Excerpt from Down the River unto the Sea by Walter Mosley, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Down the River unto the Sea

by Walter Mosley

Down the River unto the Sea by Walter Mosley X
Down the River unto the Sea by Walter Mosley
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2018, 336 pages
    Feb 2019, 336 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez
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"They framed me, Glad."

My friend winced and shook his head again.

"They framed me!"

"Look, Joe," he said after a full thirty seconds of silence. "I'm not saying they didn't. But we all know what you're like with the ladies, and then there's that other thing."

"What thing?"

"If it's a frame it's airtight. From the video to the girl's testimony, they've got you as a predator. You were pulling her by the hair, for chrissakes."

"She asked me to," I said, realizing what those words would sound like in front of a jury.

"No audio on the tape. It looks like she was begging you to stop."

I wanted to say something but couldn't find the right words.

"But it's not that that's the problem," Gladstone said. "The problem is you got powerful enemies who can reach in here and snuff you out."

"I need a cigarette," I replied.

My only friend in the world lit a Marlboro, stood up from his chair, and placed it between my lips. I took in a deep draw, held it, and then blew the smoke from my nostrils.

The smoke felt wonderful in my lungs. I nodded and inhaled again.

I will never forget the chill in that room.

"You got to be cool, Joe," my dispatcher said. "Don't be talking about a frame in here, or to your lawyer. I'll look into this and I'll talk to the chief of Ds too. I got a contact in his office. I know a couple of people here too. They're going to take you out of gen pop and put you in solitary confinement. At least that way you'll be safe until I can work some magic."

It's a terrible fall when you find yourself grateful to be put in segregation.

"What about Monica?" I asked. "Can you get her in here to see me?"

"She don't wanna see you, King. The detective on the case, Jocelyn Bryor, showed her the tape."

* * *

My gratitude for getting solitary didn't last long. The room was dim and small. I had a cot, a hard-edged aluminum toilet, and two and a half paces of floor space. I could touch the metal ceiling by raising my hand six inches above my head. The food sometimes turned my stomach. But because they fed me only once a day I was always ravenous. The fare was reconstituted potatoes and corned beef jerky, boiled green beans and, once a week, a cube of Jell-O.

I wasn't alone because of the roaches, spiders, and bedbugs. I wasn't alone because the dozens of men around me, also in isolation, spent hours hollering and crying, sometimes singing and pounding out rhythmic exercises.

One man, who somehow knew my name, would often regale me with insults and threats.

"I'm gonna fuck you in the ass, and when I get outta here I'm'a do the same to your wife an' little girl."

I never gave him the satisfaction of a response. Instead I found an iron strut that had somehow come loose from the concrete floor. I worried that little crosspiece until finally, after eight meals, I got it free.

Nine inches of rusted iron with a handle torn from my threadbare blanket. Somebody was going to die behind that shard of Rikers; hopefully it would be the man who threatened my family.

* * *

Never, not once, did they take me from that cell. In there I craved a newspaper or a book…and a light to read by. Bunged up in solitary confinement, I fell in love with the written word. I wanted novels and articles, handwritten letters, and computer screens filled with the knowledge of the ages.

During those weeks I accomplished a heretofore impossible feat: I gave up smoking. I had no cigarettes and the withdrawal symptoms just blended in with the rest of my suffering.

The other prisoners' complaints became background noise like elevator music or a song you'd heard so often but never knew the words.

Excerpted from Down the River unto the Sea by Walter Mosley. Copyright © 2018 by Walter Mosley. Excerpted by permission of Mulholland. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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