Socrates Fortlow stories

Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned:
The Socrates Fortlow Stories




Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned:
The Socrates Fortlow Stories (1997)

Mosley introduces Socrates Fortlow, a rough-hewn yet thoughtful ex-con African-American who killed a Black man and woman as a youngster. Having spent 27 years in an Indiana prison and now living in Watts, Socrates is trying to redeem a misspent life while avoiding his own worst tendencies. Like his Greek namesake, Fortlow is prone to asking big moral questions. He decries the violence and drugs that infect the community like flesh-eating bacteria. He risks his safety to help a young boy struggling with his own conscience and tries to provide a measure of mercy to an old friend dying of cancer. When he attempts to help a dog run over by a callous motorist, Socrates gives in to his anger and suddenly finds himself on the verge of returning to jail.

Socrates Fortlow is featured in each piece of this collection of 14 short stories. He, like Rawlins, lives in Watts. The novel was the second of two Mosley books to be made into a film. Chapter One.


Walkin' the Dog is the second collection of linked stories. It's some years since Fortlow's release from prison, and at the start of the collection he is still making his home in a two-room shack in an alley between two derelict buildings. But now he has a girlfriend, a job and a two-legged dog called Killer. He also has the police on his back. These responsibilities make doing the right thing even more difficult.

Each story teases out the moral implications of sometimes quite minor actions. So, for example, in 'Blue Lightning', Fortlow is offered a better-paying job but has to consider whether the extra pay is worth the freedom he would have to give up. In 'Promise', he has to balance keeping a vow made long ago to a dying friend with the consequences of that action.

Outlining the stories makes them sound trite or dull. They're neither. Nor are they worthy, a kind of consolations of philosophy for the inner-urban citizen. Sure, Fortlow is trying to find meaning in his own life and the lives of those around him but these are tough, realistic tales of suffering and hardship. Fortlow is no Dudley Do-Right; violence is always a lurking possibility and he has killed again since leaving prison. Walkin' the Dog is an absorbing, thoughtful read, so beautifully constructed and written that you never doubt for a moment these are real people in real situations.






Mystery: The Easy Rawlins books

Socrates Fortlow stories

Mosley's Science Fiction