Cover image for The man in my basement : a novel
Title:
The man in my basement : a novel
Author:
Mosley, Walter.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Boston : Little, Brown and Company, [2004]

©2004
Physical Description:
249 pages ; 21 cm
Summary:
To save the home that has belonged to his family for generations, Charles Blakey, a young black man whose life is slowly crumbling around him, agress to rent out his basement for the summer to a mysterious stranger.
Language:
English
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 4.9 8.0 77539.
ISBN:
9780316570824

9780316159319
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

Charles Blakey is a young black man whose life is slowly crumbling.His parents are dead, he can't find a job, he drinks too much, and his friends have begun to desert him. Worst of all, he's fallen behind on the mortgage payments for the beautiful home that's belonged to his family for generations. When a stranger offers him $50,000 in cash to rent out his basement for the summer, Charles needs the money too badly to say no. He knows that the stranger must want something more than a basement view.Sure enough, he has a very particular-and bizarre-set of requirements, and Charles tries to satisfy him without getting lured into the strangeness.But he sees an opportunity to understand secrets of the white world, and his summer with a man in his basement turns into a journey into inconceivable worlds of power and manipulation, and unimagined realms of humanity. Richly textured and compelling, THE MAN IN MY BASEMENT is a new literary pinnacle from an acknowledged American master.


Author Notes

Walter Mosley was born in Los Angeles, California on January 12, 1952. He graduated from Johnson State College in Vermont. His first book, Devil in a Blue Dress, was published in 1990, won a John Creasy Award for best first novel, and was made into a motion picture starring Denzel Washington in 1995. He is the author of the Easy Rawlins Mystery series, the Leonid McGill Mystery series, and the Fearless Jones series. His other works include Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned, 47, Last Days of Ptolemy Grey, and Twelve Steps toward Political Revelation. He has received numerous awards, including an O. Henry Award, the Carl Brandon Society Parallax Award, and PEN America's Lifetime Achievement Award.

(Bowker Author Biography) Walter Mosley is the author of the acclaimed Easy Rawlins series of mysteries, the novels "Blue Light" and "RL's Dream", and two collections of stories featuring Socrates Fortlow, "Always Outnumbered", "Always Outgunned", for which he received the Anisfield-Wolf Award, and "Walkin' the Dog". He is a member of the board of directors of the National Book Awards and the founder of the PEN American Center's Open Book Committee. At various times in his life he has been a potter, a computer programmer, & a poet. He was born in Los Angeles & now lives in New York.

(Publisher Provided)


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Charles Blakey is an unemployed black man, deep in debt, who drinks too much, has few friends, is awkward with women, and lives alone in a large house where the basement is filled with artifacts of his family's rich history. As in many of Mosley's books, the story begins with a knock on the door: Anniston Bennet, a wealthy white man with mysterious motives, wants to rent Blakey's sizable basement. But while there is mystery here, this is no hunt for a criminal as in Mosley's famous Easy Rawlins series. Instead, an inventive premise lays the groundwork for a philosophical debate. Bennet wants Blakey to hold him prisoner for 65 days, his way of atoning for "crimes against humanity." Blakey is extremely reluctant, but the "rent" is considerable and his options are dwindling, so he agrees. At first, he's afraid of his voluntary prisoner, but the balance of power begins shifting unpredictably as the two men engage in heated question-and-answer sessions. In a way, Blakey finds his connection to his family and to the world as he explores relationships between the powerful and the disempowered, between world-changing evil and peaceful apathy. And when Bennet asks, "You think that you can have the easy life of TV and gasoline without someone suffering and dying somewhere?" the book's timeliness is irrevocably established. This is fine, provocative writing from the prolific Mosley, whose gifts extend well beyond his excellent mysteries. KeirGraff.


Publisher's Weekly Review

Even in his genre fiction, which includes mysteries (the Easy Rawlins, Fearless Jones and Socrates Fortlaw series) and SF (Blue Light, etc.), Mosley has not been content simply to spin an engrossing action story but has sought to explore larger themes as well. In this stand-alone literary tale, themes are in the forefront as Mosley abandons action in favor of a volatile, sometimes unspoken dialogue between Charles Blakey and Anniston Bennet. Blakey, descended from a line of free blacks reaching back into 17th-century America, lives alone in the big family house in Sag Harbor. Bennet is a mysterious white man who approaches Blakey with a strange proposition-to be locked up in Blakey's basement-that Blakey comes to accept only reluctantly and with reservations. The magnitude of Bennet's wealth, power and influence becomes apparent gradually, and his quest for punishment and, perhaps, redemption, proves unsettling-to the reader as well as to Blakey, who finds himself trying to understand Bennet as well as trying to recast his own relatively purposeless life. The shifting power relationship between Bennet and Blakey works nicely, and it is fitting that Blakey's thoughts find expression more in physicality than in contemplation; his involvements with earthy, sensual Bethany and racially proud, sophisticated and educated Narciss reflect differing possibilities. The novel, written in adorned prose that allows the ideas to breathe, will hold readers rapt; it is Mosley's most philosophical novel to date, as he explores guilt, punishment, responsibility and redemption as individual and as social constructs. While it will be difficult for this novel to achieve the kind of audience Mosley's genre fiction does, the author again demonstrates his superior ability to tackle virtually any prose form, and he is to be applauded for creating a rarity, an engaging novel of ideas. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved All rights reserved.


Library Journal Review

This is a standalone literary novel from Mosley, who is best-known for his detective fiction. He arranges character and plot development so that Charles Blakey, a purposeless, unemployed, African American, accepts payment to let the mysterious Anniston Bennet spend two months imprisoned in his basement-and thus the stage is set for a sequence of philosophical dialogs and debates that influence and change the path of Charles's life. The conversations veer around topics like the dynamics of power, the need for redemption through punishment, and the nature of guilt. Mosley's well-written prose and dialog are given an adequate if uninspired reading by actor Ernie Hudson. To fans of Easy Rawlins, Socrates Fortlow, and Fearless Jones, this will be a departure, but it is recommended as demand warrants.-Kristen L. Smith, Loras Coll. Lib., Dubuque, IA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

The Man in My Basement by Walter MosleyLeadtext: "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 house."My house is your house," I always said to Clarance and Ricky. I never locked the door because we lived in a secluded colored neighborhood way back from the highway. Everybody knows everybody in my neighborhood, so strangers don't go unnoticed. If somebody stole something from me, I'd have known who it was, what kind of car he drove, and the numbers on his license plate before he was halfway to Southampton."Yes," I said to the small, bald-headed white man in the dark-green suit. "I'm Blakey.""You have a stand-up basement, Mr. Blakey," the white man told me."Say what?""Teddy Odett down at Odett Realty said that you had a basement where a man could stand fully erect, one that has electricity and running water.""This house isn't for sale, mister.""Bennet. Anniston Bennet. I'm from Greenwich, Connecticut.""Well this house isn't for sale, Mr. Bennet." I thought the small man would hunch his shoulders, or maybe give me a mean frown if he was used to getting his way. Either way I expected him to leave."Oh yes," he said instead. "I know that. Your family has owned this beautiful home for seven generations or more. Mr. Odett told me that. I know it isn't for sale. I'm interested in renting.""Renting? Like an apartment?"The man made a face that might have been a smile, or an apology. He let his head loll over his right shoulder and blinked while showing his teeth for a moment."Well, not exactly," he said. "I mean yes but not in the conventional way."His body moved restlessly but his feet stayed planted as if he were a child who was just learning how to speak to adults."Well it's not for rent. It's just an old basement. More spiders down there than dust and there's plenty'a dust."Mr. Bennet's discomfort increased with my refusal. His small hands clenched as if he were holding on to a railing against high winds.I didn't care. That white man was a fool. We didn't take in white boarders in my part of the Sag Harbor. I was trying to understand why the real-estate agent Teddy Odett would even refer a white man to my neighborhood."I want to rent your basement for a couple of months this summer, Mr. Blakey.""I just told you -""I can make it very much worth your while."It was his tone that cut me off. Suddenly he was one of those no-nonsense-white-men-in-charge. What he seemed to be saying was "I know something that you had better listen to, fool. Here you think you know what's going on when really you don't have a clue."I knew that there were white people in the Hamptons that rented their homes for four and five thousand dollars a month over the summer. I owned a home like that. It was three stories high and about two hundred years old. It was in excellent shape too. My father had worked at keeping it up to code, as he'd say, for most of his life."I'm sorry, Mr. Bennet," I said again."I'm willing to pay quite a bit for what I want, Mr. Blakey," the white man said, no longer fidgeting or wagging his head. He was looking straight at me with eyes as blue as you please."No," I said, a little more certain."Maybe this is a bad time. Will you call me when you've had a chance to think about it? Maybe discuss it with your wife?" He handed me a small white business card as he spoke."No wife, no roommate, Mr. Bennet. I live alone and I like it like that.""Sometimes," he said and then hesitated, "sometimes an opportunity can show up just at the right moment. Sometimes that opportunity might be looking you in the face and you don't quite recognize it."It was almost as if he were threatening me. But he was mild and unassuming. Maybe it was a sales technique he was working out-that's what I thought at the time."Can I call you later to see if you've changed your mind?" he asked."You can call all you want," I said, regretting the words as they came out of my mouth. "But I'm not renting anything to anybody.""Thank you very much for your time, Mr. Blakey." The white man smiled and shook my hand just as if I had said yes to him. "That's my office number in Manhattan on the card. I'd give you my home phone, but I work more than anything else. I hope I'll be hearing from you. If not I will certainly call again."Before I could say anything else, the little man turned away and walked down to a Volkswagen, the new Bug, parked at the curb. It was a turquoise car that reminded me of an iridescent seven-year beetle.He made a U-turn and sped away.Across the street Irene Littleneck was watching from her porch."Everything okay, Mr. Blakey?" she called."Just a salesman, Miss Littleneck.""What's he sellin'?""I didn't even get to that," I lied. "You don't buy if you're unemployed."Irene Littleneck, eighty years old and black as tar, flashed her eyes at me. All the way across the road those yellow eyes called me a liar. So I turned my back on them and went into the house.Copyright © 2004 by Walter Mosley Excerpted from The Man in My Basement by Walter Mosley All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.