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Hello. Come on in. The daddy writes about current events, literature, music and, once in a while, drops something on you from back in the day to make you pause and ponder, stop and stare, and begin to wonder. Who knows? You may start to pace the floor, shake your head from side to side, then fall down on bended knees in a praying position and cry, "Lawd, have mercy! What is this world coming to?" Check yourself! But this blog is NOT about the daddy. It's about you: your boos, your fam, your hood, your country...our hopes and dreams of a better tomorrow. So let's make a pact: the daddy will put it on the track if you'll chase it down and hit him back. Together, we can definitely take it to another level. Shall we?"

Friday, November 20, 2009

WALTER MOSLEY, ONE OF AMERICA'S GREATEST WRITERS

"You could tell by some people’s homes that they came to L.A. to live their dreams. Home is not a place to dream. At home you had to like your father did and your mother. Home meant that everybody already knew what you could do and if you did anything different, they’d laugh you right down into a hole. Festered in it, after a while, you either accepted your hole or you got out of it. There were all kinds of ways out. You could get married, get drunk, get next to somebody’s wife. You could take a shotgun and eat it for a midnight snack. Or you could move to California. In California, they wouldn’t laugh at you or anybody. In California, the sun shone for three hundred days in the year. In California, you could work until you dropped. And when you got up, there was another job for you. --Walter Mosley, From Black Betty, page 31

Listen up. A brotha received an email last night. It said that I was a very good writer and asked what writers do I read the most. I said James Baldwin and Walter Mosley. She said she never heard of him. After telling her he wrote the book that turned into the film "Devil in a blue dress," I sent this bio of Mosley to him. Those of you who haven't heard of him or read one of his books, The Daddy recommends that you write a note to yourself to buy one of his books as a gift to yourself for Christmas.

You'll love the writing of a guy who transformed himself from programmer to mystery writer, professor at New York University, and one of America's greatest writers. Here's the bio I sent to my friend:

The author Walter Mosley was born in 1952 Los Angeles, California. He attended Goddard College and Johnson State College, and has been a computer programmer. He is currently a professor of English at New York University.

Walter Mosley's mystery novels have often been compared to those of Raymond Chandler, mainly because they share vivid settings on the seamy side of Los Angeles in the middle decades of the century, a less-than-rosy view of human nature, and tough but noble main characters in Philip Marlowe and Ezekiel Rawlins.

There's another similarity: like Chandler, Mosley wields elegant, economical prose to create unforgettable characters. Chief among them is series protagonist Easy Rawlins. In many ways Rawlins is a kind of black Everyman, reflecting the great migration from the South in mid-century. He grew up in Houston, fought in World War II and works hard for a better life in Los Angeles, keenly aware of the boundaries imposed upon him by racism. But Easy is no stereotype; endlessly complex, he continues to surprise and reward readers. Chandler once wrote that the best mysteries are those you would read even if the last chapter were torn out; Easy Rawlins is a character who would make you do just that. Rawlins is not a private eye; he makes his living at everything from real estate to janitorial work. He's a sometime fixer, drawn into mysteries, often against his will, because some friend or connection needs his help.

Like many other Black detective/mystery authors (witness Chester Himes), Mosley novels use the side-kick accessory to blunt the dark side of the protagonist's character. Beginning in the early 1940s, the Ezekiel "Easy" Rawlins novels use this most effectively with Easy and his sometimes buddy, Mouse.

In the course of five novels, he's lost a wife and daughter and gained a couple of adopted children, made tidy sums of money and lost them, drunk a lot of whisky and given it up, fought despair and anger and, provisionally at least, won. The sixth published novel is the first Mosley wrote, the first in the series, the first not set in the Watts section of LA, though it is strengthened by reading it after the first published.

Devil In A Blue Dress (1990), published to critical acclaim and nominated for an Edgar, established him as a mystery writer of the first rank. When President Bill Clinton cited Mosley as one of his favorite writers in 1992, it brought Mosley even wider media attention - making the remainder of the first three, A Red Death (1991) and White Butterfly (1992), very popular. Black Betty (1964) made the New York Times best-seller list, and the 1995 movie version of Devil in a Blue Dress, starring Denzel Washington as Easy, was well-reviewed, although it was, for some perverse reason, a box office washout. His fifth, A Yellow Little Dog (1996) made the New York Times best-seller list too. With his sixth Easy Rawlins novel, Gone Fishin' (1997), Mosley chose an African American publisher, Black Classic Press instead of his usual W.W.Norton. A seventh Easy Rawlins novel, Bad Boy Bobby Brown, is due in 1998 or 1999.

Mosley's non-"Easy" books are quite good. RL's Dream, based in part on the life of blues legend Robert (Leroy) Johnson. Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned (1997) suggests a new introspective detective series with its remarkable protagonist Socrates Fortlow. HBO created a movie out of it starring Laurence Fishburn as Fortlow. His first science fiction novel, Blue Light, is Walter Moseley's current release and the prelude to a trilogy.

I was introduced to Walter Mosley's books during the early 90s nearly simultaneously by my wife, a mystery writer friend, and President William Clinton. In all of his six (soon to be seven) "Easy" novels, Mosley uses period detail and slang to create authentic settings and characters, especially the earnest, complex Rawlins, who continually is faced with personal, social, and moral dilemmas. They are fast page turners laced with drugs, desire and death. Inside and outside the genre, Walter Mosley is an American writer of our times.

What books are you buying to read over the holidays?

7 comments:

Eddie Daedalus said...

Not only is Moseley a great fiction writer, his non-fiction is extremely good. His novels explore racism, the inner psychology of the oppressed and what it means to be a black man in America in a way no other writer today can.

I loved his Easy Rawlins series...

Baldwin? What can I say about Baldwin? He's a giant among giants. I'm re-reading his "The Fire Next Time" right now.

BTW, Moseley's latest doesn't is one of his best in a while.

rainywalker said...

MacDaddy,
You have my attention now, "the last chapter was torn out." Never read one but am looking forward to joining Easy Rawlins on a great adventure!
rainy

Judy said...

Kids at school have been having a difficult time with the Cold War period and the sequence of events. I created some concise flashcards,which I hope will make things easier for them. What is your opinion on this method?( and also on these flashcards)

Somebodies Friend said...

I'm all about the history MacDaddy, you know that. Great piece today.

@ Judy: I don't know about anyone else but I always liked the flashcard approach when I was learning something new in school. It's been a while since I've been in a classroom but I remember the flashcards well.

Kit (Keep It Trill) said...

I read his Devil In A Blue Dress shortly after it came out, and another one too, but I don't recall which one. His stories are good. I should drop in at the library and pick up another one.

MacDaddy said...

Judy: Yes, I think they can be very useful. In my work, I found they work better with kids.

Kit: Yes, Devil in a blue dress was a good read... I just finished re-reading a book he wrote about a bluesman. I forgot the title. It was very good. His non-fiction works should not be ignored. It's in his non-fiction where he speaks wisdom and writes like James Baldwin.

Corey said...

Wow! I hate to sound like a snob, but I have to second guess anyone who has never heard of Walter Mosley! There are many who may not READ him but at least they've HEARD of him! You did the right thing to send her a bio and some encouragement - I would have done the same thing - after I got over the shock of her admission! As I sit here writing this, I can look to my left and view almost every book the man has ever written, along with several photos of myself, my partner AND MOSLEY TOGETHER! He used to come to the 'Natti on tour a lot, and we got used to seeing each other because my partner is a HUGE Mosely fan! He's a very nice and personable person who sits and quietly observes EVERYTHING and EVERYONE around him. As usual, he loved my partner (the nice one) but was a little bit more hesitant with me (the suspect). He seems reserved but once he's comfortable, he might say anything! Regardless...........I just had to weigh in on this one late or not!