Vol. 110 (2021) 

A Conversation with Novelist Walter Mosley



Walter Mosley was awarded the 2020 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters by the National Book Foundation for his lifetime of achievements. With more than sixty books to his credit, his 1990 debut novel, Devil in a Blue Dress, the first installment in his Easy Rawlins detective series, was made into a movie starring Denzel Washington. Mosley, a New York Times bestselling author, has won an Edgar Award, an O. Henry Award, The Mystery Writers of America's Grand Master Award, a Grammy Award, the PEN America's Lifetime Achievement Award and three NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Literary Work.


Stay Thirsty Magazine was honored to visit with Walter Mosley for this Conversation about his new book, Blood Grove, his process and his thoughts on writing and storytelling.


STAY THIRSTY: In your newest Easy Rawlins book, Blood Grove, you write about your famed private detective for the fifteenth time. What was the genesis of this story and how do you feel about its outcome?


WALTER MOSLEY: Each and every Easy Rawlins installment is a discovery for me. In Blood Grove I knew that the year was 1969 and that Easy was back at his office after finishing with an out-of-town case. I didn’t know that he was going to meet a young, white, Vietnam war vet who thinks he might have killed a black man in an orange grove. 


The mysteries concerned this possible killing, but the story is about Easy’s own history in the United States Army.


My goal has always been about putting Easy in as many moments of our recent history as I can; to show the Black involvement in the evolution of the U.S. – for better and for worse.


STAY THIRSTY: What was the inspiration behind the creation of your protagonist, Easy Rawlins? How quickly did you come to know him and how has he evolved over the past 30 years?


WALTER MOSLEY: I discovered in my 34th year of life that I wanted to be a writer. Easy Rawlins was the first character that meant something to me. Easy is not my father, but he is a man who knows the world that my father showed me, told me about, warned me of and the world that he loved.



STAY THIRSTY: With fifteen books in the Easy Rawlins Mystery series, what have you learned about keeping readers interested?


WALTER MOSLEY: I don’t know about readers. I love telling stories and if people like them I am all the more edified.

Walter Mosley - MasterClass Trailer



STAY THIRSTY: The creativity in your choice of character names stands out. How do you arrive at their names and nicknames? Are some of these drawn from real life? How do these names reflect on how you craft your characters' appearances and personalities?


WALTER MOSLEY: I am often asked a question about where my names come from. It is a surprise to me because the breadth of names (and nicknames) is so great that I’d feel like a failure if I couldn’t get beyond John and Carol in my naming. People often evolve into the names they are called. I just look for the time after they are identified.



STAY THIRSTY: What is your method of storytelling? Do you plan ahead or just react as the circumstances confront your characters? You are known to write every day and read what you wrote the next day. Has that discipline made you a better writer? Has that process ever brought you to a storyline dead end?


WALTER MOSLEY: Sometimes I outline a novel, especially if I’m writing under contract. Other times I just start writing. In the process of writing novels, I come to many dead ends. When that happens, I power through or I put the novel away and wait for a time when I am better able.



STAY THIRSTY: What three elements of successful storytelling are the most important to you?


WALTER MOSLEY: Beginning, middle, end.



STAY THIRSTY: When writing your novels, do possible movie adaptations play a role in your crafting of the story?


WALTER MOSLEY: I never think about novels I’m writing becoming movies, TV series, etc. That stuff comes later.



STAY THIRSTY: Race plays a significant role in your mystery series that is set between 1948 and the late 1960s. How has the impact of race changed from the times in your books to today? How have your views on racial discrimination changed over the decades?


WALTER MOSLEY: In America racism is a disease passed down from generation to generation. Its symptoms change from person to person, epoch to epoch. Thus far it has reared its ugly head in every generation, in every age. Will we ever be cured? I don’t know.


Walter Mosley

STAY THIRSTY: If you are to be remembered for just one thing, what would you like it to be?




(Walter Mosley photo credit: Marcia Wilson)


Walter Mosley   



All opinions expressed are solely those of its author and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.