Novelist Walter Mosley -- better known to some as a crime novelist, but frankly enjoying crafting plays, teaming up for films, and insisting on his detective fiction being rich with contemporary questions like "post-race or meta-race world?" -- eased onto the stage at the Brattle Theater in Boston last night, in an hour-long exploration of his writing and his newest book, KNOWN TO EVIL (thanks to the Harvard Book Store for its sponsorship). He needs a new author photo; a hundred pounds slimmer than a year ago, energetic, and clearly jazzed as he read aloud the first couple of chapters, he charmed the crowd.
In this second book featuring Leonid McGill (and he's writing the third), Mosley has moved away from his Easy Rawlins series. "The Easy Rawlins series is an homage to my father and my father's generation," Mosley explained. Now he wants to work with his own life and times: "These lives deserve discussion." He wondered aloud more than once about whether America has slipped past a racial society into something new, so new that we don't yet see and name it. Leonid McGill's Scandinavian wife is just the start of the complications ahead in KNOWN TO EVIL, and half of the trouble comes directly from his own family.
"Easy Rawlins knows what's behind each door he opens," Mosley reflected; "for Leonid, every door he opens is different, behind every door there's a surprise. There's a world of all different possibilities. In many ways it's a much more complex world than that of Easy Rawlins."
Mosley is doing a TV series based on the first Leonid McGill book, THE LONG FALL -- he's collaborating with Jonathan Demme for HBO. His first performed play seized good reviews this January and is slowly working its way to other locations. And he mentioned that he'd write even more books, if his publisher (Penguin) could keep up! He began writing at age 34, and now that he's about 58, he has some 30 books out there.
If you've been a fan in the past, this new series is likely to seem just familiar enough to please you; if you're new to Mosley's books, though, I'd suggest jumping right in to KNOWN TO EVIL to sample what's on this author's mind, within the page-turning liveliness of a complex and insistent plot, and characters who question their lives, coming up with intriguing answers.
POSTSCRIPTS: Marilyn Stasio's New York Times Review of KNOWN TO EVIL: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/28/books/review/Crime-t.html ; and from the Boston Globe's Hallie Ephron: http://www.boston.com/ae/books/articles/2010/03/28/complex_plots_vivid_characters_and_charm