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Walter Mosley

Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned

1998 Fiction

Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned
Walter Mosley was born to an African American father and a Jewish mother in South Central Los Angeles, where he lived until he left for college in Vermont. After college Mosley worked a series of jobs, including caterer, potter, and computer programmer. In 1981 he moved to New York and began taking graduate writing courses at the City College of New York. There he completed Gone Fishin' and Devil in a Blue Dress, two novels that centered on the same Los Angeles protagonist, a working-class African American named Easy Rawlins.

Although Gone Fishin' did not sell, the rights to Devil in a Blue Dress were soon purchased by Norton, which published the book in 1990. Devil portrayed the Easy Rawlins character as a private investigator, and Mosley seemed to have found a strong voice as an author of detective fiction. After Devil he published four more Easy Rawlins books: A Red Death (1991), White Butterfly (1992), Black Betty (1994), and A Little Yellow Dog (1996).

Although Mosley's fiction falls into a category that many consider subliterary — detective fiction — his depth of character, researched historical details, and realistic dialogue transcend the cliches of the genre. He portrays the complexity of the Los Angeles African American community between the late 1940s and mid-1960s, and does so with nuance and at times painful realism. Mosley's novel outside the series, R. L.'s Dream, evinces a similar level of sophistication in its speculative portrayal of bluesman Robert Johnson.

Mosley's books experienced a boom in sales during the 1992 presidential campaign, when Bill Clinton cited them as among his favorites. Mosley has been included in the Norton Anthology of African American Literature, compared to renowned detective novelist Raymond Chandler, and praised as a superior writer of his generation. A film version of Devil in a Blue Dress, directed by Jonathan Demme and starring Denzel Washington, was released in 1998.

Contributed By: Eric Bennett

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Blog Posts about Walter Mosley

Let These Books -- From Poetry To The Political -- Kick Off Your 2017 Reading List

How does one structure a year in reading?The New York Times published the answers of 47 writers and artists who reflected on the books they chose over the past year. Their responses create a fascinating skein of reading and thinking, and include essays from four Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards recipients. The entire conversation, which weaves from basketball hall-of-famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to filmmaker Ava DuVernay to former House speaker Newt Gingrich to author Maxine Hong Kingston, is enlivening, a hopeful way to face into a new year.Praise for... Read More →

Read Walter Mosley's Love Letter To The Louisana That Shaped Him

Novelist Walter Mosley, the creator of the private investigator Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins, has just published a ruminating essay called “Patter and Patois.” He reflects on a lifetime of storytelling, and his Louisiana heritage of stories and storytellers. The 1,800-word piece is homage to his roots. “I’m not saying that you have to be a reader to save your soul in the modern world,” Mosley writes. "I’m saying it helps.” Most celebrated for his crime fiction, Mosley, 63, won an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in 1998 for “Always... Read More →

VIDEO: Walter Mosley Explains His Writing Regimen, Career Struggles, And Why "There No Such Thing As White People"

Writer and radio host Michael Eric Dyson posed a simple question to Walter Mosley midway through their Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture forum:"Do black people have the freedom to be individuals in America?"  Mosley, 62, paused to acknowledge the gravity of the question. "I would not give up being black in America," he responded. "We are America. We got the culture, we got the music, we got the art -- and we don't really know it."  Mosley, best known for his "Easy Rawlins" detective series, now 10 books deep, has enjoyed a... Read More →

Easy Rawlins Returns In Walter Mosley's Latest Thriller

Anisfield-Wolf winner Walter Mosley gave his readers a true cliff hanger in his last Easy Rawlins book, 2007's Blonde Faith. The writer left L.A. Detective Rawlins clinging to a cliff. Many assumed the reluctant cop was dead. In the past six years, Mosley has focused on his Leonid McGill detective series, and hinted in interviews that Rawlins' injuries were indeed fatal. But Little Green brings Rawlins back from the brink. The new novel is set in the late 1960s, when the detective reunites with old friends and navigates a changing place for... Read More →

VIDEO: Walter Mosley On Sacrifices He's Made In His Writing Career

"Writing is almost a place of dreams for me, and I don't have to give up anything to do it." ~Walter Mosley  In this video from BigThink, 1998 winner Walter Mosley shares a bit about his writing career and aspirations (did he always know he would be a bestselling author?) and his daily writing routine.  Read More →

Huffington Post Reveals 50 Books Every African American Should Read - How Many AW Winners Made The List?

Gwendolyn Brooks Huffington Post's Black Voices rounded up 50 books the editors think every African American should read (they added on Twitter that of course the list has value to everyone, but these books focus primarily on the black experience in America). We were thrilled to see how many Anisfield-Wolf winners were on the list, proving to us once again that our winners stand out in the crowded literary field.  Gwendolyn Brooks "Annie Allen" (1949) Edwidge Danticat "Breath, Eyes, Memory" (1999) Chimamanda Adichie "Half Of A Yellow Sun... Read More →

VIDEO: How To Write Like Walter Mosley

In this series of videos from BigThink.com, 1998 Anisfield-Wolf Award winner Walter Mosley gives answers to all types of questions: What big ideas have you had lately? What's the biggest misconception about a writer's life? And perhaps a question every writer and aspiring writer wants to know: What is your writing routine? Get the answers to all these and more below:   Read More →
  • Walter Mosley

    Walter Mosley

    Born: 1952

    Other Works

    • Fear of the Dark (2006)
    • The Tempest Tales (2008)
    • Diablerie (2008)
    • The Long Fall (2009)
    • Known to Evil (2010)

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