BOOKS . . . GONE FISHIN: The previously unpublished first novel from President Clinton's favorite mystery writer, Walter Mosley, is a first rate thriller. Mosley rocketed to fame after the 1990 success of his second novel, 'Devil in a Blue Dress.' "The publication of 'Fishin'' is noteworthy because it is, in some respects, the best of Mosley's novels," notes White. "Set in East Texas in 1939, it is a morally murky coming-of-age story that explains why it ainít easy being hero Easy Rawlins. The tale concerns a pivotal episode that Mosley has alluded to in the previously published novels: the murder by Easy's homicidal sidekick, Mouse, of his stepfather. Witnessing the killing -- and accepting a payoff to keep quiet about it -- is the original sin that dogs the rest of Easyís life as he joins the great black migration to Los Angeles, fights in World War II and struggles to find a place of dignity for himself in a society that maintains, at best, only grudging respect for African Americans." As in Mosley's other novels, the plot is mostly incidental, a prop for his rich characterizations and astute social observations. "In his renderings of a black preacherís rolling sermon or the colorful chit-chat among the locals in a general store, Mosley displays a pitch-perfect gift for capturing the cadences of black speech that rivals the dialogue in Ralph Ellison's 'Invisible Man,'" White notes. "'Gone Fishin',' of course, is not in 'Invisible Man's' league; few novels are. But it firmly establishes Mosley as a writer whose work transcends the thriller category and qualifies as serious literature. The big mystery is why any publisher would ever have turned it down."
MOVIES . . . FIRST STRIKE: The plot Jackie Chan's new action film is standard spy hokum: he's caught in a nuclear arms chase involving the CIA, the former KGB and renegade merchants of death. It engrosses little and matters less. "As in musicals and porno films, it's the big numbers -- here the rampaging action scenes -- that carry a Chan movie," notes TIME's Richard Corliss. So see Jackie on killer stilts, Jackie jumping from a high ledge, Jackie battling in an aquarium stocked with great white (rubber) sharks. See, and marvel, as he fights off a dozen or so angry Chinese men; his only weapons are a card table, some folding chairs and a metal ladder that becomes his own personal jungle gym. "Director Stanley Tong doesn't have quite the camera savvy of an ace Hollywood action auteur," notes Corliss, "but when the star is in motion, defying gravity, physics and common sense, all reservations dissolve into awe at one man's grace and comic charm. Jackie is Chan-tastic."