Best known for his series of crime novels about the exploits of Ezekiel (Easy) Rawlins, a charismatic black detective who has also been a Los Angeles real estate salesman and a janitor, Walter Mosley, who is rarely seen without his trademark fedora, has written his 10th.
His first, "Devil in a Blue Dress" (1990), was made into a critically acclaimed film in 1995 starring Denzel Washington and produced by Jonathan Demme. "Every news person in America knows that Bill Clinton likes my Easy Rawlins books yet the books didn't sell any better because of it but I did get a sales boost following the movie of "Devil in a Blue Dress," said a laconic Walter Mosley during a phone interview from his New York home.
"When I started writing 'Blue Dress,' I had no idea it was a mystery I thought it was a coming-of-age novel," said Mosley.
His 10th Easy Rawlins novel is "Blonde Faith," a rollicking good story that displays all of Rawlins' positive and negative qualities. But Mosley is tired of his character.
"I've written 3,000 pages on Easy Rawlins. What else can I say? There has to be an ending some time," said Mosley. So far he has received only "friendly complaints" from readers who hate to see Rawlins go.
Although Rawlins lives in the Watts section of Los Angeles during the race riots of the 1960s, and he frequently encounters racism, Mosley never intended to make a political statement about race.
"The truth is, it is impossible not to be political in writing," said Mosley. "What am I saying? Well, racism is just there in the sixties. I'm not adding anything. I'm trying to evoke a time. I just wrote what it was like for this guy to walk down the street."
Mosley also rejects any comparison between his character and himself. "I'm not Easy Rawlins. I'm not any of these characters, but something about how my mind works helps me come up with Easy," Mosley said.
Mosley did admit to having a lot of imagination. "But we all do and we use it in different ways. Reading a novel requires a great imagination."
Although many critics have compared Mosley to Raymond Chandler, Mosley prefers Dashiell Hammet and Ross Macdonald to Chandler. In fact, he just re-read Hammet's "Red Harvest" because he enjoys him so much.
Like those writers, Mosley's sense of humor pops out often in his work. "When I became a writer," said Mosley, "I had to do public events, then I suddenly realized I'm very funny. People would laugh at my responses. Some of my answers were risque or even risky but I would never have known it if people weren't laughing. I really don't know how it happens."
Rawlins faces many problems in "Blonde Faith" including a friend leaving his daughter at Easy's house without even a note; his closest friend, Mouse, prominent sidekick, has disappeared and Easy's worried the police have killed him; and Bonnie, Easy's longtime lover, has left him for another man.
In an effort to deal with all these issues, he runs into drug dealers, corrupt officials, criminals and a very interesting woman named Faith. But most interesting of all is Easy conflicted, a little wild, old-fashioned in his grief, funny, lustful, devoted as a father but a romantic at heart.
Mosley's style is nothing if not unique and even as he wrote this last Rawlins novel, he showed no sign of losing his touch.
Originally a computer programmer, the 55-year-old Mosley is almost as diverse in his interests as his most famous character. He writes science fiction and young-adult novels and is active in the black community on the issue of racial equality. In April, "Tempest Tales," a kind of tribute book to writer Langston Hughes and Harlem philosophy, will be released.
He also continues to write stories and novels around an exotic character named Socrates Fortlow, who spent 27 years in prison ("Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned" (1997) and "Walkin' the Dog" (1999)).Mosley's not anxious to share his political views but does admit to having started "an online movement to allow people to vote according to their feelings." He believes the United States government "is really an oligarchy where 40,000 lobbyists make a living off the blood of Washington, D.C., no matter who is in office. We don't live in a democracy."