Go to Walter's Facebook Check Out the RSS Feed for WalterMosley.com Other Link Options
Walter Mosley on Facebook

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)

BLK Book List: Nothing Says Summer Like a Good Read

And Sometimes I Wonder About YouNothing says summer like curling up on the porch or the beach like a good read. There are plenty of new books by black authors, and great ones you might have missed. Just find yourself a cozy place, in the homestretch of summer to settle in and dip into the reading stash. What are you reading and loving this summer?

If you are a Walter Mosley fan, you know about Easy Rawlins. But this summer check out his Leonid McGill series. The newest book is And Sometimes I Wonder About You, but if you want to settle into a series you can’t put down, start at the beginning with the first book, The Long Fall.

(via NBCNews.com)

Patter and Patois

by WALTER MOSLEY
New York Times Sunday Book Review
Literary Landscapes

I am what you might call a grandchild of Louisiana. My father was born there as were many of his friends and relatives. Most of my neighbors in Los Angeles came from there too — black rural folk who had traveled west through southern Texas on their migration to escape the South’s heavy hail of racial hatred. They came to California for the tattered shelter of mocking freedom that the Golden State had to offer people like them, poor people willing to work hard.

My father and his family brought the Deep South with them — barbecues and gumbos, dirty rice and soul food. They brought their strong accents and multiplicity of tongues, their histories from Africa, France, Native America mingled with generous drams of so-called white blood, European blood.

Louisiana flowed in that blood and across those tongues. Louisiana — a state made famous by Walt Whitman and Tennessee Williams, Ernest Gaines and Arna Bontemps, Kate Chopin and Anne Rice. These writers, from many eras, races and genres, took the voices of the people and distilled them into the passionate, almost desperate, stories that opened readers to a new kind of suffering and exultation. Read the rest of this entry »

Buzzed Books #29: And Sometimes I Wonder About You

by John King

And Sometimes I Wonder About YouI am primarily a reader of literary fiction. It is where the joys and the fun of reading tend to be for me. Like many literary readers, I have a deep, complicated affection for hard-boiled detective fiction, à la Dashiel Hammett and Raymond Chandler. The blunt brutality, bold psychology, and flourishes of purple style are compressed into a lovely textual cocktail by the form of the mystery, the plot that is itself a chase after a question mark. Characterization is both impressionistic and elusive—precisely as elusive as the mystery, usually.

One of the hallmarks of contemporary detective fiction is the shortness of chapters, which makes the form even more compressed. This would seem to deepen the challenge of the genre even more than classic hard-boiled detective fiction—or highlight the genre author’s flaws. Read the rest of this entry »

Walter Mosley comes to Liverpool in Transatlantic 175 week

Acclaimed American author is Writing on the Wall guest as part of One Magnificent City
Walter Mosley comes to Liverpool in Transatlantic 175 weekAmerican author Walter Mosley is making a rate UK appearance when he comes to Liverpool next week as part of the Writing on the Wall festival.

The 63-year-old is making a special trip from his home in New York to take part in ‘An Evening With’ event at Liverpool Town Hall as part of the American Dreams programme to celebrate Cunard’s 175th anniversary through the One Magnificent City programme. Read the rest of this entry »

Seattle Times: New crime fiction

By Adam Woog, Special to The Seattle Times

This month’s selection of crime fiction features two memorable private eyes and a square-jawed veteran of World War I.

Walter Mosley is renowned for his Easy Rawlins mysteries, but And Sometimes I Wonder About You (Doubleday, 288 pp., $26.95) falls into one of this prolific author’s other series — and it’s equally exhilarating.

Leonid McGill is a gumshoe with a past: The “post-black” P.I. grew up on New York City’s mean streets and is forever seeking to atone for past sins. He’s also got a remarkably messy personal life (many kids, mentally unstable wife, multiple affairs, politically radical father, etc.).

McGill, powerful but short, also has a strange mental tic: precisely describing the height of every man he meets. (Full disclosure: I am also height-challenged, but I like to think I’m not as preoccupied about it as McGill is.)

The book’s plot includes a gorgeous woman in danger, a Fagin-like mastermind with a network of child criminals, and a murdered homeless guy. Mosley doesn’t resolve these complex stories neatly, but then he’s never been as interested in plotting as he is in creating vivid characters and bracing, rat-a-tat prose — both of which are in abundance here.

(via Seattle Times)

Leonid McGill juggles perils of personal, professional life

BOB CUNNINGHAM 
Blade Staff Writer

And Sometimes I Wonder About YouIf there’s anything that defines the modern world, it’s the ability to multitask.

The better you are at it, often the better your professional life is for it. Not your personal life, mind you. That’s a different story.

When the two are intertwined and depend on your broad shoulders, even though you’re only 5-foot-6? You better know your way around the ring, as well as Manhattan.

Meet Leonid McGill, Walter Mosley’s modern-day, New York-based private investigator. In And Sometimes I Wonder About You, McGill has even more on his plate than usual.

For starters, McGill’s wife, Katrina, is recovering in a sanatorium after a suicide attempt. His revolutionary and mysterious father, Tolstoy, whom Leonid hasn’t seen since he was a boy, is lurking somewhere in the shadows.

McGill’s son and partner, Twill, has taken on a much-too dangerous case and needs his father’s help. Plus, there’s Hiram Stent, a sad sack of man who tried to hire McGill to find his cousin for a vast sum of money. McGill turns him down and Stent turns up dead, which ultimately puts Leonid on the case.

Am I missing anything?

Oh yeah, while traveling for another case, McGill meets the beautiful con artist Marella. She makes his heart ache for his old ways as a fixer in the crime world. A few other friends — Gordo, Mardi, and Bug — have their issues. Even pal Hush, a former assassin, needs McGill’s life advice.

All in 272 pages.

If you didn’t know any better, you’d think it was Mosley, not McGill, who’s the former boxer — the way he bobs and weaves from chapter to chapter, sidestepping deadly blows and delivering his own devastating combinations.

In last year’s standalone Debbie Doesn’t Do It Anymore, I compared Mosley to Thelonious Monk because of his unmatched rhythm. But with McGill — And Sometimes I Wonder About You is the fifth book in the series — boxing great Sugar Ray Robinson may be the better comparison because pound for pound there’s no one who can touch him. Certainly not McGill’s enemies and not the police trying to cash in debts past due. He outwits those who underestimate him and he overpowers his aggressors, and he knows how to get answers when he’s short on time and tired of the hustle: by putting his gun on the table.

No, he’s not above scare tactics to achieve his own personal justice. And yet he’s a big softy when it comes to the many women in his life, as well as his family.

Leonid McGill is someone you want in your corner.

Contact Bob Cunningham at bcunningham@theblade.com or 419-724-6506.

(via The Blade)

Shelf Awareness for Readers “And Sometimes I Wonder About You” Review

In 2009, when Walter Mosley launched his Leonid McGill detective series, there was some question as to how well the historical ambience of his Los Angeles and the in-your-face investigative style of his Easy Rawlins would travel to a new protagonist in contemporary New York City. With And Sometimes I Wonder About You (his fifth McGill novel, after All I Did Was Shoot My Man), Mosley proves that his talent and feel for the city streets–their violence, outsiders, racism, sex and chicanery–travel just fine. McGill is a short, mid-50s PI with a checkered criminal past, a pugilist’s big hands, friends in high and low places, and a tendency to find trouble when a pretty woman catches his attention.

In this book, his wife, Katrina, has been institutionalized after a suicide attempt; his long-time girlfriend, Aura, has told him to stay away out of respect for Katrina’s struggles; and a ravenous new young client, Marella, gives him all the bedroom action he can handle. Since running off with her big-bling engagement ring, Marella is hiding from her former fiancé’s hired thugs who have been threatening her life to get it back. Meanwhile, McGill’s adopted son, Twill, is in danger from a subterranean juvenile crime ring, led by a ruthless gangster, Pied Piper. And a laid-off accountant needs protection from Boston assassins because of the seedy dirt he accidentally uncovered about their wealthy boss’s son. McGill sums up his predicament: “There were three groups of killers after me or mine and three women I had feelings for. None of these people stayed in the right place or were likely to wait their turn.” Bodies pile up, wrongs are righted, lessons are learned. When Mosley’s good, he’s really good. And Sometimes I Wonder About You is one of his good ones.

—Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: Mosley’s fifth Leonid McGill mystery features plenty of New York City crime and McGill punishment to keep readers going late into the night.

Doubleday, $26.95 hardcover, 9780385539180

(via Shelf-Awareness.com)

Book review: ‘And Sometimes I Wonder About You’

Never a dull moment with McGill

BY DREW GALLAGHER/FOR THE FREE LANCE–STAR

And Sometimes I Wonder About You“And Sometimes I Wonder About You” is Walter Mosley’s 49th novel. Odds are that most readers will be only fortunate enough to read a handful of Mosley’s books, and that’s if their reading schedule allows them to ever read any at all. They should make room in that schedule. In fact, just about every time I finish a Mosley novel I think that a year spent reading only his books would be an interesting way to spend “A Year of Walter Mosley,” if you will.

But if you don’t have the time or inclination to read all 49 Mosley novels, “And Sometimes I Wonder About You” can serve as an example of what Mosley does exceptionally well—entertain the reader.

“And Sometimes . . .” is the fifth Leonid McGill mystery and finds that, although the New York City-based private investigator may be slowing down, his caseload is not. Work always seems to find McGill and with it usually comes a healthy dose of trouble and a muzzle or two placed on his temple or in his rib cage.

“I was beginning to detect a pattern in my life. This model of behavior was a hybrid of capitalist necessity and proletarian existentialist angst; or, more accurately, modern-day potentates and their anger-driven gunsels.”

Though McGill and his cases are always interesting, a lot of the fun in reading Mosley comes from his descriptions and language. For example: “. . . and a love seat made for very small lovers or maybe one fat-bottomed solipsist.” Shakespeare would have been proud of that line.

McGill always seems to be juggling three or four cases at a time, and when “And Sometimes . . . ” opens, it looks like he’s about to enter a short expanse of leisure time with nothing on his day planner—until the most beautiful woman he has ever seen takes a seat next to him on a train.

He knows she’s trouble from the moment he sets eyes on her, but McGill figures we all have to die someday, and there are much worse ways of going than in this woman’s company.

Of course the woman in the train comes with the anticipated trouble and then there’s his son, Twill, an aspiring PI like his father, who seems to have uncovered a city-wide ring of criminals more heinous and foul than any McGill has encountered previously.

The woman and the ring of criminals have more in common than one might anticipate, since they both require a lot of thinking over cognac and afford McGill very little sleep. It is, after all, a Walter Mosley novel.

Drew Gallagher is a freelance reviewer in Spotsylvania County.

(via fredricksburg.com)