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Finishing His Sentences

by Walter Mosley

Walter Mosley and his father, Leroy.

Two thousand sixteen marks the 100-year anniversary of my father, Leroy Mosley’s, birth. He was and is my inspiration, the man who taught me to bob and weave in life and art. I came into being shaped by the stories about his childhood in Louisiana and the grinding poverty he endured there, the bloodletting and laughter in the Fifth Ward in Houston and the harsh enlightenment he received in the Army.

My father was born in the middle of one world war and served in the next, but his true battles, like those of so many African-Americans, were fought closer to home. Rural life in southern Louisiana was a threnody of destitution and racial oppression. But Leroy and his two half sisters were protected and fed by family that loved them and strangers who understood their pain. In the Old South, subjugation brought out the generosity in many of those persecuted, and black folk were masters of making something from nothing, be it that day’s jambalaya or a suit of clothes stitched together from rags.

Leroy named me for a ghost, a fiction — after his father, who had committed a mysterious and terrible crime back in Tennessee and went by the alias Walter Mosley. Walter was a logger and would leave for weeks at a time, working on crews hewing trees and floating them downriver to New Orleans. The boy was close to his mother, the fount of warmth in the home. She died when he was only 7, and shortly after, Walter went to work one day and never returned. Leroy’s half sisters were shuffled off to their blood mother’s relatives, and he was left to live with cousins who mistreated him. At 8 years old he jumped a freight train headed for Houston, where his mother’s father was purported to live.

The two didn’t get along. Leroy was permitted to sleep on the porch, but he had to find his own food and money. He grew up quickly in the Fifth Ward, learning to carry two guns and one razor at all times. He could fight hard and run fast, cook and sew, clean, do carpentry and fix any engine. He learned to type and write, and he was a masterful storyteller. But that’s not unusual for poor people living under the thumb of history: My Jewish relatives from Eastern Europe were no different; they’d sit up all night regaling one another with the horrors they had survived.

It was Leroy’s dream to write for the popular pulp magazines. He even sent a cowboy story to a magazine — only to see it published a year later, under someone else’s name. He gave up. It was not possible, he concluded, for an impoverished black man in the Deep South to become a writer at that time. It’s hardly easier now.

But it took World War II for my father to truly quit the South. When he realized that more of his draft-age friends had died back in Houston than in the war, he headed for Los Angeles. There, he met and married my mother and became a fiercely loving father who prepared our every meal. When I was 13, I asked him what he wanted me to be when I grew up. He said he wanted me to do whatever I wanted, that he had no directive. I took his lessons from poverty and decided to become an artist — someone who makes something from nothing. I decided to make something from the stuff of his stories, of pedestrian, tragic life, like the time he decided to eat at an all-white cafe in the late 1940s. Making it as far as the counter, he ordered a tuna melt. “That sandwich tasted like freedom,” he told me. But suddenly the white man sitting next to him dropped dead. “I realized right then and there that, freedom aside, no man, no matter who he is, can escape his death.”

My father’s life intersected with a century of conflict, horror and invention. He deciphered these histories for me, making me his scribe in a new century. My successes were his successes, and his stories thrum in every word I write. He taught me to see like a writer, to be attentive to the stories that spring up everywhere: the epileptic guy on the corner medicating his condition with wine; the man lamenting his cheating wife; a woman passing by, sheltering a child in her arms; to say nothing of his own tales — Leroy came to own three apartment buildings, but his tenants assumed he was the handyman. It’s an attentiveness to the world, to ordinary suffering, to the love that persists in its midst. My sense of the world, of history and humanity flows from this awareness — and the attendant grim humor — my father used as his guiding lamp in the darkness cast by racism and poverty.

He was riddled with cancer the last few times I saw him. On one such day, my mother and I were leaving the house in her car. My father, who we were told was too sick to stand, had somehow made it to the back porch. As we drove off, I saw him leaning heavily against the banister. But when we made eye contact, he suddenly smiled and lifted his hand. This was his gift to me: an indomitable spirit and the talent of taking the beauty and refusing the rest.

Walter Mosley is the author of more than 50 books, including the Easy Rawlins mystery series, and the recipient of PEN America’s Lifetime Achievement Award. His most recent novel, “Charcoal Joe,” was just published.

A version of this article appears in print on June 19, 2016, on page BR25 of the Sunday Book Review with the headline: Finishing His Sentences.

The New Easy Rawlins Novel, Charcoal Joe, with Author Walter Mosley

‘Charcoal Joe”: Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlins is on the case

By Steve Novak,
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Charcoal Joe, by Walter Mosley (Doubleday)

Walter Mosley’s private investigator Easy Rawlins has been around for nearly three decades now. Readers first met him in “Devil in a Blue Dress” when he agrees to find a missing person. The task that begins as a lark proves an inspiration to the recent World War II veteran that he may have found a suitable occupation. He takes to the streets of Los Angeles in the early 1940s and feels his way to an unexpected career.

Mr. Mosley’s 14th Easy Rawlins mystery, “Charcoal Joe,” shows just how far the character has come since that first case. With money he garnered from his last case, “Rose Gold” (2014), he has started his own private investigation agency, complete with two associates. As he walks to his new office, Easy realizes just what has happened to his life.

“I took in a deep breath through my nostrils and smiled, thinking that a poor black man from the deep South like myself was lucky not to be dead and buried, much less a living, breathing independent businessman,” he thinks.

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Walter Mosley’s ‘Charcoal Joe’: Easy Rawlins is back

Charcoal Joe, by Walter Mosley (Doubleday)

By Neely Tucker
The Washington Post

Walter Mosley’s latest Easy Rawlins novel, “Charcoal Joe,” comes on the heels of the author winning the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America in April. No one familiar with the quality and quantity of Mosley’s creative output was surprised by this honor. His output encompasses more than four dozen books — including 14 Rawlins novels — science fiction, nonfiction and essays. He’s been awarded PEN America’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Still, in some ways, the full measure of his achievement can only be gauged by seeing him at the Edgars, as the Mystery Writers’ honors are known. I watched the whole thing from a table near the back. Mosley was one of fewer than two dozen African Americans in a ballroom holding hundreds. Publishing, like the film industry, was a pale field when Mosley’s first Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins novel, “Devil in a Blue Dress,” was published in 1990 and made into a Denzel Washington vehicle five years later. Two decades on, both still are. (Looking at you, #oscarssowhite.)
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Summertime, and the living is EZ

Charcoal JoeBy David Prestidge
Crime Fiction Lover

On the Radar — Ezekiel ‘Easy’ Rawlins returns this week for another neon-lit adventure among the hills and boulevards of Los Angeles. We’ve also got a new printing of Dashiell Hammett’s short stories, and a great selection of further crime novels to try.

Charcoal Joe, by Walter Mosley

PI Easy Rawlins doesn’t look for trouble but when his old friend, the lethal hitman nicknamed Mouse asks for help, he knows that trouble will soon be looking for him. Mouse isn’t a man who takes no for an answer, and soon Rawlins, trying to help the man they call Charcoal Joe, is doing his best to avoid hits from all directions on the glitzy streets of LA. In our back pages you can read our PI Case Files on Mosley’s most memorable creation. Out on 16 June.

Charcoal Joe

Charcoal JoeAn Easy Rawlins Mystery

AmazonB&NYour local bookstore Available: June 14, 2016

About the Book: Walter Mosley’s indelible detective Easy Rawlins is back, with a new detective agency and a new mystery to  solve.

Picking up where his last adventures in Rose Gold left off in L.A. in the late 1960s, Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins finds his life in transition. He’s ready—finally—to propose to his girlfriend, Bonnie Shay, and start a life together. And he’s taken the money he got from the Rose Gold case and, together with two partners, Saul Lynx and Tinsford “Whisper” Natly, has started a new detective agency. But, inevitably, a case gets in the way: Easy’s friend Mouse introduces him to Rufus Tyler, a very old man everyone calls Charcoal Joe. Joe’s friend’s son, Seymour (young, bright, top of his class in physics at Stanford), has been arrested and charged with the murder of a white man from Redondo Beach. Joe tells Easy he will pay and pay well to see this young man exonerated, but seeing as how Seymour literally was found standing over the man’s dead body at his cabin home, and considering the racially charged motives seemingly behind the murder, that might prove to be a tall order.
Between his new company, a heart that should be broken but is not, a whole raft of new bad guys on his tail, and a bad odor that surrounds Charcoal Joe, Easy has his hands full, his horizons askew, and his life in shambles around his feet.

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.

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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)

Live from The Edgars, Crime Writing’s Big Night

Paul Coates and Walter Mosley

Lisa Levy Reports on Walter Mosley, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Speed-Eating While Live-Tweeting

It is a given that everyone loves an award banquet, so much so that if they cannot be there they will watch it on television. Television might be the better option for such viewing. When you are actually at an award show, you are probably wearing uncomfortable clothes; there are inevitably 20 people in front of each bar for the whole hour of the opening reception (cash bar when dinner starts, babe, though people can buy wine for their tables); you run into plenty of people you don’t mind seeing but you can’t find the ones you’d actually like to see. And if you are me last Thursday night at the Edgars, which are the premiere awards for crime writing in the US, you are scrambling through the reception fumbling a phone, an evening bag, a pen and a program while trying to shake hands with all of the people you are introduced to by friends. Oh, and you’re live tweeting and taking photos too. No biggie.

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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 »