Easy does it: Mosley brings back detective hero
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — When author Walter Mosley announced the beloved Easy Rawlins detective series was likely at an end, he got an immediate and powerful reaction.
“Oh, people were upset,” Mosley said with a smile, “just so upset. Really terribly upset — which is funny. I kept telling them, ‘There are 11 books. If you’ll go reread them. What’s wrong with you? I don’t belong to Easy.’ I’ve written a lot of really good books. Now we’ll see if I can write any more good books. I mean there’s a chance I won’t, but I’m going to try.”
Mosley recently announced he’ll write two more Easy novels, a resurrection worthy of one of his favorite comic books. The first for Doubleday is due in 2013 and picks up where the once terminal “Blonde Faith” left off. Of course, that’s not all for the obsessively prolific author. His latest book, the paperback version of “The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey,” just came out and his new Leonid McGill mystery “All I Did Was Shoot My Man” hits shelves in January.
He’s working on another new novel outside the mystery genre and he’s extremely excited about a series of science fiction novellas out next year from Tor — “THE science fiction publisher” — that will appear as flipbooks.
Even with all this going on, Easy is always first on everybody’s mind. On a recent visit to Nashville, Mosley took time to talk with The Associated Press about the return of Rawlins, his constant fight against pigeonholing and his love of comics:
AP: Last we heard, you were predicting the end for Easy. What changed?
Mosley: I thought it could have been. I mean it didn’t have to be, but it might’ve been. I just didn’t know. Then I decided not that long ago, “Yeah, I’ll write a couple of more and see what it’s like.”
AP: Does a popular character like Easy weigh on a writer?
Mosley: No, not at all. I think it would if I didn’t have any success with other books or if I felt that Easy was keeping me from writing other books. Now, it is true that publishers try to stop me from writing anything but mysteries, but whenever they do, I go to another publisher. And they know I’m going to do that, so they have to make some kind of room for me.
Mosley: We live in capitalism and capitalism is defined by the production line and the production line is defined by specificity. … If you see yourself as an artist, which I do, then you can’t be limited by that. You can’t let somebody tell you, “Well, you can only draw this kind of picture or write that kind of book.”
AP: What do you get from these books that you don’t get from mysteries?
Mosley: Different kinds of books do different kinds of things. So, for instance, my most recent non-mystery is “The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey.” I was writing a book about a man facing and dealing with dementia. Now, if I had tried to fit that in a mystery, it would’ve had to be a side story. It couldn’t have been the main story. There’s some mystery in that story, but not much. And so that book, I needed to write something else. “Fortunate Son,” ”The Man in My Basement,” all of these books deal with issues that mysteries don’t comfortably deal with.
AP: Science fiction is another genre you write in that gets overshadowed by your mysteries.
Mosley: I’ve always loved science fiction. I think the smartest writers are science fiction writers dealing with major things. People talk about Toni Morrison, who is a great writer, but she’s not a better writer than Samuel Delaney. Because it’s science fiction, no one takes him seriously and that’s too bad because he’s a great writer and a really smart writer. It takes me a long time to read one of his books. It’s like, “Uh oh, I better spend the next year reading this one because I don’t even know what’s happening.”
AP: One of your loves growing up was comic books. How have they affected your work?
Mosley: My hero in comic books is (artist) Jack Kirby: Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Captain America, Marvel Comics. He was really the basis for Marvel Comics. … There was a certain kind of physicality, imagery, motion, movement, things happening — things existing in space that I’m drawn to, no pun intended, in fiction. What people look like and what they act like and what they’re feeling. I’m very interested in action. The action doesn’t have to be violent action — in sex, in walking, or even how the mind acts. … There from the beginning with the Fantastic Four, then the Hulk and Sub-Mariner, you have characters who have complex story lines. They’re good and they’re bad. They’re good if you look at them from this direction and they’re bad if you look at them from this direction. They’re threatening. Spider-Man was like the black hero. All the power in the world, but he couldn’t make any money. He lived in a single-parent home. The newspapers were against him and the police were after him and the public was afraid of him, but he was a hero. That’s a black male hero as far as I’m concerned.