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All I Did Was Shoot My Man

August 6, 2012

“Zella Grisham had tried to kill her boyfriend—shot him three times.  But that’s not why she had done eight years of hard tim on a sixteen-year sentence.

Some people just had bad luck; in the end, I supposed, all people did.

Hers was a perfectly executed heist, and mine, thought I didn’t know it at the time, was her release.”

Walter Mosely is best know for his Easy Rawlins series of mysteries set in mid-20th century Los Angeles, but Mosely has also published 26 other books (fiction, nonfiction and plays).  His most recent series, of which All I Did Was Shoot My Man is the fourth installment, features Leonid McGill (named by his long-absent revolutionary anarchist/communist father)—a man in late middle-age, living in 21st century New York City, burdened by the crimes and sins of his past, seeking redemption…or at least some mitigating evidence to present to whatever parole board governs the afterlife.

Reading All I Did Was Shoot My Man is like listening to fine bebop.  The notes, quotes, allusions and references that fill the page are almost dizzying.  Not to mention the number of characters, and plot twists.

Mosely heightens the intensity of the story by compacting it into a few days, beginning with Leonid meeting Zella’s bus at the Port Authority Bus Terminal as she’s released from prison and ending in an all-night hospital vigil.  Throughout All I Did Was Shoot My Man, Leonid pinballs around New York City, colliding with pieces of his past—the boxing gym run by his mentor, his midtown office in a building managed by an ex-girlfriend, a Brooklyn stakeout run by his longtime nemesis on the police force—as he tries to clear Zella’s name, and to keep himself and those he loves and cares for (two distinct, overlapping groups of people) alive.

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