Over two decades of diverse and prolific literary achievement, Walter Mosley
has become the preeminent African-American man of letters.
Refusing to be pigeonholed or limited by genre, he
is the critically hailed, award-winning, New York Times-bestselling author of some thirty-eight books to date in genres ranging from the crime novel to literary fiction, nonfiction, political essay, science fiction, young adult, and erotica.
is a recipient of PEN USA's Lifetime Achievement Award, whose work has been translated into twenty-one languages.
short fiction has appeared in a wide array of publications, including The New Yorker
, Los Angeles Times Magazine
, and Playboy
, and his
nonfiction has been published in The New York Times Magazine, Newsweek, and The Nation
initiated a new feature for The Nation
in 2009 entitled "Ten Things" as a way to make political and social action more accessible.
The feature invites a guest expert to tackle an issue and offer a brief list of recommendations for accomplishing a desired political or social end.
He was the founder of the Black Genius lecture series at New York University, as well as the editor of and a contributor to the book Black Genius.
He was also the guest editor for The Best American Short Stories of 2003.
In addition, he
has written for television, film, and the stage, and two major films - Devil in a Blue Dress and Always Outnumbered - have been made from his
In January 2010, "The Fall of Heaven," Mosley
first play based on his
The Tempest Tales, opened in Cincinnati and is scheduled to open in St. Louis in January 2011.
A new series based on Mosley's
The Long Fall, the debut novel in his
Leonid McGill detective series, is in development at HBO.
acclaimed fiction, Mosley
has explored the black experience in America over the past seven decades, beginning with the migration of African-Americans from the Deep South to his
native Los Angeles in the post-World War II era and through the post-Obama election-era new York City.
As David Ulin wrote in The Atlantic Monthly of Mosley's celebrated Easy Rawlins books, "Mosley has never been a traditional crime novelist; rather, he writes to serve a cultural agenda, and for him the mystery is less a whodunit than a vehicle for exploring a way of life. . . . Read together, the Rawlins books compose a sprawling novel of manners about twentieth-century African-American Los Angeles that owes as much to authors like Dickens and Zola as it does to the aesthetics of noir."
Reviewing Mosley's 2004 novel The Man in My Basement, Renée Graham wrote in the Boston Globe, "Mosley, who has quietly become one of this nation's finest writers, has always been closer in literary spirit to Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson than to Agatha Christie.
Like Wilson's, Mosley's
works explore what it means to be an African-American through the daily lives of ordinary people.
achievement . . . is to find suspense in the psychological and philosophical motives of his
characters as they wrestle with history and heritage, responsibility and redemption."
makes this such a lucid, sinuous book that its big issues are handled with idiosyncratic grace. . . ." In The New Yorker
, Ben Greenman called it "a compelling, peculiar exploration of race and identity. . . . It has a subtle sense of humor that leavens the philosophical inquiry.
It's to be expected that Mosley
can manage an investigation. . . . But he
has a special talent for touching upon these sticky questions of evil and responsibility without getting stuck in them."
Furthermore, Mitgang wrote, Mosley
had portrayed "a black world of slang and code words that haven't been delivered with such authenticity since Chester Himes created his Harlem detective stories."
Also in The New York Times
, D. J. R. Bruckner wrote, "Crime is the high road to philosophy for Walter Mosley
In fact, what draws him to write mysteries is the chance to attack moral questions, and the novel that has most affected his
writing and his
outlook is not a crime story but The Stranger by the French existentialist Albert Camus.
In the Los Angeles Times
, Digby Diehl wrote that Mosley's
"insightful scenes of black life in 1948 provide a sort of social history that doesn't exist in other detective fiction. . . . He
recreates the era convincingly, with all of its racial tensions, evoking the uneasy combination of freedom and disillusion in the postwar black community and revealing a tough, fresh perspective on Los Angeles history."
brilliantly reviewed new Leonid McGill series - including the latest installment, Known to Evil - Mosley
exploration of the African-American experience in contemporary Manhattan, where he
has lived since 1981.
has consistently given powerful voice to complex African-American male protagonists as few other fiction writers have done - a tradition that continues in both the Leonid McGill mysteries and his
most recent literary novel, The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey.
nonfiction and science fiction, he
has provocatively explored the political dimensions of the African-American and working-class experience, as well as the special perspective that African-Americans bring to the understanding of American history and the quest for world peace.
own extraordinary body of work, Mosley's literary activities extend to the realms of education and social activism.
With City College of the City University of New York
has created a new publishing degree program aimed at young urban residents, which is the only such program in the country.
He was the first African-American to serve on the board of directors of the National Book Awards, and he has served on the boards of the Full Frame Documentary Festival, the Poetry Society of America, TransAfrica, and Goddard College.
A former president of the Mystery Writers of America, Mosley has opened the door for a generation of African-American mystery writers with his critical and popular success.
In 1997, he
created a stir within the literary world when he
published the prequel to the Rawlins series, Gone Fishin', with a small black publishing house, Black Classic Press of Baltimore
felt it was important "to create a model that other writers, black or not, can look at to see that it's possible to publish a book successfully outside mainstream publishing in New York."
broad readership transcends racial, class, and gender lines, through authorial intent as well as reader response.
Faithful to the truth and texture of the African-American experience, Mosley's
work also includes finely drawn, multifaceted characters of all races, who inhabit the full range from hero to villain.
In 1992, President Bill Clinton boosted his
burgeoning career to new prominence when he
as one of his
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times Magazine
said of his
work, "I want black people to have a good time.
I mean, I want black people to read the book and say, 'That's my language, that's my life.
That's my history.
But I want white people to say, 'Boy, you know, I feel just like that!'"
is the recipient of numerous literary awards, including the Anisfield Wolf Award, for works that increase the appreciation and understanding of race in America.
won the 1996 Black Caucus of the American Library Association's
Literary Award for his
novel RL's Dream.
was an O. Henry Award winner in 1996 for one of his
Socrates Fortlow stories and is featured in Prize Stories 1996: The O. Henry Awards.
In 2002, he
won a Grammy Award for his
liner notes accompanying "Richard Pryor: And It's Deep Too!: The Complete Warner Bros. Recordings (1968-1992).
In 2005, he
was honored by Robert Redford's Sundance Institute
with a "Risktaker Award" for both his
creative and activist efforts.
In 2006, he
became the first recipient of the Carl Brandon Society Parallax Award for his
young adult novel 47.
has twice been awarded the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work - Fiction in 2008 for Blonde Faith and in 2010 for The Long Fall.
Mosley was also awarded an honorary doctorate from City College in 2005.
Born in 1952, Mosley was raised in Los Angeles as the only child of an African-American father from Louisiana who worked as a public school custodial supervisor, and a mother of Polish Jewish background who worked as a school administrator.
The vivid stories he
heard from relatives on both sides of his
family, drawn from their rich Southern black and Eastern European cultures, along with