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The Right Mistake

(Socrates Fortlow #3)

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  908 ratings  ·  146 reviews
Living in South Central L.A., Socrates Fortlow is a sixty-year-old ex-convict, still strong enough to kill men with his bare hands. Now freed after serving twenty-seven years in prison, he is filled with profound guilt about his own crimes and disheartened by the chaos of the streets. Along with his gambler friend Billy Psalms, Socrates calls together local people of all r ...more
Hardcover, 269 pages
Published October 6th 2008 by Basic Civitas Books
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Average rating 4.06  · 
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Nov 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Wow. This feels like it might be the end of the Socrates Fortlow saga, and what a beautiful, amazing ending it is if this is the case.

More than any series of books I can think of, these three books by Walter Mosley show the growth of a man. The change that comes to Socrates as he grows and learns over the course of "Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned", "Walkin' the Dog", and "The Right Mistake" is powerful. It also always feels natural, because he never forgets who he was in the process of be
Dec 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Volume 3 of Socrates Fortlow's story is just as powerful and moving as the previous entries in the series.

No longer set in the race-riot era of the mid-90s, Mosley takes us five years into the future-and into the 21st century-from where we last left Socrates and company. Socrates has a few new problems to figure out, like cell phones, love, running a business, and his increasing fame as an inner city philosopher living up to his name. He also has more of the same problems, like keeping Darryl (
Oct 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Walter Mosely is awesome-I've read most of his books and was truly saddened when EZ Rawlins dies..Anyway--not to worry-I found a new book in Mosely's Socrates Fortlow series. In the Right Mistake-great big,powerful,ex-con Fortlow-starts a community meeting house- in the 'hood of present day LA-By invitation-Socco amasses an extremely diverse Thursday night discussion group to talk about present day life as a minority in these US. The group includes a retired Social worker,an emerging female sing ...more
May 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Always Out-numbered, Always Out-gunned/Walkin' the Dog/ The Right Mistake are all Socrates Fortlow stories. Can't go wrong on any of them. This guy turned his life around 180 degrees. ...more
Jul 27, 2011 rated it it was ok
After reading "Always Outnumbered" (excellent book) and "Walkin the Dog" (another triumph) I am a bit dismayed when I say that I didn't really care for this book. The action was slow, the plot was flat and simplistic, and the characters were dull and uninteresting. After the first 50 pages I wasn't really interested in Socrates' Thinkers Club anymore, I was wondering why, after two books, Walter Mosley still hangs on to the Socrates fable he's played on since the beginning of the trilogy. Couldn ...more
Feb 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes you run across a character you just click with, a character who becomes so real, so present, that he ceases to be a character and becomes, intead, your friend. Socrates Fortlow is such a character. The people who surround him are vivid and interesting. The situations and the resolutions are thought provoking. Socrates has a self-awareness and down-to-earth attituded you seldom find in anyone--real or written.

After finishing "Walkin the Dog" I missed him. Terribly. I am so excited to v
Jul 08, 2022 rated it it was amazing
The third, and I think last of the collections of stories about killer, rapist, ex-con, and philosopher Socrates Fortlow, trying to live a decent human life in the Watts of twenty years ago. The right mistake of the title is, we learn in the first story, a mistake you realize you've made and that you can resolve never to repeat. The stories show how difficult and complicated that can be. Socco establishes what amounts to a weekly Symposium, just as described by Plato, and he is even made aware o ...more
John Wiley
Oct 30, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2022
I am glad Walter Mosley revisited this character Socrates Fortlow. I've read plenty of Mosley's books; I can't recall any I liked as much as Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned. He just hit the nail on the head with that book. He created a complicated hero in troubled circumstances, who can help us examine the perilous gauntlet we all face in this fucked up world. In this third Socrates book, Mosley expands on themes present but somewhat peripheral in the earlier two. Just terrific. Read these ...more
Oct 13, 2020 rated it liked it
This book was strong, realistic and I had great reverence for the main character. Socrates was so intriguing and commanding for trying to help his community overcome the trials and tribulations of hard times to staying focus on reassessing better ways of making an honest living.
Leslie Balkany
Jul 18, 2022 rated it really liked it
I haven’t read any of Walter Mosley‘s other novels, but this one was thoroughly enjoyable: the characters, the plot, the philosophical discussions. It was timely and thought-provoking.
Oliver Clarke
Nov 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I’m really in awe of Walter Mosley’s Socrates Fortlow books. This, the third and I suspect the last, is just as good as the first two. It’s insightful, powerful, philosophical, and utterly compelling.
Like its predecessors, ‘Aways Outnumbered, Always Outgunned’ and ‘Walkin the Dog’, ‘The Right Mistake’ is an LA set collection of related short stories about the life of ex-con Socrates Fortlow. In this book, Fortlow is running a centre helping local people in the neighbourhood he lives in. He has
Scott Woods
Dec 17, 2011 rated it it was ok
Mosley churns out 2-3 books a year and unfortunately the wear and tear on his imagination is beginning to show. The one concept of his that hadn't seemed to jump the shark was his Socrates Fortlow series, featuring a wise ex-con living in the street of L.A.

I love this character, his world and the stories Mosley has traditionally applied to them. A little of the magic has worn off in this third installment, but not enough to stay away. The book looks like it maintains the short-story-collection c
Mar 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
While I've read all of Walter Mosley's Easy Rawlin's books, I had avoided the Socrates Forlow series. This is the third book in that series and reading it was a pure exercise in understanding the complexities of men and women who live outside of the mainstream of society. Socrates is nothing but a walking contradiction, a man who spent years in prison for rape and murder and who lived on the streets most of the time he wasn't in prison. Now he has a house and has pulled together people from disp ...more
Dec 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
Loved reading more about Socrates Fortlow, an ex-con now 27 years out of prison and his diverse and ecelectic group of friends. Socrates is troubled by the conditions on the streets and brings together this varied group of folks (a young felon, a gambler, a rabbi, a martial arts expert and others) for regular, no-holds-barred, philsophical discussions aimed at understanding each other and how to make the world a better place.

I thoroughly enjoyed this latest foray into the fiction of Walter Mosle
Apr 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
FIRST LINE REVIEW: "'Yeah, brothah,' Billy Psalms said before he downed half a paper cup of Blue Angel red wine, 'Freddy Bumpus made a big mistake when he married Vanessa Tremont.'" Wasn't a mistake to read another brilliant Walter Mosley novel, though! This is an important book! Filled with significant ideas about what it means to be a human in a country/world that keeps trying to make us believe we're not one species. This book should be read and discussed in every college classroom. Might jus ...more
Aug 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing
While this book is categorized as "Mystery" by my library, it is not the typical whodoneit. As the subtitle, The Further Philosophical Investigations by Socrates Fortlow, suggests it is something different. While there is violence and the potential for violence in the story's locale, South Central LA, this is a story of a man who spent 27 years in prison for committing rape and murder and now is trying to make something worthwhile of his life. ...more
Jul 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Oh, man. I really, really liked this. Mosley explores complicated questions of race, class, violence, police brutality, social justice, love and community through the life and musings of Socrates Fortlow. It'd be a hands down five-star if it weren't for the persistent sexism that I've found permeates most of Mosley's work. But still, I pretty much loved this. Recommended!! ...more
James Murtha
Sep 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Mosley picks up where he left off with his two previous books featuring Socrates (Socco) Fortlow, Watts resident during the turbulent nineties, and his eclectic group of friends. In my reviews of “Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned” (1998) and “Walking the Dog” (1999), I called the books short story collections. Mosley did not designate them otherwise. I also argued that one could view each book as a novel.
Of the characters introduced in his first two books, only Darryl, Socco’s pseudo-adopted
Dan'l Danehy-Oakes
Nov 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Subtitle: The Continued Philosophical Investigations of Socratese Fortlow.

This is, apparently, the third book in a series, but it stands beautifully alone. Socrates Fortlow is a bad man trying to be good. As a young man in Indiana, he killed a man, raped that man's girlfriend, and then killed her for good measure. For this he spent twenty-seven years in prison, mostly learning stuff - not all of it good, some of it violent, but all part of who he would be when (to his own surprise) he was let ou
Jan 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Big Nickel…" it’s a breeding ground and a last chance”. Mosley's third in the Socrates Fortlow series was, like all his books a pleasure to read. It is a credit to his writing skills that has a murderer-rapist protagonist that you 'root for'...his past is his past but his vision for the future and his paternal love for his 'son' Darryl is endearing. There are so many evocative passages in this book and Mosley's uncanny ability to shed light on the plight of the black American gives an insigh ...more
Jul 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Fiction. Socrates is an ex-con who spent 28 years in prison for rape & murder. After being paroled, he spends several years living rough and collecting bottles to redeem for a few pennies each. Gradually, he begins to put together a new life and eventually he begins the Thursday Night Thinker’s Meeting with a diverse group of friends and whose purpose is to discuss “the world and what would be the right thing to do.” This was a very interesting book and the issues it explores – racism, poverty, ...more
May 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mosley's third novel featuring Socrates Fortlow could easily be dismissed as a utopian fantasy, a salute to wishful thinking. The idea of a murderer and rapist going through the level of continual soul-searching and seeking for redemption in the face of danger and constant harassment and the idea of his successful establishment of a south central LA Chautauqua or Algonquin Round Table in which people of diverse races, ages, etc. meet to explore the issues of racism and social justice can easily ...more
Jul 29, 2022 rated it really liked it
I have never read any Walter Mosley. Therefore, I have not read any of the books in the series that precede this one. So I have no means of comparing how this book fits or does not fit in with the prior tales of the main character. The book is written in a manner that allows it to stand on its own without having read the prior stories. I read it based on the recommendation by John McWhorter, for whom it also was apparently his first exposure to Walter Mosley.

I was skeptical when I read the book'
Nik Pizza
Nov 04, 2022 rated it really liked it
Cool book. I think the author strikes a good balance between some heavy and interesting themes while keeping the plot moving forward. The key is probably that a lot of the most interesting parts of the books are these "thinkers meetings" which are pretty much what they sound like. I really appreciate how the author doesn't shy away from some of the harder themes lurking in this story; race, class, moral responsibility, you name it pal. It's not 5 stars for me because there was this feeling of um ...more
Paul R. Frank Jr.

This book takes the reader through the journey of life of Socrates Fortlow. He is a survivor of the American penal system, hard unforgiving street life and a prejudicial legal system that has him stamped for a return to captivity. Despite it all, his outlook on life is reflective of the culture of black survivors of prior generations. His stoicism is rooted in belief in mankind and it’s gift of redemption through clearer thinking and forgiveness of human faults. His mission is to salv
Leonard Nakamura
Dec 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Socrates was a man who asked questions in search of the truth. Socrates Fortlow follows in his namesake's footsteps and sets up a kind of academy in Southcentral LA. It isn't, to me anyway, crystal clear when the story takes place, it could be the 1990s, but the late 1970s or 1980s is more the tone. Can we learn from one another by speaking the truth across a table? That's what our modern Socrates tries to do, and in Mosley's tale, some progress is made in the lives Fortlaw touches. To me nothin ...more
Willie Kirschner
May 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Another wonderful book by one of my favorite authors. From Easy Rawlins, to Socrates Fortlow, to Leonid McGill, through short stories and Science Fiction, as well as occasional nonfiction pieces in the Nation and elsewhere, I have read and enjoyed Mr. Mosley’s writing for years and this is another great story with much to ponder about the changes we need to make to bring about a just and free society. The author I would most like to have over for dinner with some friends.
Peter P. Bernard
Mistakes Happen

Walter Mosley has improved since this book was published.
The urban philosopher has been an enjoyable myth but impossible to make real in the context of the difficulty of urban ghetto living. A number of writers have tried. Joyce Carol Oates first novel tried , O.Henry, Farrell, etc but they all wind up refining the concept.
Moseley seems to have drunk to much of the Obama wine which only left us all with an "orange hangover.
But good try, Mr. Moseley--3 stars.
Oct 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is the third book in the Socrates Fortlow series, following the episodic nature of the chapters. It wraps up his adventures and poses interesting philosophical questions usually around the issue of race. Although not quite as compelling as the first two in the series, it is a worthwhile read. I recommend reading the series in order, starting with "Outnumbered and Outgunned." ...more
Joann Carol
Feb 28, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Trying to decompress. Socrates Fortlow is a character that needs to be real flesh and blood. Perhaps, somewhere, he is. Mosley gets a little heavy handed and preachy but I can forgive him when he is dead on right. Read this after (or before) reading How to be an Antiracist. The message is the same: treat everyone as an individual and never prejudge.
A must read.
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Walter Mosley (b. 1952) is the author of the bestselling mystery series featuring Easy Rawlins, as well as numerous other works, from literary fiction and science fiction to a young adult novel and political monographs. His short fiction has been widely published, and his nonfiction has appeared in the New York Times Magazine and the Nation, among other publications. Mosley is the winner of numero ...more

Other books in the series

Socrates Fortlow (3 books)
  • Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned
  • Walkin' the Dog

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“But Socco," Mustafa Ali said. "If there ain't no black people really and they ain't no white people then how come you still usin' them words?"
"Because them words still usin' me, brother Ali. They usin' me like a mothahfuckah.”
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