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Graphomania: A Life in Words

Kate Burns interviews Walter Mosley

Walter MosleyWALTER MOSLEY is one of the greats. He’s a prolific novelist who is best known for his crime fiction. He’s also written bestselling science fiction, literary fiction, nonfiction, and beyond — over 43 books at last count. Among others, he’s won an O. Henry Award, a Grammy, PEN America’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and he’s the Mystery Writers of America’s 2016 Grand Master.

At 64, Mosley is at the top of his game. He is perhaps a little young to be considered an elder statesman, but he’s easing into the role with grace. He’s deeply knowledgeable but without pretense, rejecting the mystique that sometimes surrounds writing in favor of daily practice and attention to craft. When I met him, he wore his signature fedora and a playfully elegant, oft-described oversized African gold ring.

We sat down during UC Riverside’s Writer’s Week, at which Mosley was a keynote speaker. I took the opportunity to ask him for some tips about writing, to discuss his recent hand-lettered memoir, the musical that he’s working on, and why he doesn’t tweet.

¤ Read the rest of this entry »

Walter Mosley’s ‘Killing Johnny Fry’ Movie in the Works

Killing Johnny Fry

Walter Mosley (“Devil in a Blue Dress”) and producer Denise Grayson have hired writer-director Paul Chart to adapt Mosley’s thriller “Killing Johnny Fry” for a feature film.

Mosley will produce through his company BOB Filmhouse together with Denise Grayson Productions.

Mosley’s novel, published in 2006, centers on nice guy Cordell Carmel, who’s shocked to discover his long-time girlfriend is secretly enjoying a darkly sexual double life with the handsome but menacing Johnny Fry. Cordell soon finds himself seduced into a twisted world of sex, drugs and murder.

“Having Paul Chart as a writer makes the translation of ideas into script easy, true to the purpose, and all kinds of fun,” Mosley said.

Chart is currently writing the sci-fi TV series “The Fourth Kingdom” for “Game of Thrones” executive producer Vince Gerardis. He recently founded independent production company Lionhart Films with partners Daniel Frey and Steve Valentine.

Mosley is best known for the mysteries featuring the hard-boiled detective Easy Rawlins, a black private investigator and World War II veteran living in Los Angeles, including “Devil in the Blue Dress.” Denzel Washington starred in the 1995 movie.

Three other Mosley properties have been adapted for TV — Showtime aired a series in 1993 based on Mosley’s “Fallen Angels”; Laurence Fishburne starred in HBO’s TV movie “Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned” in 1998; and ABC’s “Masters of Science Fiction” aired the “Little Brother” episode in 2007.

Chart directed and wrote “American Perfekt,” which starred Fairuza Balk and Robert Forster and screened at Un Certain Regard at Cannes in 1997.

Chart is represented by Advanced Management. Mosley is repped by CAA and Gloria Loomis at Watkins/Loomis Agency.

(via variety.com)

Walter Mosley shares his work and personal reflections of the Watts Rebellion

Walter Mosley shares his work and personal reflections of the Watts Rebellion

With his wryly clever conversational style, best-selling author Walter Mosley charmed a packed Loker Student Union ballroom after stopping by California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) Feb. 16 for a reading from his novel “Little Scarlet,” and to share thoughts about writing, racial inequity, and his personal reflections of the Watts Rebellion.

Mosley was the guest speaker for the Department of English 2016 Patricia Eliet Memorial Lecture. He is a prolific writer of more than 40 books—ranging from crime novels to literary fiction—and is widely recognized for his Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins detective series based in Watts, which includes the first book in the series “Devil in the Blue Dress,” as well as “Little Scarlet.”

“I’m going to read the first three chapters of ‘Little Scarlet’ because I think that he [Easy] covers the experience of the riots as I remember it,” said Mosley. Read the rest of this entry »

Walter Mosley, author, visits CSU Dominguez Hills Feb. 16

Walter Mosley, author, visits CSU Dominguez Hills Feb. 16

Walter Mosley, author, visits CSU Dominguez Hills Feb. 16

CSU Dominguez Hills’ 50th Watts Rebellion Commemoration welcomes author Walter Mosley; Watts is setting for Mosley’s ‘Easy Rawlins’ book series

CARSON – Best-selling novelist Walter Mosley will be a guest speaker in the California State University, Dominguez Hills 2016 Patricia Eliet Memorial Lecture Series, Feb. 16, from 5:30 to 8 p.m. in the Loker Student Union ballroom.

Continuing its year-long commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Watts Rebellion, the university welcomes the author of more than 40 books ranging from crime novels to political essays. Walter Mosley is considered one the most versatile and prolific writers in the U.S. today. He is the winner of numerous awards, including an O. Henry Award, a Grammy, and PEN America’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Read the rest of this entry »

Beyond the 30th Celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

Author Walter Mosley, filmmaker and critic Nelson George, singer-songwriter and activist Angélique Kidjo and President of Medgar Evers College Dr. Rudolph F. “Rudy” Crew reflect on Dr. King’s tremendous legacy, 30 years of celebration in Brooklyn and why his message remains so important today.

(via BAMorg)

MWA Announces 2016 Grand Master, Raven & Ellery Queen Award Recipients

Author Walter Mosley has been chosen as the 2016 Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America, and will receive the award at the 70th annual Edgar Awards Banquet in New York City on April 28, 2016. At the same time, two Raven Awards will be presented, to “mentor, teacher, scholar and editor” Margaret Kinsman and to Sisters in Crime, the group of women mystery writers initially convened by Sara Paretsky in 1986, and the Ellery Queen Award will be given to Janet A. Rudolph, director of Mystery Readers International, editor of the Mystery Readers Journal and teacher of mystery fiction.

(via MysteryWriters.org)

Walter Mosley reads from latest Leonid McGill novel, a complicated tale

And Sometimes I Wonder About YouWalter Mosley has been called “America’s Blackest Jewish Writer.” His father was black and mother Jewish and even though he self-identifies as black, he speaks often about his Jewish heritage.

So, it’s fitting he will be at the St. Paul Jewish Community Center to talk about his new crime novel featuring ex-boxer and P.I. Leonid McGill, as well as being Jewish and why he identifies with Isaac Bashevis Singer.

McGill, a short, black man who still works out at the gym, is leading a messy life in his fifth outing. He meets a beautiful woman who has stolen a valuable ring from a mobster and embarks on a torrid affair with her even though his wife is hospitalized after trying to commit suicide. Also, he’s in love with Aura, who manages his apartment building, but they’re taking a break and he misses her.

When McGill turns away a homeless man who wants him to track down a woman with a secret, and the man is later found dead, McGill takes on his case out of guilt for the way he treated the guy.

A third thread in this complicated plot — or plots — is the involvement of McGill’s son, Twill, with a dangerous, Fagan-like figure who is running hundreds of young people in various scams and killings.

McGill is an interesting mix of integrity when it comes to his cases but less morality when it comes to his love life — or maybe sex life would be a better word. But he’s likable and cares for Twill and his other adult kids.

“And Sometimes I Wonder About You” has a lot of moving parts and readers have to pay attention to the characters and what’s going on.

IF YOU GO

What: Walter Mosley reads from “And Sometimes I Wonder About You” in Twin Cities Jewish Book Series.

When, where: 7 p.m. Thursday, St. Paul Jewish Community Center, 1375 St. Paul Ave., St. Paul

Admission: $25

Information: 651-698-0751

Publisher, price: Doubleday, $26.95

(via Pioneer Press)

‘The Fall of Heaven’ at Trinity Episcopal Church’s Fellowship Hall in Bethlehem

William Alexander Jr. (left) plays Tempest Landry and Roy Shuler plays Joshua Angel in the Crowded Kitchen Players produciton of 'The Fall of Heaven' at Trinity Episcopal Church's Fellowship Hall in Bethlehem. The show opens Nov. 6. (EMILY PAINE / THE MORNING CALL)Crowded Kitchen Players’ production of Walter Mosley’s dark comedy “The Fall of Heaven,” which premieres in the Lehigh Valley Friday, will kick off the company’s series of plays designed to provide a forum on racial discrimination.

“The Fall of Heaven” is the first play in “Voices of Conscience: Toward Racial Understanding,” a joint effort by Crowded Kitchen, Selkie Theatre, Allentown Public Theatre, the Basement Poets and other arts organizations.

Crowded Kitchen’s production is only the second of the morality play written by the well-known mystery author. It will be presented in Trinity Episcopal Church’s fellowship hall, 44 E. Market St. Bethlehem.

“The Fall of Heaven,” written in 2011, was Mosley’s first play. Mosley has written more than 40 books, and wrote “The Fall of Heaven,” his first play in 2011, based on his 2008 book “Tempest Tales.”

In the story, based on Mosley’s 2008 book “Tempest Tales,” Tempest Landry (William Alexander Jr.) is a street-wise young black man living in Harlem, who is “accidentally” shot 17 times by police and finds himself at the pearly gates facing St. Peter (David “Oz” Oswald). When St. Peter tells him he is to go to hell, the quick-witted Tempest refuses to go and through a technical loophole is able to go back to earth, with a new identity and body. He also is accompanied by the accounting angel Joshua (Roy Shuler).

In life, Tempest was no angel, but he was far from evil. Joshua is out to prove goodness prevails and the resulting battle of wills takes an intriguing look at good versus evil and what it means to be human.

Mosley’s book was inspired by Jesse B. Semple, the memorable character created by Langston Hughes in his “Simple Stories.”

Director Ara Barlieb calls the play a “comedy of the human condition” and says it is very timely.

Mosley is the author of the acclaimed “Easy Rawlins” series of mysteries, the “Fearless Jones” series and the collection of short stories featuring “Socrates Fortlow,” “Always Outnumbered” and “Always Outgunned,” for which he received the Anisfield-Wolf Award.

The cast also features Erica Baxter and Felicia White. The play is being stage managed by Brian McDermott.

•”The Fall of Heaven” 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Nov. 13, 14; 3 p.m. Sunday and Nov. 15. Trinity Episcopal Church, 44. E. Market St., Bethlehem. Tickets: $18; $14, seniors; $10, students. Info: www.ckplayers.com, 610-395-7176.

(via @mcall.com)

Author Walter Mosley Grew Up In LA But His Writing Is Soaked In The South

Crime novelist Walter Mosley has family roots in New Orleans. In a conversation with Renee Montagne, he offers his reflections on life in Louisiana, before and after Hurricane Katrina.

(via NPR.org)

Walter Mosley: Watts Riots ‘Paved The Way For A Lot Of Change’

Author Walter Mosley in front of his childhood home in the LA neighborhood of Watts. He's standing with his father.

Author Walter Mosley in front of his childhood home in the LA neighborhood of Watts. He’s standing with his father.

In this season of anger in many black communities that are reacting to police brutality, we’re remembering the largest urban riot of the civil rights era.

Fifty years ago this week in Los Angeles, the African-American neighborhood of Watts exploded after a young black man was arrested for drunken driving. His mother scuffled with officers and was also arrested, all of which drew an increasingly hostile crowd.

Novelist Walter Mosley was a boy at the time, growing up in Watts. He says of that time, “It’s a hot summer day, you know, in 1965 … and people are fed up with the last 500 years of oppression, and so there was a riot. You couldn’t have predicted it. It was just people said, ‘OK, today, I’ve had enough.’ ”

He shared his memories of the riots on Morning Edition. These highlights include some of the on-air interview, and some excerpts that did not air.


Interview Highlights

Remembering the first night of riots

When I was a kid — I was 12 years old — I belonged to an organization called the Afro-American Traveling Actors Association, and we did civil rights plays. The main night of that riot, the apex of the riot, we went down to the little theater on Santa Barbara — now called Martin Luther King — to do our play. But nobody came, because people were rioting. Either they were rioting, or they were in their houses, hiding from rioting. And we had to drive out, and driving out, we drove through the riots. It was an amazing sight.

And when I got home, my father was sitting in a chair in the living room — which he never did — drinking vodka and just staring. And I said, “Dad, what’s wrong?” He says, “You know, Walter, I want to be out there. I want to be out there, rioting and shooting. But I know it’s wrong. I want to do it, but I can’t do it.” And he was just … it tore him up, the emotions it brought out in him.

On his father’s reaction

I don’t think there was a black man or woman in America who didn’t understand why it was happening. Most people didn’t riot, of course. … But everybody understood the anger and the rage, that the police could clamp down on you at any moment. It doesn’t matter if you’re innocent or guilty. What matters is, if you were a white guy over in Beverly Hills, they wouldn’t be clamping down on you like that; they wouldn’t respond to you like that.

It’s the same thing that happens today; it’s just that we have social media. So, you know, a woman gets killed in Texas, and we say, “Well, why was she arrested?”; “Why was she in jail?”; “How did she die?” These are questions only people in the black community asked a long time ago, because we knew it, but nobody else knew it, because nobody covered it. … And, I want to add, as much as black people understood it, the white community was completely ignorant of anything going on in the black community. And it was such a shock, it scared them for the next five years.

On whether the riots scared him personally

I was scared, you know, because, No. 1, it was an interracial group. So there were a couple of white people in the car, and they were like, on the floor. And then you would see things, you know, people jumping out of windows. They were looting. I saw one guy just lying out on the street. I don’t know what happened to him. The police were driving by, four deep in the car with their shotguns held up, but they weren’t shooting. They were just passing through. You could feel the rage. You could feel that civilization at that moment was in tatters. I was nervous, but I didn’t know enough to be really, really scared. Which was lucky for me.

On how the unrest affected the neighborhood

It hurt the community in some way. But, you know, when all the stores in your community are owned by white people, and you burn down those stores, even though you’re hurt in a way, you’ve made a statement. Those people paved the way for a lot of change in the rest of America. And so, whatever was lost, I believe a lot more was gained. Because it was just expressing that anger. You’d ask, “Well, how many black people feel like this?” And, well, 99 percent of them feel like this, and another 1 percent are really mad. That would be the answer.

(via NPR.org)