it portrays with a master hand the state of our Christian society.
- From H.P. Blavatsky's article "Christmas Then and Christmas Now", The Theosophist, December, 1879