The Man in my Basement by Walter Mosley

The Man in My Basement by Walter Mosley

Reviewed by L.D.Y.

Trade, 249 pages, 2004

Rating: 8/10

Reason for Reading: Mosley’s name rang a bell from the movie based on his book

Devil in a Blue Dress…even though I never saw it. I was also in the mood for

something nice and short.

Synopsis: Charles Blakey is a thirty-three year old black man who has accomplished

exactly nothing in his life beyond boozing and lying, and it’s never really bothered him

until a middle-aged white man shows up on his doorstep asking to rent his basement. He’s

willing to pay a lot of cash to Charles, but the secretive man with the bizarre demands will

turn Charles’ life upside down, for better or worse, in ways he never would have


Why you should read this book: Here’s one for people that enjoy psychological

thrillers and gritty characters. Mosley draws in the reader with the mysterious man that

Charles really wants nothing to do with, and, admittedly, the need to find out if Charles

can possibly sink any lower. Sorry, Charles. Mosley doesn’t compromise in showing all of

Charles’ dark and dirty side, a bonus if you like realism in your thrillers. The Man in

my Basement will attract readers that love exploring the dark side of humanity and

equally dark twist-endings.

Why you should avoid this book: If you need your books to have a likeable

narrator, Charles Blakey is not the man to fill your heart with love, nor is anyone else in

the book, for that matter. The biggest problem with psychological-style thrillers is that

reactions to the ending, regardless of what it may be, are going to divide sharply between

‘love it’ and ‘hate it.’ That certainly leaves the chance you’ll fall into the latter

category, but at least 250 pages isn’t a huge investment of your reading time.

Opening paragraph:

‘Mr Blakey?’ the small white man asked.
I had answered the door expecting big

Clarance Mayhew and his cousin Ricky. The three of us had a standing date to play cards on

Thursday nights. I was surprised even to hear the doorbell because it was too early for my

friends to have made it home from work and neither one of them would have rung the bell

anyway. We’d been friends since childhood, since my grandparents owned the


Fabulous quotes:

It was a large, dark room crowded with stuff from the Dodd and Blakey families.

A little something was there from every generation. I had one great-auntie, Blythe, who

considered herself a painter. There were fifty or more of her awful canvases leaned up

against the walls and behind a useless coal-burning stove. Her trees and houses and people

looked like a child’s pitiful attempts. There was my great-grandfather’s traveling trunk and

stacks of old newspapers that were yellow and brittle from fifty years or more before. We

had old furniture and rugs and straw baskets filled with two hundred Christmases of toys.

The cobwebs looked like they belonged on a movie set, and it was cold down there

Eighteen wooden crates of empty beer bottles were stacked in the middle of the

cobblestone floor. They were all I was interested in. It meant twenty-four dollars at the

beer-and-soda store at the Corners.

I closed the windows and locked the front and back doors at 3:00 in the morning.

I snapped the phone connections out of the wall and moved the masks down into my father’s

library. I slept with the money and the masks for a day and a half. People came to the front

door but I didn’t answer. Once Ricky came around to the library window and called out my

name. After he was gone I connected the phone long enough to call his mother’s house and

leave a message on his answering machine.
‘I’m okay, Ricky,’ I said. ‘Just thinking about

some stuff, so I need to spend some time alone.’
After that I disconnected the phone

again and spent almost the next six weeks alone in my house. I only went out for pizzas and

whiskey. And as time went by, I had less and less desire to see or speak to


Also recommended: Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk; Hard Revolution by

George Pelecanos.

Also by this author: Cinnamon Kiss; Devil in a Blue Dress; A Red Death; White Butterfly; Black

Betty; RL’s Dream; A Little Yellow Dog; Gone Fishin’; Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned;

Blue Light; Walkin’ the Dog; Fearless Jones; Futureland; Bad Boy Brawly Brown; Six Easy

Pieces: Easy Rawlins Stories; Fear Itself; Little Scarlet; What Next: An African American

Initiative Toward World Peace; Workin’ on the Chain Gang: Shaking off the Dead Hand of

History; .

Fun tidbit: Mosley’s favourite way to do his writing in the mornings, naked. More

than you wanted to know maybe, but there you have it.

Would I read more by this author? Probably not. I can apprecite his writing, but

it wasn’t really my thing.

&#169 Lisa Yanaky 2003-2005

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