It was 1998 when Willie asked me, “Who is your favorite author?”
Without thinking, I replied, “Walter Mosley” because that is what I told anyone who cared to ask. I am not fond of that word: favorite. How can I say I like Walter Mosley more than I like Richard Bach, Toni Morrison or Alice Walker? Walter Mosley’s website bio states that he has authored ” more than 34 critically acclaimed books”. I have read 34 of them, some read several times. Mosley himself does not equate the number of books written with being a good author. He has said ” if they’re not good books, then you can’t say, well this is a good writer ’cause he wrote a whole lot of books.”
The first book I read by Mosley was Gone Fishin’ which was displayed on the library’s New Fiction Shelves in 1997. I learned that the mystery novel was the sixth in a series starring Easy Rawlins. Of course I soon read the first five Easy Rawlins books. I was unaware when I saw the film Devil in a Blue Dress in 1995 that it was based on the first novel in the Rawlins’ series. In 1995 the Fallen Angels series featured a thirty minute episode, Fearless, based on a Mosley novelette. A television film based on Mosley’s novel Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned aired on HBO in 1998. Currently in progress , Mosley is co-writing a pilot for HBO with Jonathan Demme based on his novel The Long Fall.
The character in Fearless, Fearless Jones, became the star of a new Mosley mystery series beginning in 2001. The Leonid McGill mystery series began in 2009 with The Long Fall. Despite enjoying the new mystery series, Facebook fans of Walter Mosley expressed disappointment when the Easy Rawlins series ended with the novel Blonde Faith. It appears that Rawlins died, but maybe not. The fans want Mosley to resurrect the character.
Walter Mosley also writes Science Fiction, non-fiction, erotica and more. I read This Year You Write Your Novel, not because I aspire to writing a novel, but because I wanted to know how Mosley mastered his craft. His mystery series novels are easy to read with a natural flow that seems lacking in other series. There are no five page explanations about characters and situations from earlier novels in the series. Mosley imparts the information in a nonchalant manner which does not confuse a reader due to too much information not essential to the story. He makes writing a novel seem easy.
Mosley was born in 1952 in Watts, Los Angeles California, living there until his parents moved the family to a more affluent neighborhood. Walter’s father, Leroy, a veteran of World War II, left his home state, Louisiana for the same reason many black men and women left Jim Crow southern United States. Walter did not consider his mother, Ella Slatkin, white. Her Hebrew family left Europe hoping to find acceptance in California. Mosley likens Jewish people to a tribe, a not quite white tribe. Interracial marriage was legal in California, yet his parents were denied a license, until after Walter was born.
As a young adult Walter drifted around California, the country and Europe, before settling into a career as a computer programmer working for IBM, Mobil, and Dean Witter during the 1970s and 1980s. He experimented with other trades, never feeling satisfied by his occupations. He was married for ten years to Joy Kellman. Joy was the reason he relocated to New York city, where he still lives today. Mosley’s first attempt at publication, a novella featuring Ezekiel Rawlins was rejected by fifteen agents. He turned the novella into a mystery novel and became a published author at thirty-eight-years old.
Maybe writing has not been as easy, as I thought, for Mosley. It is easy, however, to see how Mosley and his parents’ experiences influence his writing. Lenoid McGill’s father, for instance may closely resemble Walter’s own father. In an interview with Johanna Neuman, Mosley says “My relatives were all socialists, communists from Eastern Europe.” This likely shaped Walter’s political views and ideals as expressed in his non-fiction books, such as Life Out of Context. He manages to sneak in those same political ideals during the course of a riveting murder mystery tale.
In the book, 12 Angry Men, True Stories of Being A Black Man in America Today, Mosley is quoted as saying about his interactions with the police: “When I was a kid in Los Angeles, they used to spot me all the time, beat on me, follow me around, tell me when I was stealing things.” If he has any anger over mistreatment, it may be fuel to help him create realistic characters. Having lived in both Los Angeles and New York city, he has the ability to bring the areas and people to life. After reading Fortunate Son, I wondered if Mosley interviewed homeless people, because he seems to have an intimate knowledge regarding how some homeless view their world.
Authors are advised to “write what you know”. Writing great books may not be easy, but writing what he knows likely makes Walter Mosley a fantastic writer. As an only child, Walter filled his loneliness by creating fantasies. Being able to write what he does not know, futuristic and Science Fiction novels, came from a fertile imagination developed during his formative years. Problems related to aging may occupy Mosley’s mind as he approaches sixty. His thoughts may be expressed through the McGill character or in his book The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey.
It is 2012 and when people ask me who my favorite author is, I still say without thinking: Walter Mosley. I truly do not know why that is so.
Supporting Link, short You Tube video
Is Productivity a Writer’s True Currency? by Walter Mosley
Official Walter Mosley wesite
Book Reviews by Alyce Rocco
What Next A Memoir Towards World Peace by Walter Mosley
Known To Evil by Walter Mosley