The buzzword for today is "networking."
Networking is easy; you've probably been doing it all your life and barely realized it. You tell friends about a good hairdresser, a decent mechanic, a trustworthy housecleaner. They, in turn, give you names of a good accountant, a decent tutor, a trustworthy babysitter. You make connections. You put people in touch with others.
That "six degrees of separation" stuff is no lie.
It's not what you know, but who you know that makes life turn. But in the new novel "The Long Fall" (c.2009, Riverhead Books, $25.95 / $28.50 Canada, 320 pages) by Walter Mosley, who you knew could get you killed.
When a man wants to turn a new leaf and "go from crooked to only slightly bent," he tries to stay away from things that get him into trouble. But private eye Leonid (Father was a Communist) McGill (grandpa's slave name) couldn't seem to shake the bad that followed him.
It was supposed to just be a job, nothing cloak-and-dagger. Straight-laced Ambrose Thurman, a man McGill only knew through phone calls, needed the real names of four boys who served time as juveniles more than a decade ago. Thurman's anonymous client wanted the names, nothing else. Knowing a cop who owed him, McGill got the info. But something wasn't right. After he handed the names over, he regretted finding those boys-now-men.
He regretted it for good reason. First one, then another of those boys was beaten to death and Thurman was found dead in a bathtub. When a behemoth broke into McGill's office sanctuary and tried to knock the life out of him, the cops arrested the giant man but they wanted to pin everything-including the murders-on McGill.
It didn't make sense.
McGill didn't know the giant man, and he had only met Thurman once. Maybe Tony the Suit, a small-time gangster who was pressing McGill to find a former nemesis, was angry that McGill wasn't moving fast enough. Perhaps the most powerful man in New York City was behind the attempted assault.
And as if trying to save your own life isn't enough, McGill knew that his son, Twill, was about to do something dumb. McGill had to save his boy from a long fall, too.
Fans of Easy Rawlins, author Walter Mosley's most beloved, and possibly-killed-off character, can rest Easy: you will absolutely love Leonid McGill. I seriously can't think of a better successor to Rawlins' literary legacy than this new, very fine PI.
"The Long Fall" starts out with a slam-bang. Its dark-toned noir-ness lets you know you're in for something special. Unfortunately, the story gets off-track toward the end and was, I thought, rather implausible. Suffice it to say that there are some very odd, unbelievable characters that belong more in an old Bette Davis movie than in a modern-setting mystery.
Excited Mosley fans will want to read "The Long Fall," if for no other reason than to meet McGill. If you've never read Mosley's stuff, though, this isn't the best novel to start with, find something Easy instead.