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Bookworm: Get ‘Blood Grove’ and put that bookmark in a drawer

‘We Need to Hang Out’ a lighthearted look at human connections from a male point of view

Terri Schlichenmeyer
Columnist

“Blood Grove: An Easy Rawlins Novel”

  • By Walter Mosley
  • c. 2021, Mulholland Books
  • $27, $34 Canada; 309 pages

Keep your eyes open. Don’t blink. Sometimes, that fraction of a second is all you need to miss something. Blink, and you may wonder if it really happened, or if you just think it did. Blink again, and you just don’t know. So, keep them peepers open because, as in the new novel “Blood Grove” by Walter Mosley, bad things can happen in a ...

“Blood Grove: An Easy Rawlins Novel” author Walter Mosley.

From the hollow look in his eyes, it was obvious that the skinny, nervous white man standing before Easy Rawlins was a veteran. The guy, Craig Kilian, sported a bruise on his left temple and a bunch of Franklins in his hand, and claimed that another veteran sent him to WRENS-L Detective Agency because Easy Rawlins was trustworthy.

The story he told Easy probably wasn’t. Sometime before, Kilian said, he was camping in the mountains around Los Angeles, dealing with his demons in the moonlight when he heard a woman scream outside a cabin nearby. He ran to her and found her tied to a tree, then he wrestled with a bear of a Black man, stabbing him in the chest before Kilian was hit in the head and knocked out. When he woke up, there was no woman, no man, and no blood. Did he kill a man, or just think he did?

Finding a ghost or a dead man, neither is simple. Easy started by going to the veteran’s hang-out where Kilian said he first heard Easy’s name. He took Christmas Black to the mountains, where Black said that there were more than three people at the cabin. Kilian’s mother got a visit, so did a beautiful escort, a stripper, and so did a corpse named Alonzo. The case could’ve gone in any direction, but when the owner of a “talent agency” came looking for him with two goons and guns, Easy Rawlins knew that the next step was his ...

“Blood Grove: An Easy Rawlins Novel” by Walter Mosley.

You know how it is: you get to the end of a chapter in a book you’re reading, and you sense that that’s a good place to slip in a bookmark and stop for the night. But author Walter Mosley won’t let you do that.

Get “Blood Grove,” and you might as well just put that bookmark in a drawer.

Set in 1969, in a Los Angeles that resembles a small town, this book is full of everything you want in a mystery – foremost, a smart private detective with an attitudinally-matching name, a California-sized heart, and what seems like three extra sets of eyes so he never misses a thing, even if you do. Wrapped up in a dark atmosphere and more murders than you can almost keep track of, that’s the ultimate delight.

For fans, Mosley goes the extra step, offering a chance to catch up with the dark characters that Rawlins has called “friends” in past novels. If you’re not a fan, grab this book and you will be quick. Just don’t grab it after dark: “Blood Grove” will keep your eyes open all night.

“We Need to Hang Out: A Memoir of Making Friends”

  • By Billy Baker
  • c. 2021, Avid Reader Press
  • $27, $36 Canada; 224 pages

You miss your friends. Oh, they’re not gone-gone – you just haven’t seen them in a while. A couple are locking down, some have new jobs, new loves, new kids, and they’re busy. You’re busy and the truth is, life just gets in the way. Even so, like Billy Baker, you miss your friends, and in his new memoir, “We Need to Hang Out” he takes big steps to see his.

“We Need to Hang Out: A Memoir of Making Friends” author Billy Baker.

Generally speaking, when you’re called to the Boss’s Office, it isn’t going to be good.

For Boston Globe staff writer Billy Baker, it was even worse: his visit landed him an assignment to investigate and report on today’s friendships and how having few friends contributes to “a catastrophic effect on mental and physical health.”

This was not Baker’s idea of a juicy assignment.

Besides, he had lots of friends, didn’t he?

No, he didn’t, once he thought about it. And those he had, well, it was easy to lose track of them. One had even moved overseas, and Baker didn’t know it until he looked the guy up – so, in the interest of journalism, he jumped on a plane and flew to the guy’s new hometown to celebrate close birthdays.

Later, he learned what experts suspect: television is the biggest cause of loneliness today. What little free time we have is precious and it’s often spent on passive entertainment, leaving an average of just over a half hour a day for socializing, in-person. The result, they suggest, is a loneliness epidemic, and Baker was one of its victims.

“We Need to Hang Out: A Memoir of Making Friends” by Billy Baker.

To combat it, he planned a “Senior Skip Day” for his former high school classmates and it went well, but an evening event he planned wasn’t quite as popular. He learned why we even have friends and the difference between a “man’s man” and a “guy’s guy.” He explored the science behind friendship and how many close friends an average person has but, in the end, he learned that all you really need in tough times is one ...

Even in the best of times, it’s hard to keep in touch with old classmates, neighbors, and old friends. “We Need to Hang Out” is a lighthearted, fun look at those connections from a male point of view, and it would be much more fun without two things: the tedious overuse of the term “loser,” and the formerly-accepted, not-acceptable “gaaay.”

Now, granted, these words aren’t the focus here but they both bear mentioning for their tone-setting unnecessariness. Lacking warning, they may seriously mar your enjoyment of author Billy Baker’s stories, tales that’ll strike a chord with anyone who suddenly realizes they haven’t heard from That Friend in a while. Thick with nostalgia, they’ll bring to mind the knuckleheaded (but oh-so-fun!) things you’ve pulled with pals, past and present.

They might even spur you to reach out.

So, pick up the phone and then pick this book up. Forgive the verbal punches, and if you’re a “guy’s guy” or a woman who loves one, “We Need to Hang Out.” is a don’t-miss.

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The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.