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Walter Mosley’s Novel Approach to Crime in L.A.
Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins—private investigator, former aircraft assembly plant worker, WWII veteran, onetime resident of Watts—has appeared in 12 of Mosley’s novels set in the ’40s through the ’60s. “Little Green” was published in the spring.
I’m not Easy Rawlins. I’m not that age, that generation, there are a lot of things I’m not. But there are things I am, too. When I’m writing from Easy’s point of view, he says things I would never say. He does things I would never consider doing. But that’s me writing. So in a way that’s me completely and in a way it’s a completely creative construct.
On Crime Fiction
My father used to work in East L.A., in the barrio, and how people lived there and how people lived in my neighborhood in South-Central was so different. The culture was different, the language was different, the economic pressures were different, the expectations. The thing about Los Angeles is, there’s all kinds of life. The whole purpose of crime fiction is to find those different places.
On What’s Left Out
The interesting thing about being a novelist—and this is also probably true of nonfiction—is, you can’t tell everything. It’s impossible. So certain things get left out. I write about a time and a place and a people, and I am hoping that when you read the book, you will inform it with your own emotions and feelings.
L.A. is a place where people are always changing, making the world better. You have things like the Watts riots that changed America. The riots were a surprise and a shock. You have the rise of political leadership kind of early on.
I wanted to write about a large and disparate group of people over a period of time in Southern California. I wanted to bring to life those people who didn’t have a literature even though they lived in a place that has a lot of literature. I wanted to talk about the displaced African Americans who came from Texas and Louisiana, who moved to California to start a new life not because they really wanted to be city people but because where they came from wasn’t welcoming socially.