Socialist Worker

The Man in my Basement

by Ken Olende
Issue No. 1974

The Man in my Basement
by Walter Mosley
Serpent’s Tail, £10.99

Famous for his novels featuring the black hero Easy Rawlins, Walter Mosley has recently been branching out. His books have maintained his punchy, fast paced writing style, but become more overtly political.

In this excellent new paperback novel, Charles Blakey lives in a dilapidated mansion on Long Island in New York state. Historically his family’s proud boast has been that they were never slaves.

His own directionless life is slowly coming apart. He is driving his friends away, has lost his job through petty pilfering and drinks too much. His biggest fear is losing the heavily mortgaged family house, where he lives alone.

Why does the mysterious white Anniston Bennet want to stay in Charles’s basement, offering an absurdly large amount of money? What do the three African masks Charles finds in the house represent?

Though the pace is that of a thriller, Mosley is more concerned with issues of race, class, power and responsibility.

Charles is a study in inertia. Inability to overcome childhood traumas and racial slights leave him almost physically incapable of taking control of his life.

Bennet, on the other hand, is used to giving orders and extracting profit, as becomes increasingly clear as his shady past is revealed. Can either of them discover what it means to be a responsible individual faced with the horrors of capitalism in the early 21st century?

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Sat 29 Oct 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1974
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