Re: James Ellroy for the Pulitzer? WAS: Re: RARA-AVIS: Elmore Leonard

From: David Moran (
Date: 22 Jan 2004 wrote:

> > I haven't discovered a new American writer I've been really excited about in
> > ten years (when I simultaneously happened upon Cormac McCarthy and James
> > Ellroy). But, then again, if Leonard or Ellroy don't deserve to win a
> >Nobel, who in America really does?
> Two words: Walter Moseley.

I haven't ventured too very deeply into his work. I read "Devil in a Blue Dress" a long time ago because everyone always crows about it, and then "A Red Death" shortly afterward. I hated them both, though. Then I saw the movie for "Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned," which I liked better than the Rawlins stuff, mostly because it's not trying too hard to be a mystery (I don't know how closely it follows the book though; I hated the Denzel Washington "Devil"). About two months ago I figured I'd give Mosley another shot--I'm generous that way--and try one of the later Easy Rawlins books, so I read the short story collection, "Six Easy Pieces." Surprise, surprise, I disliked that one too, although I liked it better than either of the previous two books of his that I'd read.

He'd be a much better writer if he stopped forcing mysteries into his stories. He writes bad mysteries, I think, pretty tepid stuff; the kind of painfully four-square Chandler knockoffs that people have been doing to death (and doing it better) for decades. What does interest me in his novels are the oddly bourgeois dreams and aspirations Easy Rawlins has. On the one hand, he's this negro counterculture type (not by any kind of hippie-ness, but by virtue of his race in a racist society), with the genre's requisite dislike for authority...on the other hand all he really wants to do is own property and be a landlord. That's something you don't see in mysteries every day...or in "straight" fiction for that matter.

My general take on him is that he's an ambitious (points there) but not terribly talented writer who has some perverse fascination for a genre that cripples everything that IS good about his writing. I tend to think of him as part of that wave of 1980s mystery/crime writers who got (and still get) a lot of press as previously excluded minorities "redefining" the genre (cf. Sara Paretsky, whom I like even less than Mosley).

Also, like Sara P., I find Mosley gratingly, stupidly, almost poisonously liberal. Paretsky's much worse with her dopey diatribes, but Mosley is a pretty serious offender too. And I'm one who considers himself pretty far on the left, too.

David Moran

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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 22 Jan 2004 EST