Interview With Walter MosleyWalter Mosley is the author of twelve books and has been translated into twenty-one languages. His popular mysteries featuring Easy Rawlins and his friend Raymond "Mouse" Alexander began with Devil in a Blue Dress. It was published by W.W. Norton in 1990, and was nominated for an Edgar. The TriStar film, Devil in a Blue Dress, produced by Jonathan Demme, directed by Carl Franklin, and starring Denzel Washington and Jennifer Beals was released in the fall of 1995 and garnered critical acclaim and many awards. Others in the series, A Red Death and White Butterfly were also nominated for several awards. Black Betty and A Little Yellow Dog were New York Times bestsellers. After six years, Easy Rawlins returns in 2002 in July with Bad Boy Brawley Brown (Little Brown) and then this fall in a series of short stories to be published by Pocket Books and Washington Square Press (Six Easy Pieces).
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We have yet to find out...that's my only answer. We have yet to find out.
Do you plan to write another Easy Rawlins mystery that will explain?
The next Easy Rawlins will explain.
When is it scheduled for?
So the readers don't have that long to wait.
One of the recurrent motifs in Bad Boy Brawly Brown is the complex relationship between Easy and his son, Juice. You often speak about your father in public and interview, is there any specific role in here? Why was it important for you to write about this now? Does any part of this relationship come from personal experience?
What I write about are black, male heroes. A big part of being a hero in a community is raising children from one way or another. I don't have any kids. But, I know this role from my own father. I wanted to write it specifically, which this book Bad Boy Brawly Brown does, and it talks about black men and their sons and their friends' sons.
You also often speak about your own father. Does he have a role in here?
He has a role in this just in as much as he was my father. I don't think that he has a place...he's not doing something in the book. There are some things in the book that Easy does that my father would have talked about, but I don't know if he would have.
The reason that Brawly Brown finds himself in so much trouble is the organization that he joins, the Urban Revolutionary Party. Ostensibly, this group's goal is to improve the community, but they get involved in shadier endeavors as well. What is the genesis of this group? Were groups like these common in the mid-60's in Los Angeles? Do they continue to be? Do you think they were more of a positive or negative force on the community? And in their terms of their role in the community?
When I talk about the Urban Revolutionary Party, this was a time just before the big organization started out with the Black Panthers and this was the beginning of all of those organizations. I'm not talking about so much the organizations themselves as I'm talking about the individuals that make up that organization. When you look at the people who are in the organization, there are all different kinds of people...some people who are idealistic...some people are down to earth...some people who are tired of it all...some people who are criminals...and some people like Brawly Brown who is completely confused and trying to kind of edge out emotions for himself in the world. And it's me talking about political groups and people talking about political groups today as if...everything was a monologue...everyone thought the same, acted the same and was the same, but that's not true. Part of that is not true is when Easy goes to see the group for the first time and the police say they know all about you because somebody in here is a member of the police, which almost solves the case because the police know that any organization is made up of individuals and all of those individuals have strengths and weaknesses.
And in terms of their role in the community?
Yeah, well the role in the community is very strong, but the world in the community depends on who you are talking about...it could be someone who preaches some kind of violent overthrow of the society or somebody who wants to start giving breakfast to children or somebody who says "hey, this would be a really good way to deal drugs...so the idea is to say, "what is the purpose?" Well, the purpose is for the organizations to change with time and they also change from member to member.
Easy says about his girlfriend, "Bonnie was in every way my equal." Although she is a strong force in the book and obviously has quite an influence over Easy, we don't see that much of her in Bad Boy Brawly Brown. Will she be returning in the future and where does she come from? Will she be any kind of help to him in solving the crimes?
Do you mean from my head or from the world?
A larger world in the next book. However, the book is about Easy...I mean Bonnie played a significant role in the previous book, A Little Yellow Dog. She's a stewardess, works for Air France, travels around the world. She has a knowledge and a view of the world above and beyond Easys'. But, the book is about Easy and about solving crimes but she's not doing that. She's not a crime solver, but she was a victim of the crime...I'm not going to do that to her again I don't think.
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No, no, I'm not going to do that. Easy is a hard-boiled detective in as much as he works alone; he works by himself. Every once in a while, sure, she helped him immensely by putting a cigarette between his lips and stop smoking. But the truth is, what I do with my work is that I'm writing about black male heroes and to make a statement about that...a lot of people write about all kinds of other heroes...white male heroes, white female heroes, black female heroes...but there are not a lot of black male heroes and that's the job I'm working on and that's the genre, that's what I'm working on.
Since you do write about black male heroes, she was just in interesting character since she is such a strong person.
Well, it's not only her...Ettamae Harris is an incredibly powerful person who does things. And first, there are many women throughout Bad Boy Brawly Brown and have a very strong purpose. The only person that Easy is afraid of is a woman. Now this person can kill him and they're common in the book, but not as detectives.
So, speaking of your characters, you create such memorable characters, Easy Rawlins, Mouse, Fearless Jones, Socrates Fortlow, where do these characters come from? Are they based on people who you know? Do you find the voice before the character or vice versa? When you develop the characters, how do you work on them? Do they develop as you write or do you know how they are going to be before you start?
I don't know...I don't know the answer to that question. I do know these people, but not as individuals. You know how in your mind there are all these templates for people you have had experiences with...this kind of person...that kind of person from your whole life and these templates are in my head from the thousands of people I know in the black community. But it's not like you can go out and find Jackson Blue somewhere ...though...there are hundreds of them...or Mouse...there are thousands of them...or Easy Rawlins...there are a lot of them too...but it's a type, not a person.
And when you develop the characters, how do you work on them? Do they develop as you write? Or do you know how they're going to be before you start?
I start writing the book...I just start writing and I write till I get to the end. The characters all appear. The characters change and develop as I re-write, but it's not technical like, "Oh, here's a voice. Now let me see, is this going to be a man or a woman?"
Of all the genres that you write in, screenplays, essays, fiction, science fiction, what is your favorite?
I don't think I have a favorite...for me...it's not that all writing is the same...it's all headed toward the same place...and that place is what I love and it's when you write something that works. I wrote a letter or recommendation this weekend and I just love it...I'm so passionate about this letter. I think I said everything exactly perfect and I think you can get as much out of that as writing...
You always have so many projects going on at once. What else are you working on now? When can we expect Fearless Jones to return?
Fearless Jones will return next year. Right now, I am working on the collection of short stories on Easy Rawlins. I am re-visiting the book that Little Brown's going to put out in about a year and half called, The Man in my Basement. I just finished a screenplay for Will Smith's company and I'm doing a screenplay for Fox Searchlight. I have a play that I'm not working on but I should be. And I'm writing a book of nonfiction for Little Brown called, What Next and it's kind of questioning the black reaction on the so-called war on terrorism.
And about the screenplays, are any of them coming out in the near future?
One never knows...so one cannot say.
And is there anything in film that you have written for film that is in the pipeline?
Well, I have written a screenplay for Futureland. I wrote it for HBO, but I don't think they are going to...so we're going to go somewhere else, but I am working with Forrest Whitaker and a couple of other people.
Your books function on many levels, you're fiction in any case, they're both easy to read, page-turners, but they address serious issues and also have literary illusions varied in them. What is your primary goal when you write, is it entertainment or instruction?
Well, it's definitely not instruction. I mean, I don't see writers as teachers because books are kind of shared items because when writers write them, they are hardly anything and when people start to read them, they begin to change and grow and like that. You cannot write without some way of capturing the interest of the reader...so there are different kinds of books for different kinds of interest. You know, in writing fiction, people shouldn't enjoy reading these stories. I hope they enjoy the revelation of the characters and in their situation that will help them go further. But, I can't say that I have anything in specific that I want them to learn. Also, I am very interested in writing as well as I can...I'd like to write a really good book...and that's the other thing. And for me, when somebody says, "in order to read my writing, you're really going to have to reach to understand..." and I think that's a flaw on the side of the writer, not the reader because a writer should be able to make things as simple as possible...to flow not only into this culture, but in the future so somebody can pick up this book in the future and have an understanding of this world.
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