Monday, March 4, 2013

On Walter Mosley by guest blogger Steven Head

Today is my lucky day.  Fretting about what to write...worrying about sounding less cerebral than usual...then...BAZINGA! What do I discover, but this unpublished essay from Steve.  Life is good.

I was a fan of Walter Mosley even before I knew his name. The movie Devil in the Blue Dress with Easy Rawlins, a young black man living in 1950's LA, grabbed my attention from the opening scene and had me guessing the entire time. The part of Easy was played by Denzel Washington, before he became a super star. Jennifer Beals, as Daphne Monet, and Don Cheadle, as Mouse, helped fill the leading roles.

It was only later that I learned the movie was based upon a book of the same title by Walter Mosley. I managed to read a few of Mosley's books after that and then forgot about him. Days before my recent visit to Manitowoc I happened upon a book on CD by Mosley titled Fear of the Dark. This one is told by Paris Minton although it is part of the Fearless Jones series, or so I have learned. The same great storytelling with memorable characters and the same 1950's LA. And a look inside the black experience of that time as it relates to the law, racial relations, and so much more.

The experience was so satisfying I was moved to find another Mosley book and just finished Gone Fishin', another Easy Rawlins book. Once again, a great story with Easy as the narrator but Mouse as the driving force of the tale. This time the setting is pre-WWII Texas, before Easy had moved to LA and become a detective. Before he had gone to war. And before he could effectively read. We see a young Easy in the bumpy process of becoming a man in a violent situation with his most violent close friend, Mouse.

One of the things I truly appreciate about Mosley, whether reading or being read to, is his sense of poetry. His characters speak in both an educated voice as well as a neighborhood dialect filled with contractions and slight alterations to common words. There is a rhythm and sometimes a rhyme that pulls you into the story. And there is a steady integration of culture, observations about the decisions people make, and changes people experience.

You will probably find Mosley books in the mystery section, but he writes much broader and deeper than the conventions of this genre. You will be captured by the intrigue of his stories, but it is the development of his characters that sets him apart. Like so many other writers I have suggested, Mosley's books get down into the blood and violence, passion and lust, beauty and cruelty, of life. If this is not your brand of reading then leave Mr. Mosley on the shelf. But if you pick him up, be prepared for more than just another interesting plot.

*****What am I reading?  Memoir of a Sunday Brunch.  So far, I have not been captured by the book as so many others have.  I will keep trying.

*****Stay safe, please.  The snowpiles are wicked hard to see around.  Please, take your time.  Creep into intersections slowly and cautiously, and give the other guy the right of way, even if it's your turn.  This morning, a woman on a cell phone, cigarette dangling, flew through the very intersection on Huron where lives were lost last weekend.  Clearly, in her mind, she is the center of the universe.  I am so happy that the people in my life are thoughtful, patient, and realistic about the responsibilities we have to those around us.