All I Did Was Shoot My Man
“There’s no need to tell an abbreviation of Walter Mosley’s story here. If the reader wants a complicated and well-told mystery, it’s here. Add in a hard-boiled, dark, noir atmosphere that’s oddly reminiscent of the great novels of James M. Cain like The Postman Always Rings Twice and Mildred Pierce, then that’s a worthy bonus.”
Walter Mosley’s dialogue is richly presented in an urban patois that rings as true as his New York City settings, starting right away with the Port Authority Bus Terminal in All I Did Was Shoot My Man, a Leonid McGill mystery.
The character for whom this series is named is a complex man made complicated by events, not the least of which is the appearance of McGill’s long-thought-dead father in a pivotal, yet strangely silent, ghost-like turn.
The book’s title derives from the admission of Zella Grisham that she shot her man, Harry Tangelo, when she found him in bed with her best friend. Her time in prison was based not so much on that fact but rather on the finding of cash in her storage space from a massive, multimillion-dollar robbery. This is apparently a frame-up and McGill spends the next 300-plus pages trying to make sense of a convoluted mystery peopled with Mr. Mosley’s vivid characters.
“Near two in the morning I put a slightly tipsy Zella Grisham into a yellow cab, paid her fare up front, and even kissed her on the cheek. The way she leaned into that kiss I could have probably climbed in with her. But I try my best to maintain decorum with my clients.” This little passage early in the novel helps to establish a level of integrity that lies deep within our hero’s constitution. His is very much a conditional morality.
Then there’s the rich dialogue:
“’There’s a new tenant at your rooming house,’ I said.”
“Zella Grisham. That girl need to learn how to smile.”
“You don’t like her?”
“She okay. We talked some but wherever she’s from she ain’t left there yet.”
“I can be as quiet as a midnight owl on a garden snake.”
“She said that after all she heard about you she thought your Johnson would be bigger.”
“Tell her that the air conditioner was on.”
Dialogue isn’t the only joy here. Simple passages ring with the authenticity of experiences that few have shared: “We were both a little wary, like boxers in the first round of an out-of-town fight.”
There’s no need to tell an abbreviation of Walter Mosley’s story here. If the reader wants a complicated and well-told mystery, it’s here. Add in a hard-boiled, dark, noir atmosphere that’s oddly reminiscent of the great novels of James M. Cain such as The Postman Always Rings Twice and Mildred Pierce, then that’s a worthy bonus.