Americans met Easy Rawlins in the book, “Devil in a Blue Dress,” in 1991 and followed the private investigator’s escapades for more than two decades in a series of gripping mysteries such as “White Butterfly,” “Six Easy Pieces,” “Cinnamon Kiss” and “Rose Gold.”
Now crime fiction novelist Walter Mosley has issued the 14th novel on Rawlins, “Charcoal Joe,” continuing the exciting adventures of the popular black detective as he risks his life to solve another mystery.
Mosley, who has written a range of fiction, nonfiction, political and philosophical works, has created an enduring character in Rawlins as well as a thoughtful commentary on African American life in Los Angeles from the 1940s to the present. Throughout the series, Easy encounters racism, discrimination, police brutality and economic challenges. Yet, he survives and succeeds.
There is no underlying attempt to send a message to the nation, according to Mosley. It’s more an effort to entertain.
“I don’t have any particular messages. I think that I’m writing about this guy’s life and it’s interesting being black in America,” he said. “I do like that I’m creating black male heroes and I do like it that black men can read these books.”
“Charcoal Joe” is titled after another black man who hires Rawlins to clear his doctoral-candidate son of the murder of a white man. En route into the mission, Easy faces a host of bad guys, dead bodies, corrupt police and cunning women.
In addition to Rawlins, Mosley has created several black males with colorful names such as Fearless Jones, “Mouse” Alexander and “Whisper” Natly. These memorable characters are strong, shrewd, purposeful and humorous as they deal with life ’s ups and downs.
“It’s all about the characters. Either it’s a new character that I’m discovering more about and that’s just what it is. I just start writing and it’s really a lot of fun,” said Mosley, who grew up in Los Angeles.
Born to a Jewish mother and African American father, the family lived in South L.A. then moved to the west side and Mosley graduated from Hamilton High School in 1970. He earned a political science degree from Johnson State College in Vermont and soon relocated to New York City where he discovered his gift of writing.
“I wrote a sentence that I liked when I was 34 years old and I said, ‘Hey, I can be a writer.’ I’m from California and stupid enough to think that’s it true,” he laughed. “So, I kept writing.”
Mosley enrolled in graduate classes at New York City College, began writing everyday and three years later, he published his first book. His fame rose when then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton cited Mosley as one of his favorite authors in 1992. Another boost came when Denzel Washington starred in a movie based on the novel in 1995.
In the years that followed, Mosley received several honors for his writings including the Anisfield Wolf for works that increase understanding of race in America, the O. Henry Award for his Socrates Fortlow story and a Grammy award for album notes on Richard Pryor’s “And It’s Deep Too.” Recently, Mosley was named the first African American recipient of the Grand Master award presented by the Mystery Writers of America.
For others seeking a writing career, Mosley advised, “Write everyday. That’s the best advice I can give anybody. Write on ideas that you have everyday until it doesn’t work or you’ve already written a book. I wrote a book, “This Year You Write Your Novel.” It’s about 90 pages, but it’s everything I know about writing.”
Mosley also shared two philosophies that he applies to his daily life. “One is the older you are, the more you remember the past. The other is it’s a better world when you tell the truth once a day.”
To learn more, visit waltermosley.com.