RARA-AVIS: Walter Mosley

From: Carrie Pruett ( pruettc@hotmail.com)
Date: 31 Jul 2002

I went to see Walter Mosley last night at Borders - what a cool guy. He is a very entertaining reader - read from his new book "Bad Boy Brawly Brown" - and an interesting speaker. He had a great rapport with the audience and although it was quite a large crowd he made the event feel intimate. I have been reading several of his books in the past week and I enjoyed them although I don't think that he'll ever be one of my favorites. Still, I'd encourage anybody who has a chance to hear him read to go for it (although I think he said that this was the last stop of his tour).

Questions he addressed - he's from LA originally, although he hasn't lived there since the 1970s! I found that interesting, I don't know where he lives now. I assume somewhere on the east coast since he was ending his tour in Virginia but he didn't volunteer the information and it seemed rude to ask. He enjoyed the movie of "Devil in a Blue Dress," and there are various film and TV projects he may be involved with in the future, but it's hard to tell how those things go and it's not a priority for him. If Mosley had been in charge of the film, he would have made it differently but, he added, that's not to say his version would be better. He likes Denzel Washington but thinks he is "too expensive" and in any case he thinks that Don Cheadle's Mouse was the "great performance" in the movie (much applause on this point).

Mosley has written mysteries, sci-fi, and literary fiction, but he doesn't really think about genre when he writes. He just writes the stories that he wants to tell. He considers his "genre" to be writing about black male heroes. He was a computer programmer before he was a writer, and he used to get up at 5 in the morning and write for 3 hours before going to work. Now he still writes for 3 hours every day, and he finds he can't be productive if he tries to write more than that (one awed audience member kept asking what he does for the rest of the day, but most of us thought that was funny, esp. those who have tried their hand at writing). His first book was "Gone Fishing" but he couldn't sell it because of the stereotype that "white people don't read about black people, black women don't read about black men, and black men don't read." He hopes that his success has helped to dispel these stereotypes.

Someone asked about other writers he liked, I'm afraid I didn't hear most of his responses, though I did catch Gary Phillips' name. He didn't mention any "classic" mystery writers that I recognized and in fact he said that when he started writing the "color" themed titles he wasn't aware that John D. MacDonald had already done this. In fact, Mosley didn't intend to start this theme with his own books. His first published book was "Devil in a Blue Dress" then he wrote "A Red Death", which was a reference to Edgar Allan Poe. It was only with the next book that his editor asked him what the "color" would be in the title and Mosley realized that the editor was expecting another color, so he has continued with that theme.

Addressing the relationship between Easy and Mouse, Mosley said that HE would not be friends with Mouse, and if Mouse lived next door, he (Mosley) would move out and not leave a forwarding address. However, Easy uses Mouse to "back him up" the same way that the powerful men Easy confronts have the police and other institutions. Easy doesn't think that Mouse is the most amoral or evil person in the books, Mouse is just more honest and accepting about the code that he lives by.

I got my copy of "Brawly Brown" signed and in the great tradition of having something intelligent to say to an author, I blurted out "I like your glasses." He was wearing these very vivid multicolored glasses with sparkles in the frames. He said, "Thanks" (sincerely, I think) then added
"they are cheap and they break easily, you can buy them in any bookstore."


- Pictures of perfection, as you know, make me sick and wicked - Jane Austen

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