Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Tempest Tales by Walter Mosley

And so began the story of Tempest Landry, three years after his death in Harlem, USA.

When Tempest Landry finds himself in front of St. Peter, he provides a justification for each of the sins he is charged with, he argues his case, and eventually refuses to go to Hell. No one had ever done this before, but if they had, they would have found out that the free will that man has on Earth follows him into the afterlife. St. Peter cannot force Tempest to go to Hell; Tempest must be convinced of his wrongdoings and accept his punishment. Heaven has no choice but to send Tempest back to Earth, albeit in the body of a recently damned soul. However, Tempest is not given more time on Earth to rebuild his life, but to accept his sins and their dire consequences. To that end, Heaven sends an accounting angel down to Earth as well. His job is to work on Tempest and persuade him to accept the divine judgment of St. Peter. Joshua Angel takes his task seriously, but he has never been to Earth in human form before. There are so many things to distract him, so many things for him to experience. It isn't long before Angel and Tempest both realize that there is much more riding on Tempest fate than either of them thought.

Paralleling Langston Hughes "Simple" stories, Mosley's characters reflect a complex African American identity. Angel mirrors the middle class African American, while Tempest gives voice to the common Harlemite. The story is fascinating and incredibly original. The characters and story have a depth to them that few authors are able to achieve. As the book comes to a close, it is clear that the tales of Tempest are not finished. As he did with Easy Rawlins and Socrates Fortlow, I hope that Mosely writes a number of books centering on Tempest and Angel.

Highly recommended.


Nihil Novum said...

This sounds crazy. Would I like it?

Carlton Farmer said...

Definitely. It was interesting, funny, and thought-provoking.