Goddard College alum Walter Mosley has written more than 4 dozen books in his incredible career. In particular, he invented the character of Easy Rawlins, an African-American detective living in Watts, solving crimes, and reflecting on life in an America few get to know. The Writer has cobbled together excerpts from interviews Walter has given over the years. You can access those interviews below…
MARTIN: You know, I was looking up my notes, and I realized I talked to you almost four years ago to the day. And back then – this is true – and back then, I said you had more than two dozen books to your credit. Now it’s nearly four dozen, and I don’t think I’m the only one who wants to know how you manage to keep up this pace.
MOSLEY: Oh, it’s easy to write. I think I probably wrote more than two dozen books four years ago. But the truth is, I don’t update it every time I write a book. But I just write every morning for two to three hours, about 360 days a year or more. And that seems to make the books come. So.
MARTIN: Do you get antsy if you don’t write something? Do feel, like, uncomfortable?
MOSLEY: I’m very unhappy if two days go by and I haven’t written.
MARTIN: I think many people, you know, associate you as portraying the black experience through the perspective of your characters over time, in different eras, faced with different situations. I was thinking about the essay that you wrote around the Trayvon Martin case. And you were reflecting on the way that George Zimmerman, the shooter, was described. And you said, you know, he’s identified variously as white, half white, half Hispanic or Hispanic. And you said all of these terms have their roots drenched in the lifeblood of racism. And so race is kind of one of the many things that we get wrong, right? I would say.
MOSLEY: Well, of course. I mean, the truth is, is I’ve been giving this talk a lot lately; that the big issue about race in America is that there really is no such thing as white people. And, you know, in order to end race in America, all we have to do is recognize that the notion “a white person” doesn’t really exist on any term, and in any way.
MARTIN: How would you like us to think about this?
MOSLEY: Well, you know, that people think about who they are from culture, not from supposed DNA or color or what continent, you know, somebody came from a long time ago ’cause then you could start talking about European people, you know. My mother’s Jewish, of course, which makes me Jewish. And people say, well, how does it feel to be half white and half black? And I said my mother’s Jewish. That’s not white. And then slowly, I mean, over time, I said, well, nobody’s white. Gypsies aren’t white, and Vikings aren’t white, and the Greeks aren’t white, and the Spaniards aren’t white. You know, they are who they are. You know, and they understand themselves in a certain kind of way that got redefined in America because they had to kill the Native Americans and enslave the Africans. And so they had to become white people.
MARTIN: You’ve got so much going on. You’ve got a play coming out. And do you have any more books that have already been written that you just haven’t published yet?
MOSLEY: I just finished a new Easy Rawlins novel.
MOSLEY: And I’m about to start writing (unintelligible). And I’m writing a political monograph called “Moving the Red into the Black.” I think it’s very obvious – the 20th century is the dialectical battle between so-called socialism and capitalism. But now that we’re in the 21st century, you know, we have to realize what part of our lives need to be social – where we have to get along, we have to work supporting each other – and what part of our lives have to be our own work realized for ourselves, which is kind of the base of capitalism.
Thulani Davis interviewed Mosley in the 1990s…
Davis: In your essay in Critical Fictions you say that you got into writing mysteries because editors didn’t respond to your other works. What other writing did you do?
Walter Mosley Oh, everything. I was writing short stories, and I was studying poetry. I don’t think you can write fiction without knowing poetry, metaphor, simile, the music of the language. I wrote a novel called, Gone Fishin’, about my two main characters, Easy and Mouse, when they were very young in the deep south of Texas. You could call it a psychological novel. Mouse was looking to steal from and kill his stepfather, and Easy was looking to remember his own father, who had abandoned him when he was eight. I sent it out to a lot of agents. They all liked it enough to send back intelligent letters. But none of them thought that a book of that sort would make it in the market. This was like ‘88,’89.
TD So, Easy and Mouse have been around a long time?
TD Why Texas?
WM Well, the books map a movement of black people from Southern Texas and Louisiana to Los Angeles. So, that’s why Texas. A lot of my family and a lot of people that I know come from there.
TD When you wrote Gone Fishin’, was your intention to write a series of books that mapped that movement?
WM Yeah. I just didn’t think they were going to be mysteries. Have you ever seen the movie,The Third Man? Great movie. I just loved Orson Welles’ character. I read the novel, and in the beginning Graham Greene says that he was hired to write the screenplay, and he wrote the novel first, to work out the kinks. I thought that was such a great idea I decided to do it myself. Of course, I got about three chapters into Devil in a Blue Dress and forgot anything about a movie. I was going to City College Graduate Program in writing, and the head of the program, Frederic Tuten, asked me if he could see the book. To abbreviate the story, I came back from a trip and he came to me and said, “Walt, my agent’s going to represent you.”
TD That was great!
WM Yep. Wonderful.