Jack Strong: A Story of Life after Life Kindle Edition

Jack Strong bookcover
Walter Mosley
Open Road Integrated Media


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Dating back from when I was in college and had to read Devil in a Blue Dress to compare it to the movie of the same name, I have been a Walter Mosley fan; that’s been a long time I’ve had to read a lot of the Easy Williams series. The curious novella,Jack Strong,is the first work of Mosley’s that I’ve read that was speculative fiction. The point of view character, Jack Strong, is no ordinary man, but is not only physically compiled of the bits and pieces of a number of people, but mentally composed of their unbearable intimacies, the things they knew (while they were alive), the secrets of the dead, and sometimes their hidden impulses. With this chaos in Jack’s head, he wakes in a Vegas Hotel room. We find later he had been taken there by a doctor and nurse.

Reading the character of Jack Strong is an experience that must be like living as Tara, in the United States of Tara, or inside the head of Shirley Ardell Mason, the woman about whom the book Sybil was written. Jack Strong is, as he puts it, “schizophrenic with side orders of multiple personality and delusions,” except that the memories he has are also reflected in his patchwork body. The book is written in first person, but that first person fluctuates between Jack and whichever of the personalities needs to be on stage.

The premise is an ambitious one, and plays out a somewhat obtuse pulp fiction plot. If I had a criticism, it would be that the story begins “in media res” to the point that it is a struggle to figure out what—and who—is going on. The questions come in cascades: whose memories are these? why is he going to the casino? Why did he kill these thugs? Why is this character made up of other people? The answers are in trickles. Tom Grog, representative of the Convocation, could provide explanations, but he says only that Jack is “the phoenix” and Grog is only there to witness Jack’s “rebirth and transformation,” and only leads to more madding questions. While Jack Strong lacks the ring of meticulous truth of Easy William’s voice, he is a character who is strong and in control, almost the template of a dissociative X-Man lead woven of strange twists. Mr. Mosley, I feel compelled to ask, where is the rest of the story?