RE: RARA-AVIS: Walter Mosley

From: Kerry Schooley (
Date: 23 Jul 2002

>I don't recall the source but I understand that Ellroy has accused
>Mosley of ripping off his ideas to write A RED DEATH.

I consider Mosely and Ellroy the two most important writers in the genre today. Both have led me to see the world differently, and helped me toward understanding some of its apparent inequities. They accomplish this by taking a different slant point-of-view toward their subjects.

Ellroy announces this different viewpoint by taking up the language of a manic, desperate segment of society, and shows how bureaucracies peopled by such individuals are often reduced to pursuing their lowest, common objectives, usually the pursuit of dominance. These are people, because of their attachments to authority, see the prevalence of its corruptions, and are themselves at various times able to act above the law. The fluidity of power in Ellroy's novels is fascinating.

Mosley shows a parallel universe that does not "benefit" from the rule of law, at least in nothing like the way imagined in white, middle-class communities. Because of their race, Mosley's characters are most times beneath the law, or beneath its notice. Mosley also uses language, putting dialect into Rawlins' mouth to establish veracity when he talks in dialogue to his fellows, but dropping it when he narrates to his white readers. Mosley wants to show that Rawlins' limitations aren't the result of a lack of intelligence, but of a rigid hierarchy based upon race. Power is fluid above and below the law, but that one, low constant of race remains.

Sorry. Nobody asked for this shallow, pompous critique, but having recently interviewed Mosley, the one thing I'd like to have asked and didn't was how he sees power and authority shift within his novelized black communities.

> (I'm not even going to go into why an
>author of Mosley's talent would need to steal from Ellroy)

then Anthony Dauer wrote:

"It's also an obvious marketing ploy ..."

Sure. Most authors would claim that perhaps Mosley was influenced by one of their books. But the controversy raised by the word "steal" gets attention that help's to sell books. Mosley's as well as Ellroy's. In the past, some on this list (not necessarily Anthony) have disparaged Ellroy's skill at getting this sort of attention. Personally, I like to see good writers sell their books.

And Brian Thorton says:

"Gone Fishin'" was a vile, sweaty, smelly heap of fleshy overindulgence
(and not the good kind). I couldn't even finish it.

Well, it's most of those adjectives, and is certainly closer to Donald Goines "Swamp Man" than anything else in the Rawlins oeuvre. Don't know whether it earns the designation "overindulgence". I'm inclined to trust Mosley. I found "Gone Fishin' " useful in understanding Rawlins and Mouse. The other books frequently refer to a past in the rural south. Then again, Mosley grew up in L.A., not Louisiana or Texas, so I understand the book may lack the authenticity readers find in the other books in the series. Rawlins' often refers to his past in Houston as well. I'd like to read a book with Rawlins on that turf too.

But I'm a fan, long past objective. Half-way through Bad Boy Brawly Brown and I'm enjoying it thoroughly, though I suspect Mosley's not quite as engaged in his subject matter as he was in the earlier books. Dunno. Characters not quite so fully developed, maybe. Maybe too soon to tell.


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