Wednesday, 16 October 2013

WALTER MOSLEY at the Durham Book Festival - by PETER GUTTRIDGE

Photo Credit: Peter Guttridge
 Walter Mosley is sitting in front of a cinema screen in Durham facing some sixty people in steeply raked seats peering down on him. He’s relaxed and raffish in a plastic hat and red T-shirt with a huge gold ring on what Brits call the wedding finger but Americans don’t.
He’s flown in from Poland after a three day festival in a town he can spell but neither of us can pronounce since the pronunciation bears little resemblance to the letters or their ordering. (This is confirmed at dinner later when, bizarrely, our waitress turns out to have been born in that very town and she pronounces it for us, beautifully but inimitably.)
The Durham Book Festival has invited him with a dual purpose. The first is to talk about the resurrection of Ezekial ‘Easy’ Rawlins. Little Green, the twelfth Rawlins novel (and a great read), opens with Easy, in a brilliantly hallucinatory account, waking up in hospital but thinking he is dead.
We thought so too, when 2007’s Blonde Faith ended with Easy apparently washed out to sea after a car crash - the visceral power of that terrible accident coming from Mosley having experienced a similar crash himself.
Mosley also thought he was finished with Easy until a couple of years ago he had the urge to bring him back and plunge him into the middle of the hippy sixties – a period Mosley embraced as a teenager but which, like Easy, he looks at more dispassionately from the vantage point of his 61 years.
The second purpose was to discuss Carl Franklin’s fine adaptation of Devil In A Blue Dress, Easy and Mouse’s first outing. Although, actually, it wasn’t their first outing. Mosley told us they had first appeared in a non-crime novel Mosley had written in four weeks called Gone Fishing. Both characters had come to him fully formed and he’d stayed with them for Devil In A Blue Dress.
He’d liked the film version, praising the director and actor Don Cheadle, for whom it was a break-out movie. And Denzel?

Photo Credit: Peter Guttridge

‘I wanted Danny Glover,’ Mosley said bluntly. ‘I’d always imagined it would be Danny. Denzel was too good-looking.’ There seemed to be something else behind his words but Mosley wasn’t saying any more.
The film dealt with we moved on to discuss Socrates Fortlow, who made his debut in Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned and is in some ways my favourite Mosley character. I wondered if he was based on Mosley’s father, whom he long ago described as a ‘black Socrates’. Not at all. ‘My father would hate Fortlow – he is his opposite.’
Mosley has been writing every day since he was 34 so has a formidable body of work, including the Fearless Jones and Leonid McGill mysteries. He has also written erotica – Killing Johnny Fry (2006) and Diablerie (2007) – which has received mixed reviews. Next year he’ll be publishing, among other things, Debbie Didn’t Do It. (For better or worse, hardly anyone in the audience seemed to have heard of Debbie Does Dallas, the famous porn movie from the seventies that Mosley is riffing on. And I’ve only heard of it, before you ask.)
Among those other things will be another Easy Rawlins, already finished. And Devil In A Blue Dress will get another lease of life sometime in the future as a musical collaboration with the great Branford Marsalis.
Mosley was relaxed and, well, easy company. The elaborate gold ring on his finger attracted attention. It was made 200 years ago for an Ashanti king. Mosley told us it was small by the standard of other kingly rings because it was only the king’s ‘pinky’ ring. Some pinky.

1 comment:

Dory said...


Great article, succinctly done.

Photos? Works of art.

Thank you for sharing.