In 2007’s Blonde Faith, Los Angeles PI Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins drove off a cliff, like Sherlock Holmes plunging down Reichenbach Falls, and for much the same reason. “I wasn’t interested in where we were going,” admits Walter Mosley, author of the Easy Rawlins mysteries. “It didn’t feel to me like I was being creative. I wasn’t happy with [Easy’s] future. I didn’t think I could do this to him.”
So six years passed, leaving Easy’s fate unknown, and the writer moved on to other projects. But just as Holmes returned for more adventures, Easy Rawlins also undergoes a resurrection of sorts in Little Green, awakening after two months in a coma. His friend Mouse immediately seeks his help in discovering the whereabouts of Evander Noon, the “Little Green” of the title. Evander can’t quite remember what he did to anger a bunch of very nasty drug dealers, because he was on his first acid trip at the time. So it’s up to Easy to jog Evander’s memory and keep him from getting killed. During his investigations, Easy extends help to, and is in turn assisted by, several young people, including a commune of friendly hippies. “The world belongs to the kids,” Mosley says. “There are a lot of kids on the Strip, runaways…and Easy sees this in the most positive way—there’s a new world. There’s hope in the younger generation.”
Mosley’s interest in Easy appears to have resurrected, too. “I’m enjoying writing about Easy,” he says. “I feel renewed in writing about him, and seeing a whole new place for him to start experiencing.”
But Mosley refuses to restrict his work to one detective or even one genre: He’s written plays, political nonfiction, literary fiction, science fiction. “The great thing about writing is that you can write about anything. Twain and Dickens crossed genre all the time. It’s a natural thing.” He recently published Stepping Stone/Love Machine, the third and final set of double novellas in the science fiction Crosstown to Oblivion series, all of which envision a scenario where “a black man destroys the world.”
In Stepping Stone, a shy, thoughtful mailroom manager discovers that he’s God and struggles to save his creation before it’s too late. Truman Pope is the last person who you’d picture as the Creator, and that’s intentional. “I like the idea that Philip K. Dick had,” says Mosley. “The people he talks about are never the hero or the center of the story….Who we are and what we are is so small.”
Love Machine begins with a brilliant, hot-tempered scientist who invents a machine that creates a collective consciousness. This consciousness allows one person with an inspiration to connect with someone who has the ability to express it. For example, one person “has the soul of a gambler,” while another has “the temperament of a gambler.” One person “has a vision,” and another “has the ability to paint it.” According to Mosley, “There are all these potentials that everybody has. We’re not social creatures like ants. I think we’re pack animals: inside of those packs, we all support each other.”
Mosley’s drive to express his own artistic vision goes beyond writing; his drawings will soon appear in a New York gallery exhibit. Ultimately, he sees specialization as a threat to the individual: The more narrowly someone defines one’s talent, the more likely he or she is to become obsolete. But resisting specialization sets that individual against wider social pressures. “This world doesn’t want you to be flexible,” he says. “America is dominated by capitalism. Capitalism is dominated by the production line. [And the genius of the] production line is specialization….I think there’s an oppressive force from the top down. Human beings get fitted into systems, and I think that’s very problematic. We have to see ourselves in different ways.”
Amy Goldschlager is an editor and book/audiobook reviewer who lives in New York City. She has worked for several major publishers, and has contributed to the Los Angeles Review of Books, Kirkus, Locus, ComicMix, and AudioFile magazine.