Bestselling Crime Writer Walter Mosley Will Teach You How To Write A Story
With Meghna Chakrabarti
A conversation with bestselling writer Walter Mosley about his hard-boiled character Easy Rawlins and a life in crime writing.
From The Reading List
Excerpt from “Elements of Fiction” by Walter Mosley
Excerpted from ELEMENTS OF FICTION by Walter Mosley © 2019 by Thing Itself, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of the publisher, Grove Press, an imprint of Grove Atlantic, Inc. All rights reserved.
New York Times: “Walter Mosley: By the Book” — “When and where do you like to read?
“I like to read either in motion or in water. And so I am most satisfied reading on subway cars, trains, planes, ferries, boats or floating on some kind of air-filled device or raft in a pool, pond or lake. But I am happiest reading in the bathtub; lying back with my head resting on the curved end of the tub, one leg bent and the other resting along the edge. Now and then I add a little hot water with a circular motion of my toe. I decided on my apartment because it had a deep tub with water jets to massage me while I read science fiction and magical realism.
“Are you a rereader?
“Reading is rereading just as writing is rewriting. Any worthwhile book took many, many drafts to reach completion, and so it would make sense that the first time the reader works her way through the volume it’s more like a first date than a one-time encounter. If the person was uninteresting (not worthwhile) there’s no need for a repeat performance, but if they have promise, good humor, hope or just good manners, you might want to have a second sit-down, a third. There might be something irksome about that rendezvous that makes you feel that you have something to work out. There might be a hint of eroticism suggesting the possibility of a tryst or even marriage.
“The joy of reading is in the rereading; this is where you get to know the world and characters in deep and rewarding fashion.
“What makes a good mystery novel?
“This question deserves examination. I could answer by saying that in a good mystery there’s a crime and a cast of characters, any of whom may or may not have committed that crime. Readers have their suspicions, but most often they are wrong — if not about the perpetrator then about the underlying reason(s) for the commission of said crime. In a very good mystery, the detective comes into question and the investigator is forced to face his, or her, own prejudices, expectations and limitations. In a great mystery, we find that the crime being investigated reveals a deeper rot.
“But this answer only addresses, finally, the technical execution of the mystery. A good mystery has to be a good novel, and any good novel takes us on a journey where we discover, on many levels, truths about ourselves and our world in ways that are, at the same time, unexpected and familiar. If the mystery writer gives us a good mystery without a good novel to back it up, then she, or he, has failed.”
Vulture: “Walter Mosley on FX’s Snowfall, Legalizing Drugs, and His Advice for Young Writers” — “Walter Mosley is one of the greatest American crime-fiction writers. He’s the author of nearly 50 books, including 14 volumes chronicling the life of Easy Rawlins, an African-American private detective living in South Central Los Angeles. His newest job is as a writer and consultant on Snowfall, the FX drama about the effect of the crack cocaine trade on Southern California in the 1980s. The series returns to FX on July 19, and the first episode of season two will premiere at this year’s Split Screens TV Festival on June 2 at IFC Center, with Mosley in attendance.
“Ahead of the Snowfall season premiere, Mosley talked to Vulture about the difference between novel writing and TV writing, the problem of mass incarceration, why he believes all drugs should be legalized, the advice he gives young writers, and what happens when he loses a draft of something he’s working on.”
Anna Bauman produced this hour for broadcast.
This article was originally published on WBUR.org.
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