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Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned Paperback – October 1, 1998

4.7 out of 5 stars 96 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Socrates Fortlow Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In this cycle of 14 bittersweet stories, Walter Mosley breaks out of the genre--if not the setting--of his bestselling Easy Rawlins detective novels. Only eight years after serving out a prison sentence for murder, Socrates Fortlow lives in a tiny, two-room Watts apartment, where he cooks on a hot plate, scavenges for bottles, drinks, and wrestles with his demons. Struggling to control a seemingly boundless rage--as well as the power of his massive "rock-breaking" hands--Socrates must find a way to live an honorable life as a black man on the margins of a white world, a task which takes every ounce of self-control he has.

Easy Rawlins fans might initially find themselves disappointed by the absence of a mystery to unravel. But it's a gripping inner drama that unfolds over the pages of these stories, as Socrates comes to grips with the chaos, poverty, and violence around him. He tries to get and keep a job delivering groceries; takes in a young street kid named Darryl, who has his own murder to hide; and helps drive out the neighborhood crack dealer. Throughout, Mosley captures the rhythms of Watts life in prose both musical and hard-edged, resulting in a haunting look at a life bounded by lust, violence, fear, and a ruthlessly unsentimental moral vision. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Esteemed actor Paul Winfield impeccably reads these "unabridged selections" from the cycle of 14 nonmystery stories in which Mosley introduces a new character, Socrates Fortlow. He is a brooding ex-convict who is stuggling to make sense of the violence, crime, fear, and disrespect in the black community where he lives. Each story focuses on a moral issue with which we witness Socrates argue, question, and fight his way to a dignified and responsible position and course of action. A winning production; highly recommended for all fiction collections.?Kristen L. Smith, Loras Coll. Lib., Dubuque, Iowa
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Washington Square Press; 1 edition (October 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671014994
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671014995
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (96 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #111,610 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This has to come close to being the best collection of short-stories written in English during the last twenty years.
At their best the taut writing and uncanny ability to explode the confusion and emptiness at the heart of many people's lives recalls Raymond Carver, but where Carver is content to leave his ethics enigmatic, Mosley is righteous and fierce. This is not to say that the central character, Socrates Fortlow is a judgemental moralist. Far from it. This burly ex-con with his huge rock-crushing hands and terrible past, is searching for truth in a world where truth is no much unfashionable as crushed out of people's souls by injustice. He is a seeker not a saviour.
The stories also form the link between Mosley's crime writing and his outstanding first SF novel, Blue Light, where issues of metaphysics are brought further into the foreground. Through the stories, Socrates acquires a kind of nobility that can only come from a totally honest struggle our own impulses as well as with the environment that surrounds us. There is a sense of place in 'Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned' that is very specific to 1980s Watts, but mythic and resonant and almost timeless at the same time. This only comes from genuine wisdom and understanding, qualities in which Mosley far outshines almost all contemporary authors.
There are one or two weaker stories, notably one in which Socrates gets involved with the courts again, but this is a collection to come back to. And as with Raymond Carver, I felt compelled to stop for quite some time after each one as the subtle but powerful emotional impact percolated through my brain.
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Format: Paperback
I heard it was a book of short stories, but found it to read like a novel. Socrates is a deep and thoughtful character who will stay on your mind a long time. He tries to do the right thing in very adverse conditions. This book was an easy read, but deep and beautiful. I'd recommend to every reader I know.
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Format: Paperback
Meet Socrates Fortlow, a man who served years of prison time for the deaths and rape of a young couple, getting out of prison and trying to adjust to life on the outside as well as trying to come to terms with the life he led before and during his incarceration. During this fourteen short story run, the supporting cast are just as strong as they are flawed, much like Socrates himself. It was this character trait that kept me reading until the end. Socrates lived a hard life and he paid the price for it, however, throughout this book, his anger and resentment has made him not only a heroic figure, but a tragic one as well. Where else can you come across a man that will put together a plan to run a drug dealer out of his neighborhood, and the next story will have him standing in the face of one of his friends and tell him that he will stab him in the back to get with his wife and kids if he doesn't straighten up and fly right? It's these complex traits that make Mr. Fortlow such a facinating character, and this a facinating book.
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By A Customer on December 27, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I'd never heard of Walter Mosley and had not come to this book via the Easy Rawlins series. Rather, I saw it on a remainders table, bought it on impulse, gulped it down in two sittings. A book about black men and the ache to do something worthwhile against the odds of real life in South Central. Two days after I read the book I saw the movie adaptation with the inimitable Laurence Fishburne. A wonderful movie. But the book is better. Socrates Fortlow is a true original, and I loved him.
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Format: Paperback
After reading a couple of Mosley's Easy Rawlins mysteries, which I liked fairly well, I picked up this book of stories about the estimable Socrates Fortlowe. It is a wonderful collection, and also important, because it really questions that stubborn myth known as "the American dream", and it does so without putting down the people who still believe in that myth, against all possible odds. The Fortlowe stories are far richer than the Rawlins books, especially because the main character is so complicated, and because Mosley never lets him take the obvious way out of any situation. Highly recommended to anyone not afraid of books with attitude.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Before I read this book, I would never have known that I could fall in love with a character who is a violent ex-convict. Socrates Fortlow, two-time murderer and one-time rapist (at least the crimes of which he has been convicted) has spent most of his life learning to survive behind bars.
However, eight years after his release from the Indiana State Penitentiary, and his relocation to South Central L.A., he has become much more like his namesake. This collection of interrelated short stories together form a remarkable tale of subtle, and perhaps even unconscious, redemption. Socrates becomes a mentor, best friend, and invaluable member of society. In addition, he learns that not all is black and white, whether it be with regard to morality, or as between the races.
The stories and their moral teachings are subtle, like well-crafted fables. I read this in one evening, unable to put down this wonderfully written book.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
After watching the movies a number of times in the passed years I decided to read the book. I've never done that (read a book of a movie I watched) It was interesting to me to read what they left out of the movie and added in the book what wasn't in the movie. I will do this more often. I loved the book as much as I loved the movie.
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