PW caught up with Walter Mosley at the famed MacDowell Colony for artists in Peterborough, N.H.
PW: At one point in your new book, Fearless Jones, there is a reference that lets readers know that Fearless and Raymond "Mouse" Alexander are not only contemporaries, but they are both "full-bad" men. How are they alike and different?
WM: Well, Mouse is a sociopath really. He's amoral. Fearless is the opposite; he's completely moral. But it brings them to just about to the same place. Neither of them are afraid of anything.
PW: The post-WWII era seems to have a real importance in your fiction. Do you see that as a particularly seminal time for America or African Americans?
WM: That's an interesting question. I think that it's an important time that hasn't gotten much play in the media. Back then, black people migrated in great droves out of the south, went north and tried to create a new life for themselves. And those migrations haven't been talked about very much in history, much less in fiction. And so I decided I would take on Los Angeles with the Easy Rawlins series.
PW: In your best known series, the Easy Rawlins books, many readers find Ray Alexander, Mouse, the most intriguing character. And in Gone Fishin', the first book, he seems to be the principal character. How does Easy end up with top billing?
WM: Well, I think that Easy is a richer character because people can identify with him at more levels. Mouse is loved because of his heroic qualities, but the central character of a book has to have a broader range of possibilities emotionally and intellectually.
PW: You used the term heroic rather than mythic?
WM: Yeah. A hero can save you. And Mouse is the kind of guy that people would love to have save them.
PW: You had a different working title for the Fearless Jones book—Messenger for the Divine ?
WM: That was a long time ago. I loved that title. The problem was that I had just finished writing the book Blue Light which was somewhere between science fiction and speculative fiction, and a book with the title Messenger of the Divine might be misconstrued. But I loved that title.
PW: In 1997 you took Gone Fishin' to Black Classic Press, and that was a great success for them. Do you have any other projects planned with them?
WM: Paul [publisher W. Paul Coates] and I have become very good friends, and he's growing the press now. At some point when he's ready I'd love to give him another book. It's a great time for small presses because the big publishing houses have gotten so big that it's not financially feasible for them to work with smaller mid-list books. It's a great opening for smaller presses, a perfect time. Readers haven't become less eclectic simply because publishers and bookstores have.
PW: Since the publication of Devil in a Blue Dress in 1990, you've published a number of mysteries, short stories, a mainstream novel, a science fiction novel, a non-fiction work and a screenplay. What are you working on during your stay at the MacDowell Colony?
WM: A play. It's basically about relations between blacks, especially between black men and black women.