Calum MacLeod is a reporter for the Inverness Courier and had been writing for SHOTS since its early days. In 2009 the Highland and Islands Media Awards' judging panel awarded him “Highly Commended Feature Writer of the Year”.
Through his character of unofficial and often unwilling private eye Easy Rawlings, Walter Mosley has held up a dark mirror to decades of black American experience from segregation in the 1940s to civil rights and civil unrest in the 1960s.
However, these are different times, and different times call for a different kind of hero.
Step forward new private investigator Leonid McGill (who gets re-labelled “Leonard” on the back of my proof copy, presumably by someone either worried or unaware of the Communist connotations of McGill’s real name).
McGill is still a private eye, but a private eye and a black man of our (supposedly) colour blind new century.
“It wasn’t my colour that bothered her,” he writes of an encounter in a plush New York office which introduces him to the reader.
“People on Madison Avenue didn’t mind dark skins in 2008. This woman might have considered voting for Obama, if she voted. She might have flirted with a rap star at some chic nightclub that only served imported champagne and caviar.”
And as a 21st century man, McGill comes with baggage. While Chandler could keep his hero free of a complicated private life, McGill comes with a domestic set up which deserves a slot on the Jerry Springer show.
In love with a woman he is not married to (natch), he still lives with his Minnesota-Swedish wife and the three children she has borne during their marriage. Only one of which, and not his favourite, is McGill’s.
Given that particular set of personal problems, the little matter of being hired by a killer to track down victims is almost a walk in the park for McGill, who also has another distraction in trying to prevent his favourite child from committing murder.
In fact, there is so much going on that the murder plot gets a little lost in proceedings. Certainly not up there with best of Easy Rawlins, but Mosley is a decent enough writer to make this an intriguing introduction to Leonid McGill and Obama-era America. Let's just hope for a stronger central story to fill the centre of Mosley's literary sandwich next time round.