RL's Dream Synopsis
Soupspoon Wise is dying on the unforgiving streets of New York City, years and worlds away from the Mississippi delta, where he once jammed with blues legend Robert "RL" Johnson. It was an experience that burned indelibly into Soupspoon's soul -- never mind that they said RL's gift came from the Devil himself. Now it's Soupspoon's turn to strike a deal with a stranger. An alcoholic angel of mercy, Kiki Waters isn't much better off than Soupspoon, but she too is a child of the South, and knows its pull. And she is determined to let Soupspoon ride out the final notes of his haunting blues dream, to pour out the remarkable tale of what he's seen, where he's been -- and where he's going.Winner of the 1996 Black Caucus of the American Library Association Literary Award in FictionPublishers WeeklyAfter four increasingly well-received crime novels starring Los Angeles PI Easy Rawlins, Mosley has moved strongly ahead to a more searching and deeply felt style and subject. He writes here of Atwater "Soupspoon"' Wise, a battered, failing relic of a man who once played backup to legendary Delta jazz guitarist Robert "RL" Johnson and who is now barely surviving on New York's Lower East Side. When we meet him, Soupspoon, who has cancer, is being evicted from his tiny apartment. Enter Kiki Waters, a hard-drinking, profane redhead who fled a life of horror and incest in Arkansas and now ekes out an uneasy living at a Wall Street insurance firm. With her tough street smarts, she stops the eviction cold, uses her office know-how to fake lavish health insurance for Soupspoon and moves him in with her. They cling together, these two outcasts from hard times, Soupspoon with a gentleness born of deep resignation, Kiki with a protective desperation fueled by booze and rage. Gradually, Soupspoon's life begins to mend: someone he knew as a kid in the South offers him a gig at his after-hours drinking place; a pretty young girl is drawn to his sweetness. But for Kiki, the only way out is through violence and flight. Mosley has always been a vivid writer, but here his work achieves a constant level of dark poetry: he flawlessly integrates Soupspoon's and Kiki's past harsh lives and memories with the keenly observed contemporary New York slum scene as the bittersweet blues constantly sound somber chords beneath. There is no false sentimental note anywhere in the book, just a deeply moving creation of two extraordinary people who achieve a powerful humanity where it would seem almost impossible it should exist.