Walter Mosley is in focus for Black History Month.
Mosley has been a prolific writer, playwright, screenwriter, academic, and lecturer for over 30 years. Mosley’s breakthrough novel, Devil In A Blue Dress, was published in 1990. Mosley was 34 years old and has said in interviews that he had failed at a number of things before finding literary success.
The novel introduces us to Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins, a Black factory worker in post-World War II Los Angeles, who gets laid off from his job. His home in South Los Angeles and his way of life is of utmost importance to him, so he takes on an odd job, which lands him in a morass of a mystery and a world of trouble. Easy parlays his skills, smarts, and a little help from his friends to solve the mystery, and earn more money than he imagined. So, Easy decides to work for himself as a private detective—thus, a potboiler detective series with a Black male hero is born.
In 1995, Devil In A Blue Dress was made into a feature film starring Denzel Washington. Easy Rawlins has been featured in 14 other novels, and continues to give us a view into Los Angeles Black life, and the atmosphere and underbelly of the city from a Black perspective.
Mosley is a trailblazer and pivotal to the furtherance of Black History. In his works of fiction, he has encapsulated a world that is either ignored, caricatured, or overlooked. Black life in Los Angeles has many layers and embodies many forms. It’s not just, “Boys N’ The Hood” and Snoop Dog, as much as I appreciate both of those contributions to the Black lexicon. Mosley’s lens invites readers into the different worlds, different perspectives, and varied tableau of the Black experience. He is a historian, who has used fiction as a tool to disseminate his knowledge, and to instruct others, whether they know it or not.
He said this himself in the introduction to his MasterClass.
“The Black male heroes are the major characters in my novel, because there are very few novels written about Black male heroes.
“If you want to be in the history of the culture, then you have to exist in the fiction. If you don’t exist in the literature, your people don’t exist.”
As Snoop would say, “Fo’ Shizzle,” and much respect. At 70 years old (Mosley’s birthday is on Saturday), he is still embedding the Black experience into history, kicking ass through his literature and influence, and always taking names.
Mosley was most concerned about the lack of diversity in all levels of publishing, so he established The Publishing Certificate Program with the City University of New York. This program brings professionals from a host of backgrounds and disciplines who can offer jobs and internships to racially diverse and economically disadvantaged students in order to expand their world, and expand their reach.
My thoughts on Walter Mosley, author, trailblazer, and Black historian.
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