Conversations with Walter Mosley

Conversations with Walter Mosley

Edited by Owen E. Brady
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 256
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Conversations with Walter Mosley
    Book Description:

    The interviews in this collection cover Walter Mosley's career and reveal an overarching theme: a belief in the transformative power of reading and writing. Since the 1990 publication of his first novel, Devil in a Blue Dress, Mosley (b. 1952) has published over thirty books in a tremendous range of genres and modes: crime and detective fiction, science fiction, literary novels of ideas, character studies, political and social nonfiction, erotica, and memoir. Best known for his Easy Rawlins detective series and Socrates Fortlow series of crime novels, Mosley has created a body of work that as a whole chronicles and examines twentieth-century African American experience.Conversations with Walter Mosley covers the breadth of Mosley's career and reveals a craftsman and wryly witty conversationalist. Conscious of his forebears as well as literary techniques, he discusses favorites and influences including Camus, Shakespeare, and Dickens as well as writers in popular genres, especially speculative fiction and the hard-boiled noir detective tradition. He also discusses how his work modifies the crime tradition to engage it with black experience.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-944-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xx)

    Walter Mosley is a prolific and protean writer, critically acclaimed and commercially successful. Starting relatively late on a writing career has spurred Mosley’s astounding output and virtuosity in the twenty years from 1990 to 2010: thirty-three books, several screenplays, a theatrical adaptation of one of his novels, and numerous essays and stories in newspapers and magazines. While many novels are in the popular mystery and science fiction genres, he has also penned a variety of literary novels and an experimental young adult novel. In addition to fiction, he has published three nonfiction monographs raising sociopolitical questions and arguing for political...

  4. Chronology
    (pp. xxi-2)
  5. Walter Mosley
    (pp. 3-15)
    Thulani Davis

    Novelist Walter Mosley, forty-one, already a cult favorite among mystery readers, suddenly appeared on television and in the papers in January when newly inaugurated President Clinton named him as his favorite writer. Mosley is the author of three novels:Devil in a Blue Dress, the tale of troubles caused by an illusory woman who forces people to cross dangerous taboos;A Red Death, which brings the ’50s McCarthy witch hunts into the churches and Africanist meetings of black L.A.; andWhite Butterfly, the chase for a serial killer who does not interest police until a white woman turns up among...

  6. The Other Side of Those Mean Streets
    (pp. 16-28)
    Charles L. P. Silet

    Walter Mosley achieved instant recognition with the publication of his first Easy Rawlins book,Devil in a Blue Dress(1990). The critics were uniformly complimentary about the novel. They loved his historical re-creation of postwar Los Angeles and the unique voice he had captured with his characters.A Red Death(1991) was equally well received. Mosley moved his time frame forward into the early 1950s and once again explored the Afro-American world of LA. The critics placed Mosley squarely in the hard-boiled tradition of Hammett, Chandler, and Cain, even though Easy walked down mean streets not explored before. Once again,...

  7. Walter Mosley’s Secret Stories: A Ride with a Mystery Writer Who Evokes the Unclichéd
    (pp. 29-41)
    Lynell George

    Midafternoon, and we are sailing. The wide span of Century Boulevard seems vast in its possibilities, a seductive expanse with room to roam or expand. At quick glimpse, it is sparkling, but a brief pause at a light reveals something quite different—a poorly patched facade, a wall of chain link encircling nothing, rubble from some long-lost decade left to rot or rust.

    “Look at these giant streets!” Walter Mosley rides jump seat, taking in L.A. the way many Angelenos do, at 45-miles-per, the window raised, studying the blur of color and shapes skidding outside the windshield. We make a...

  8. The Monday Interview: Walter Mosley
    (pp. 42-46)
    Esther Oxford

    TheLos Angeles Timessees him as a preeminent spokesman for America’s blacks. President Clinton is his most famous fan. TheNew York Times Book Reviewsays he is “one of America’s best mystery writers.” British newspapers have referred to him as “the most important black literary figure since James Baldwin.”

    So what does Walter Mosley, forty-three, America’s hottest black author, think of himself? “I don’t feel like an idol,” he says, wriggling his bum back in the chair and smiling pleasantly. “In fact, I feel kind of normal.”

    I want to feed him frozen date mousse and apricot sorbet...

  9. Walter Mosley Writers Institute Seminar and Evening Reading
    (pp. 47-65)
    Donald Faulkner

    Note: The following interview consists of the transcript from two events held on February 20, 1996. The first part records the interaction between Walter Mosley; Donald Faulkner, the Director of the Writers Institute; and an audience of writing students, faculty, and some members of the general public. The evening session records the question and answer session between Mosley and a general audience after his public reading.

    Donald Faulkner: I want to say that Walter Mosley is a man of his word. He was willing to come and visit with us last fall, and that afforded us a great opportunity to...

  10. Walter Mosley, 1998
    (pp. 66-74)
    William Mills

    It’s a Tuesday evening. Another New York City day lowers to a livable pitch. Walter Mosley, the acclaimed mystery writer, sits behind a large wooden desk in a chair that resembles a medieval oak throne, talking with loud inflections that bounce off the walls. Mosley is the king of all his imagination, an imagination that has produced the vivid whiskey-laden scenes ofRL’s Dreamand the character Socrates, and the Easy Rawlins series, which includesBlack BettyandDevil in a Blue Dress. Talking with Walter Mosley is like having an afternoon conversation in a barbershop on Jefferson Street in...

  11. Interview with Walter Mosley January 1999
    (pp. 75-85)
    Samuel Coale

    Sam Coale: You have said that you wrote a single sentence one day which spoke to you and that that got you started as a writer. Could you explain this in more detail?

    Walter Mosley: I was working as a consulting programmer at Mobil Oil, not as an employee but working on my own. I was there on a weekend, so nobody else was there. And I was writing programs. I got tired of doing that, so I started writing this sentence: “On hot sticky days in southern Louisiana, the fire ants swarmed.” And I thought, “That sounds like the...

  12. On the Chain Gang
    (pp. 86-90)
    Elizabeth Farnsworth

    Elizabeth Farnsworth: The new book isWorkin’ on the Chain Gang: Shaking off the Dead Hand of Historyby Walter Mosley. His first nonfiction book, it looks at what he calls “the chains that define our range of motion.” Mosley has written, among other books, seven critically acclaimed mysteries, featuring a reluctant private eye named Easy Rawlins. One of those novels,Devil in a Blue Dress, became a movie starring Denzel Washington. A story collection, featuring a character named Socrates Fortlow, an ex-con who’s a kind of moral guide in South Central Los Angeles, became a movie on HBO. Walter...

  13. Eavesdropping with Walter Mosley and Colson Whitehead
    (pp. 91-98)
    Colson Whitehead and Walter Mosley

    Lured by the dual promises of a midday meal at a famous Brooklyn eatery and the opportunity to meet an admired colleague, Colson Whitehead and Walter Mosley accepted an invitation fromBookto dine at Junior’s Restaurant a couple of months before Whitehead’s second novel,John Henry Days, a rumination on the legendary black folk hero, was released.

    Walter Mosley, forty-nine, the award-winning author of six Easy Rawlins mysteries and half dozen other books, arrives punctually and hangs up his fedora and overcoat before sitting down. Whitehead—whose debut,The Intuitionist, was a critically acclaimed genre-bending novel about an elevator...

  14. BookMuse Interview with Walter Mosley
    (pp. 99-106)
    Gail David-Tellis

    Gail David-Tellis: Thank you for talking to me. I have some questions and some are kind of longwinded, so feel free to do with them whatever you wish. OK?

    Walter Mosley: Ohkeydokey!

    GD-T: Paris Minton’s determination to open a bookstore in Watts inFearless Jonesis the most obvious and recent example of how much you endorse reading in your books. Who is your favorite writer? What writers are you currently reading?

    WM: I don’t know. The idea of having a favorite writer …. The problem with having a favorite writer, is if he or she wrote a book you...

  15. Walter Mosley Talks Technology, Race, and His Return Trip into Futureland
    (pp. 107-111)
    Hugo Perez

    Walter Mosley was not met with open arms by publishers when he sent his first novel out in 1989. As he tells it, their response was, “Well, you have to understand. White people don’t read about black people. Black women don’t like black men. And black men don’t read.” Mosley thankfully did not listen to them, andDevil in a Blue Dresswas published in 1990 to widespread mainstream acclaim and success. It launched the best-selling Easy Rawlins mystery series, proved that black men, when given something that speaks to them, do in fact read, and made the editors that...

  16. Walter Mosley: A Seat at the Table
    (pp. 112-121)
    Charles N. Brown and Walter Mosley

    Walter [Ellis] Mosley was born January 12, 1952, in Los Angeles, California, and grew up in South Central L.A. In 1972, he moved to the East Coast and attended college in Vermont and Massachusetts before graduating in 1977 from Johnson State College, Vermont, with a BA in political science. In 1982 he moved to New York City with Joy Kellman, whom he married in 1987.

    Mosley held a variety of jobs, including potter and caterer, and didn’t get interested in writing until he was in his early thirties, while working as a computer programmer for Mobil Oil in New York...

  17. Taking a Stand with Walter Mosley
    (pp. 122-126)
    Libero Della Piana

    Editor’s note: Most well-known for his mystery fiction, Walter Mosley is also the author of numerous social commentary books, including most recentlyWhat Next. He has also published science fiction such asFuturelandandBlue Light. This interview was conducted by Libero Della Piana.

    PA: The mystery writer and commentator Gary Phillips wrote an article inColorlinesmagazine in which he says that who gets killed in America, and why and who pays are themes central to the lives of people of color and the disenfranchised. He says no literary form is more conducive to delving into this than the...

  18. Walter Mosley: Fearless and Easy
    (pp. 127-135)
    Craig McDonald

    When Walter Mosley’sDevil in a Blue Dressdebuted in 1990, he was purported to be one of two black writers working in the crime fiction genre. His series of Easy Rawlins novels—popular with critics, readers, and a former U.S. President—kick-started Mosley’s sales and launched a wave of crime fiction novels penned by black authors.

    Hard on the heels of his “presidential endorsement,” Mosley shifted gears and set off in several new directions, publishing a mainstream novel, two highly praised volumes of linked short stories about ex-convict Socrates Fortlow, a nonfiction essay on race relations at the dawn...

  19. Interview with Walter Mosley
    (pp. 136-155)
    Paula L. Woods

    Audience: (applause)

    Walter Mosley: Wow!

    Paula Woods: Welcome. Thank you so much for coming out. Thank you so much for this tribute, which will be one of many for our guest of honor. I think it’s probably useless for me to introduce Walter Mosley, but I will try. Hopefully you read my appreciation of him, and those of you who have, know that he is probably one of the more prolific writers you will see at Left Coast Crime this weekend. He has written eight Easy Rawlins novels and a prequel, short stories as well as a second series—as...

  20. Walter Mosley, Uneasy Street
    (pp. 156-164)
    Christopher P. Farley

    On August 11, 1965, a routine traffic stop in a residential section of South Central Los Angeles known as Watts sparked the largest riots in American history. Over the next six days, thirty-four people were killed, more than a thousand were injured, and over two hundred million dollars worth of property had been stolen, destroyed, or burned to the ground.

    Why did this happen? What fueled the volcanic rage that was unleashed in Watts just one year after the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act? And what were the lasting effects of the Watts riots on rapidly evolving race relations in...

  21. Walter Mosley Interview
    (pp. 165-172)
    Connie Martinson

    Connie Martinson: Hello. Welcome toConnie Martinson Talks Books. Well, he’s back. Who? Easy Rawlins. And he’s in a new book calledCinnamon Kiss, written by my guest, Walter Mosley. It’s published by Little, Brown and Company. Welcome, Walter.

    Walter Mosley: Thank you very much.

    Martinson: It’s such a short time between this book,Cinnamon Kiss, andLittle Scarlet, and yet in reading it, it seems like years away.

    Mosley: Emotionally it’s a very different book. It’s set in a very different way thanLittle Scarlet.

    Martinson: Let’s tell our friends: at the beginning Easy is very concerned because his...

  22. Walter Mosley’s Search for Context
    (pp. 173-176)
    Maria Luisa Tucker

    Walter Mosley’s latest monograph,Life Out of Context, is a cognitive journey that tackles the big questions many of us have furtively attempted to answer. How can we make a difference in a topsy-turvy world where average citizens seem so powerless? What can be done to help the masses of people suffering in poor nations? Is there an effective way for us to individually fight for global justice in a corporatized, corrupted world?

    Mosley invites readers into his thought process as he attempts to answer these questions over a series of sleepless nights. He wonders how he, or anyone, can...

  23. A Conversation with Walter Mosley
    (pp. 177-186)
    John Orr

    We aren’t yet halfway through 2006 and the talented Walter Mosley has already published four books—The Wave(science-fiction),Life Out of Context(political meditations),Cinnamon Kiss(an Easy Rawlins mystery), and his latest,Fortunate Son, which is literary fiction, a beautiful, involving, and touching parable about blacks and whites in America.

    Don’t blink, he has a Fearless Jones novel coming out in September. There are … [many] books by Walter Mosley—mysteries, literary fiction, sciencefiction, fiction for young adults, collections of short stories and political essays—listed at

    And he is not publishing hackwork. He has been called...

  24. Hardboiled to Hardcore: Interview with Walter Mosley
    (pp. 187-191)
    D. Scot Miller

    Writer Walter Mosley calls his new book a sexistential noir. Seeing thatKilling Johnny Frymixes incest with loneliness, golden showers with ennui, and strap-ons with a longing for connection, the description fits like a latex glove.

    “I think of this book as being in the tradition of Camus’The Stranger,” Mosley tellsPopMatters. “I’m talking about loneliness, the moment when existentialism and mid-life come into contact with each other, the aloneness of people in America, the deep melancholy of America, and the deep feelings of sexuality in all of our lives.”

    When the book was released on 2 January,...

  25. Walter Mosley
    (pp. 192-197)
    Tavis Smiley

    Tavis: Good news for Walter Mosley fans. His favorite detective, Easy Rawlins, is back. However, the bad news is it may be for the last time. The new book from the award-winning author is calledBlonde Faithand is the tenth in the Easy Rawlins mystery series. Walter Mosley dedicates this latest novel to the late, great August Wilson.

    Back in the spring, he was on this program with a work of nonfiction calledThis Year You Write Your Novel. Apparently, he took his own advice, because Easy is back as is Walter Mosley.

    Walter, good to see you.


  26. Interview: Walter Mosley
    (pp. 198-202)
    Marcus Gilmer

    For fans of mystery novels, Walter Mosley needs no introduction. Mosley is best known for his Easy Rawlins mysteries such asDevil in a Blue DressandSix Easy Pieces, but his literary prowess spans several genres. In under twenty years, Mosley has written thirty-three books in genres such as mystery, science fiction, young adult, several nonfiction books, and even erotica. The winner of awards such as a PEN America’s Lifetime Achievement Award, an O. Henry Award, and even a Grammy (for his liner notes on a Richard Pryor boxset), Mosley has also been recognized for the way he addresses...

  27. PIP—The Fall of Heaven—Walter Mosley
    (pp. 203-208)
    Rick Pender

    WVXU: It seems likely that you’ve read something by my guest this evening on “Around Cincinnati.” Novelist Walter Mosley is one of America’s most versatile and prolific writers. His output over the past two decades includes more than twenty-five works of fiction, and he can count among his fans movie stars and at least one past president of the United States. His best-known title,Devil in a Blue Dress, was made into a big hit movie starring Denzel Washington as his recurring solver of murders in East Los Angeles. The character’s name is Easy Rawlins. But, to kick off 2010,...

  28. Index
    (pp. 209-215)