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Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned

(Socrates Fortlow #1)

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  3,392 ratings  ·  241 reviews
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. Strugglin ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published 1997 by Serpent's Tail
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4.16  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,392 ratings  ·  241 reviews

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John Culuris
Sep 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
★ ★ ★ ★ 1/2

I have never read a 5 Star collection of short stories. I’m not denying that such a mythical creature exists. I suspect it's my reading habits that are keeping me from making this discovery for myself. I primarily read novels. And yet, when one of my favorite writers releases a story collection, of course I am going to follow. But if you’re working in an area that’s not your forte there’s going to be a dip. Barely perceptible in some cases, but a dip. Even if shorts are your forte, t
Jun 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to carol. by: HBalikov
The only mystery here is why I thought I going to read a whodunnit after having the book brought to my attention by a friend's reviews. And, of course, the author, Walter Mosley, best known for his mystery series staring Easy Rawlins, the first of which is the remarkable Devil in a Blue Dress (made into a movie with the remarkable Denzel Washington). Once I got over my surprise that I was reading a collection of linked short stories, I settled in to enjoy Mosley's evocative writing and unique vo ...more
Jan 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Walter Mosley's Easy Rawlins books reflect some of his skills in portraying what Los Angeles was like for people of color during the period after World War II. Brutal and unfair, it made each and every man, woman and child fearful of what might happen to them by the people that should have been protecting their rights to life, liberty and property.

With the character, Socrates Fortlow, Mosley adds another layer in his dramatization of this situation and it may be one of the most insightful books
Oct 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lit
So close to being a 5 star read, Mosley has scaled new heights in my estimation with this wonderful series of vignettes featuring Socartes Fortlow

Read on the plane from London to Copenhagen

It might even get upgraded to 5 stars after some more time but this took me by complete surprise after finding it for a measly 50 pence in a Colchester charity shop.

Technically these are short stories featuring the same character but the way that they put together in this volume it works as something similar t
I read this book over 10 years ago and it still stands out in my mind. Socrates Fortlow is a wonderfully complex and humane character. I still remember vividly his experience trying to get a job shortly after his release from prison. Mosley writes very convincingly about the life and struggles of an ex-con and the problems of urban America. This is one of my favorite books. One of these days I'll read it again so I can write a proper review.
Manuel Antão
Jan 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013

I've always tried to shy away from Walter Mosley. I'm not sure why. I've always thought I wouldn't read anything worthwhile and different from the rest of the pack. This time I've decided to give it a go. I'm glad I did.

Mosley fully captures the rhythms of people's lifes in South Central LA, resulting in a haunting look at a life bounded by lust, violence, fear, and a ruthlessly unsentimental moral vision.

I was also impressed with Mosley's efforts to bring philosophy back. The book is also full
Nov 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I bought this book because everything about it made me think it was a detective novel. It has a big ol' gun on the front, it is listed as "Socrates Fortlow #1" (which just screams "detective series"), and Goodreads users have it listed under "mystery".

If you had told me that this was a collection of slice-of-life stories following an old ex-con trying to get by after getting released from prison, I probably wouldn't have picked this up. That would have been a shame, too, because this is now one
Mar 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is possibly my favorite book of all time. The character Socrates Fortlow is an incredibly intriguing character. There's so much depth, complexity and realism to him. He is a recently paroled convicted murderer living in the slums of LA trying to retain his humanity and manhood despite being constantly surrounded by violence, poverty, and humiliation. Can't say enough about this book. It was adapted (really well) to a film with Laurence Fishburne. Definitely should check that out too.
Daniel Polansky
Episodes from the life of one Socrates Forlow, an aging con, recently out of prison, trying to find a way to survive without compromising his late-developed moral code. Anyone who’s read City Dreaming will know I have a thing for genre stories told in non-traditional formats, and though some of these, presumably because they began their life as short stories, fall a little too hammer-heavy with the moralizing, the stranger ones – a first visit to the beach, euthanizing an old friend – are really ...more
Dec 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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-c
Socrates Fortlow has been out of prison for eight years after having spent the previous twenty seven incarcerated for the murder of two people and rape of one of them. This book chronicles some of his experiences in Los Angeles, mainly Watts, effectively portraying the culture and the character of Socrates and his interlocutors. I was impressed with the humanity evident in the protagonist's (dare I say hero?) actions and thoughts, particularly his rationality. He has developed an understanding o ...more
Mar 18, 2010 rated it liked it
I'm not a big fan of short story collections, but Walter Mosley's episodic look at a hard-luck Socrates trying to stay straight in the ghettos of Los Angeles has unexpected wisdom and perfect pitch for the urban environment in which these chapters are set. Socrates is a believable character, and an ex-convict more stoic than bitter. He is, if I may say so, a community activist, although he does not think of himself as such (and is all the more authentic for that lack of vanity). He knows his own ...more
Jun 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club, l-a
An ex-con in late middle age lives each day as an opportunity for redemption. Recently released from prison after a 27-year prison sentence for rape and murder, Socrates Fortlow has a hardscrabble life in South Central L.A. where violence is part of the everyday and intimidation is currency. Yet in spite of his circumstances and barebones existence, he has an admirable focus on self-awareness. It’s hard not to like this character and you suspect he is not as evil as he believes himself to be. Mo ...more
Jun 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime, audiobooks
Socrates Fortlow, is an ex-con, who had spent nearly 30 years in prison for murder. Working on his eighth year of freedom, he is still struggling to make ends meet and to keep his volatile temper in check. Living in a tiny run-down apartment in Watts, he is surviving by collecting aluminum cans.
Told in a series of vignettes, we follow Socrates, as he tries to pull himself forward, while doling out useful life advice, to those around him.

This is the first in another series, for Mosley and I tho
Jul 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel
I'm not really a fan of prison stories, but this was good writing. Stronger writing than Devil in a Blue Dress. Although I liked that story better. This book shows Mosley's writing talent though.
Jun 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent and engaging short stories about Socrates Fortlow a man working to come to terms with the chaos, poverty and violence around and within him.
Aug 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is why I love reading. You open a book, start reading, and are whisked off to adventure. This is not a crime novel such as the author's Easy Rawlins Mysteries. Instead this book is an extraordinary character study of an uneducated black man, ex-convict Socrates Fortlow, who has spent 27 years in prison for rape and murder. Upon release from an Indiana prison he travels to Los Angeles and begins his new life in a rough section of town. Along the way, the reader is witness to his inner strugg ...more
David Gustafson
Sep 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Writing encapsulates experience and at it's best, wisdom. Men with even a modicum of violence in them (which is most people let alone most men) can benefit from being reminded of it's costs. Every blow you throw in life is like a shovel full of dirt dug from the bottom and thrown out over the top of your own personal pit of despair. Men, especially young men can learn from the burden that Mosley's protagonist bears every day of his life. What do you do when you are at the bottom of a hole? Stop ...more
Jun 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
At first, I thought the book was going to be chapter by chapter vignettes of Socrates doing the right thing in various scenarios. Instead, we find that Socrates is himself conflicted and often torn about how to help people, and readers end up inhabiting his evaluative process. The resulting ethics we are presented with disrupt expectations about race, class, religion, and prejudice. Good read.
Ted Rohe
Feb 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I can't believe I forgot to add and review this book for so long on Goodreads. This is one of the few books I have read twice. One of the books that raised my passion for reading again. It was a very interesting book, with interesting characters, an interesting story, and an interesting context. Watts from talking to friends is a rough place, but has character. Mosley represents this well.
Dec 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely incredible. I was totally blown away.

Edit, after re-reading: Made a huge impression on me when I read it 9 years ago. It didn't quite live all the way up to my memories of it, but it's still a terrific book.
Oct 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Socrates has a story to tell, always a story. I think I liked this novel but then again Socrates angered me. I am a person who likes to listen to people, to hear their tales and to hear their reasonings, if it makes sense but with Socrates there came a point where I wanted to pull the rug out from under him. Socrates is all about what is fair, doing what is right and just until it just doesn’t fit.

Socrates begins this tale living a meager life after being released from prison after 27 years. He’
Mar 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
It's razor-sharp Mosley but the extremely short vignettes kept me from getting in too deep.
Jul 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Poignant, yet humorous and OnPoint!
Kris Ruddle
Jan 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was good. Challenging and uncomfortable. I recommend it to take you out of your comfort zone.
Tyler Jones
Sep 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
I wonder if one of the bad decisions that we, as a society, make is that we make heroes of those who turn to violence when "pushed to far". We play out our collective revenge fantasies over and over again in popular movies and books. But what if we went the other way? What if we made heroes of those who had every reason to go violent ,as well as the ability to do so, but chose to search out a way that would not perpetuate the cycle. Socrates Fortlow is the hero we really need.
Susan Oleksiw
Sep 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mysteries
In a series of linked short stories Walter Mosley gives us the life of Socrates Fortlow, released from prison after serving 27 years for rape and murder. He's been living in Watts now for eight years, trying to construct a life bound by poverty, rage, and regret. Everything we need to know about Socrates appears in the first story, "Crimson Shadow," in which he catches a young boy who has stolen and killed his rooster. Socrates makes the boy, Darryl, learn to pluck and cook the bird, and then le ...more
Mr. Allain
Nov 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Walter Mosley is a true artist. Not only are his words and patterns of imagery beautiful, but his characters are unique and raw. Mosley's protagonist, Socrates Fortlow, is a former convict who served 27 years in prison for rape and double homicide; yet, you care about him. You are never asked to forgive him or pity him, but you a see a man whose only remaining choice is to be better than he was before.

Socrates recognizes and owns the anger that still burns inside of him, he acknowledges that he
Jun 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The book is a collection of vignettes in the life of Socrates Fortnow a recently released convict from Indiana who has made his home in L.A. at about the time of the last L.A. riots/rebellion. Each chapter is a carefully draw morality play on what it means to be a black MAN in America where you are always outnumbered, always outgunned. The book is obviously cribbed together from individual short stories most if not all of which have appeared as short stories elsewhere. Where this might detract f ...more
Mar 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Socrates Fortlow, released from prison after 27 years for murder, tries to live with honor in Watts, without giving in to his murderous rage. This is a collection of stories that originally appeared elsewhere, but interwoven with new material. The immensely strong, guilt-ridden Socrates helps rid the neighborhood of a killer, takes in a young boy, convinces a man to stay with his wife, and insists on his rights when dealing with authority like the grocery store where he applies for a job.

It’s an
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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)
  • Walkin' the Dog
  • The Right Mistake
“Hi,' Winifred Minette said to her husband.
Socrates imagined all of the sweet knowledge buried in her hello. It made him happy.”
More quotes…