Tuesday, 28 February 2023

Walter Mosley photo by Marcia Wilson

Walter Mosley, photo by Marcia Wilson

Walter Mosley is having a moment.

In an illustrious career that has spanned more than three decades and 60 books and been marked by accolades including the Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Award and PEN America’s Lifetime Achievement Award, 2023 is still shaping up to be among the most memorable.

It was recently announced that Mosley will receive this year’s prestigious CWA Diamond Dagger Award—which “recognizes authors whose crime writing careers have been marked by sustained excellence, and who have made a significant contribution to the genre.” Notably, he was also the recipient of their New Blood Dagger/John Creasey Award for his debut crime novel, Devil in a Blue Dress (1990), which introduced beloved postwar PI Easy Rawlins.

Every Man a King by Walter MosleyFebruary also sees the publication of the highly anticipated Every Man a King (Mulholland Books)—the second book to feature Joe King Oliver, following 2018’s Edgar Award-winning Down the River Unto the Sea.

“Has it really been that long? That’s amazing,” Mosley marvels. “I always intended to come back to [Joe]. I find him interesting, you know.”

Perhaps some of that interest stems from the fact that Joe is a former NYPD cop turned private investigator living in the present-day world, whereas the author’s earlier series protagonists like Easy Rawlins and Army veteran Fearless Jones occupy space in bygone eras.

“In this particular side street of the genre that I'm in, most, or many, of the of the PIs were ex-police. And I've never done that.… It's almost an anathema to the kinds of people I'm writing about,” he says. “Easy and Fearless and people like that—I can't really write a contemporary story about them because they're in the past. You need a certain amount of innocence to do certain kinds of cases in New York.”

Joe King—a devoted family man and friend whose loyalty remains to the cause of justice—is still an “innocent” despite the system nearly destroying him.

“His commitment is to the law itself, even though the law has betrayed him. So that was what I was thinking when I was working on this—that he's the right guy,” Mosley remembers. “What came first—the detective or the case? I'm not sure. I think I probably wanted to write about the detective. So I discovered the story.”

In Every Man a King, Oliver family friend and money mogul Roger Ferris calls in a favor that has Joe investigating the potentially unlawful detainment of a White Nationalist, Alfred Xavier Quiller, who has been accused of murder and selling intel to the Russians. It’s an unenviable task, but one that Joe can’t refuse. After all, his beloved grandmother, Brenda, is not only alive but living again thanks to Ferris.

“She is in a relationship with him, and he’s basically brought her back to life,” Mosley notes. “Five years ago she was in the retirement home. And so [Joe] is not so much doing it for the multibillionaire. He’s doing it for his grandmother.”

But unlike hardboiled heroes of days past written by “the greats”—Mosley counts Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and Ross Macdonald among them—Joe can’t simply disappear into the case.

“It was an existentialist genre, which it still is to some degree,” Mosley says. “Those detectives were doing what was right. And what was right for them and what's right for my character is different. In the present, you really need to talk about the complexities of a detective.”

Those facets extend beyond the professional realm and into the personal, where even crime-fighting crusaders must endeavor to balance their heroic escapades with humbler if equally important obligations closer to home.

“[Joe] has children. He has duties. He has friends. He has things that he is responsible for,” the author explains. “Which, in the old days, nobody really cared about.” Consequently, conflict between the two is inevitable. Here, Joe’s daughter (and aspiring partner), Aja, takes umbrage to his association with the White Nationalist Quiller, whose archaic and discriminatory beliefs—at least the publicly expressed ones—are in direct contradiction to their own.

Mosley paraphrases Joe’s response to Aja’s outrage, albeit in more simplistic terms: “Everybody’s racist. I’m racist. You’re racist…. America is racist from its very beginning.” It’s one of those fundamental (if frictious) truths that is perhaps more palatable when viewed through the lens of fiction, which provides just enough distance for rational contemplation over pure instinctive, emotional response.

“It's funny. I think that in fiction you can get closer to the truth,” he contends. “As a matter of fact, it's much harder to write true nonfiction than it is to write fiction because, in nonfiction, you take a realistic event, or moment in history, and then you start cutting away things…your own conscious and unconscious prejudices cause you to.”

Another truth the author explores through imaginary circumstance is prison and its profound societal, economic, and emotional impacts.

“For Joe, incarceration is interesting,” Mosley says. “He was framed. He was thrown into the system by the authorities that existed. He was definitely going to be found guilty, if not killed in prison. [There’s] the terror of that happening …the injustice of it.”

Down Unto the River by Walter MosleyWhile redemption came for Joe in Down the River Unto the Sea, his personal demons resurface with a vengeance when he must visit Quiller at Rikers Island, the scene of his wrongful imprisonment.

“I've had friends and acquaintances who've been in prison, and it was like: I'm not gonna let this break me down. This is who I am. And even when they came out, they were no longer criminals… [but] they still remember it. It's not that they were fond of it, but they had to deal with it,” says Mosley. “You do what you have to do to survive. And I think that Joe would have done that, also.”

Of course, survival requires resilience and the ability to make peace with factors beyond one’s control—and sometimes even risking exposure to the very things that haunt you.

“He discovers that his feelings are historical in nature, and that it was important for him to go back to the place where he was sent to prison to understand that he'd overcome that experience,” says Mosley. “That was really a fun part of the book for me—that he's growing as a character.”

Another part of his protagonist’s growth has been Joe’s learning to rely on others despite his inherent mistrust—an occupational necessity when his own life is threatened by formidable foes. “He needs somebody that he can trust,” Mosley says; it’s a predicament that will resonate with anybody who holds a mistrust of law enforcement. “He can work with the police. He can like the police. But he can’t trust them.”

Enter bodyguard and mercenary Oliya (“Olo”) Ruez—a decidedly lethal lady who harkens back to the fearless females of Mosley’s youth.

“Women can be as deadly as men…maybe even deadlier,” he asserts. “Black women in my family were just tough.… They had their gun. They had their knife. They said, ‘Well, you can mess with me…but you’d better kill me because otherwise I’m coming back.’

“I wanted that character,” Mosley says of Ruez, who he also modeled loosely on Hammett’s The Continental Op. “She’s not the toughest, but she’s tough enough. I think having those kinds of characters pulls us into the modern world, where we’re not thinking in the old ways…sugar and spice and everything nice.”

Mosley is quick to give a nod to fellow writers bringing fresh perspectives and updates to the crime storytelling tradition, contemporary writers whose works also celebrate continents and cultures that span the globe.

“I think Kellye Garrett is an important new writer,” he says. “Steph Cha…writes extraordinary stuff. People in my generation, like Gary Phillips…. They’re still putting stuff out there. So, if you start reading them, you can read more of them.”

CWOC at Malice Domestic 2022

Crime Writers of Color cofounders (L-R) Kellye Garrett, Walter Mosley, and Gigi Pandian at Malice Domestic in 2022


The desire to amplify such voices led Mosley to cofound Crime Writers of Color (CWoC) with Garrett and Gigi Pandian in 2018.

“It’s pretty big now,” he says of the organization, which has grown to more than 350 members. “It reminded me of the old days of me and Gary Phillips and Gar Anthony Haywood and Eleanor Taylor Bland…. There was about ten of us and we used to go around doing readings and things. And I wanted, in a way, to recreate that.” He credits the younger generation of authors for CWoC’s grander, all-encompassing approach.

“Back then it was all just Black people,” Mosley recalls. “And now it’s people of color.… There are all different colors of people who want to see themselves in the literature…and they also represent a group of people who want to see themselves in the literature.”

Snowfall cast and Walter Mosley


Walter Mosley with the cast of Snowfall: Michael Hyatt, Angela Lewis, Dave Andron, Gail Bean, Damson Idris, Amin Joseph, Carter Hudson, Isaiah John, and Devyn A. Tyler (Maarten de Boer/@iheartmaarten)


Mosley, then, sees the CWA Dagger Award—which, in conjunction with the MWA Grand Master title, he has referred to as the “apex” of his career (though certainly not an ending)—as not simply as an individual recognition but a collective one, giving validation to the direction and diversity of his collaborators and colleagues. “What we’re doing makes sense. Where we’re going makes sense,” he affirms. “I feel really good for myself getting the award…but I’m not just some lone guy out here doing it. It’s a whole movement of literature—and very important literature.”

It’s also one that will continue to be enhanced by the author’s future contributions.

Mosley anticipates the summer publication of a macro science fiction novella called Touched (“It’s about individual characters but it’s also about the history of the universe”). He has also completed a rewrite of the previously ebook-only Archibald Lawless, Anarchist at Large for reissue and identified a selection of short stories that haven’t yet been collected; he hopes to present those “more or less in order” so readers can see his stylistic progression.

Then, there’s a new Easy Rawlins novel percolating, its working title: Farewell Amethystine.

This proliferation comes at the conclusion of his duties as a writer and executive producer on the FX series Snowfall, which has ended after seven seasons.

“Wow, man, I can actually start writing in earnest,” Walter Mosley offers with a grin.

Which means the passing of this moment signifies many more to come.


Easy Rawlins mysteries
Devil in a Blue Dress (1990)
A Red Death (1991)
White Butterfly (1992)
Black Betty (1994)
A Little Yellow Dog (1996)
Gone Fishin’ (1997)
Bad Boy Brawly Brown (2002)
Six Easy Pieces (2003)
Little Scarlet (2004)
Cinnamon Kiss (2005)
Blonde Faith (2007)
Little Green (2013)
Rose Gold (2014)
Charcoal Joe (2016)
Blood Grove (2021)
Fearless Jones mysteries
Fearless Jones (2001)
Fear Itself (2003)
Fear of the Dark (2006)
King Oliver mysteries
Every Man a King (2023)
Down the River Unto the Sea (2018)
Leonid McGill mysteries
The Long Fall (2009)
Known to Evil (2010)
When the Thrill Is Gone (2011)
All I Did Was Shoot My Man (2012)
And Sometimes I Wonder About You (2015)
Trouble Is What I Do (2020)
Science fiction
Blue Light (1998)
Futureland: Nine Stories of an Imminent World (2001)
The Wave (2005)
Odyssey (2013)
Inside a Silver Box (2015)
Socrates Fortlow novels
Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned (1997)
Walkin’ the Dog (1999)
The Right Mistake (2008)
Young Adult
47 (2005)
Other fiction
RL’s Dream (1995)
The Man in My Basement (2004)
Walking the Line (2005), a novella in the Transgressions series
Fortunate Son (2006)
The Tempest Tales (2008)
The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey (2010)
Parishioner (2012)
Debbie Doesn’t Do It Anymore (2014)
The Further Tales of Tempest Landry (2015)
John Woman (2018)
The Awkward Black Man (2020)
Killing Johnny Fry: A Sexistential Novel (2006)
Diablerie (2007)
Nonfiction books
Workin’ on the Chain Gang: Shaking off the Dead Hand of History (2000)
What Next: An African American Initiative Toward World Peace (2003)
Life Out of Context: Which Includes a Proposal for the Non-violent Takeover of the House of Representatives (2006)
This Year You Write Your Novel (2007)
Twelve Steps Toward Political Revelation (2011)
Elements of Fiction (2019)
Graphic novel / Comic Book series
Maximum Fantastic Four (2005, with Stan Lee and Jack Kirby)
The Thing (2021–22) – Books 1 through 6
Crosstown to Oblivion series
The Gift of Fire / On the Head of a Pin, Tor Books, 2012
Merge / Disciple, Tor Books, 2012
Stepping Stone / The Love Machine, Tor Books, 2013
The Fall of Heaven, Samuel French, 2011
Lift, World premiere at Crossroads Theatre Company on April 10, 2014.

John B ValeriJohn B. Valeri is a lifelong lover of books and the people who write them and the host of Central Booking, where he interviews authors and other industry insiders. Valeri is a contributor to CrimeReads, Crimespree Magazine, Criminal Element, Mystery Scene MagazineThe National Book Review, The New York Journal of BooksThe News and TimesThe Strand Magazine, and Suspense Magazine. He regularly moderates author events and book discussions at bookstores and libraries throughout Connecticut, and serves on the planning committee for CrimeCONN, a one-day reader/writer mystery conference cosponsored by Mystery Writers of America/New York Chapter.

A Moment With Walter Mosley
John B. Valeri
Friday, 24 February 2023

2023 LA Times Book Prizes Mystery Thriller

The Los Angeles Book Prizes announced that it will honor crime writer James Ellroy with a 2022 Robert Kirsch Award for lifetime achievement. The award recognizes a writer whose work focuses on the American West.

Los Angeles native Ellroy is perhaps best known for his L.A. Quartet novels (The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential, and White Jazz), but has penned several works over the past four decades including his memoir My Dark Places (1997), the Underworld U.S.A. Trilogy (American Tabloid, The Cold Six Thousand, and Blood's a Rover), and the first two books of the Second L.A. Quartet (Perfidia and This Storm).

“We are pleased to recognize L.A. noir iconoclast James Ellroy with this year’s Kirsch Award,” said Times Books Editor Boris Kachka. “James’ writing life was shaped by the tragic, unsolved murder of his mother when he was 10, fostering an obsession with crime and the underworld that has animated his fiction and nonfiction across the decades.”


We Lie Here, by Rachel Howzell Hall (Thomas & Mercer)
Back to the Garden, by Laurie R. King (Bantam)
All That's Left Unsaid, by Tracey Lien (William Morrow)
Secret Identity, by Alex Segura (Flatiron Books)
The Cartographers, by Peng Shepherd (William Morrow)

Category Judges: Oline Cogdill, SJ Rozan, and Paula L. Woods

The Book Prizes recognize 56 remarkable works in 12 categories, celebrating the highest quality of writing from authors at all stages of their careers. Winners will be announced in a ceremony on Friday, April 21 at USC’s Bovard Auditorium, the evening before the annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, taking place the weekend of April 22-23, 2023.

LA Times Book Prizes Mystery/Thriller Finalists, Honor James Ellroy for Lifetime Achievement
Mystery Scene
Tuesday, 21 February 2023

Author Mark Greaney

BURNER IS THE 12TH BOOK in my Gray Man series. Any author who has been given the opportunity to spend this kind of time with characters he loves would consider himself lucky. I know I do. However, there’s no question that the longer a series goes on the more difficult it is to keep things fresh. I mean there are only so many ways you can stage a car chase or a gun battle. I always joke that one day I’ll be writing a knife fight in a hot tub, and I’ll think, “This is the third hot tub knife fight I’ve written. How can I make this one different?”

Well, one element you can change is the characters. From my first book, it’s been important to me that Court Gentry develop like a real person. As much as I enjoy James Bond, it’s unrealistic that he’s exactly the same well-dressed, cocktail-drinking, debonair killer in The Man With the Golden Gun that he was in Casino Royale.

I like to think that Court has changed as the years have gone by. He started as a steely killer. Since then he’s been a member of a team, a CIA officer, an unofficial Agency asset, even a bodyguard. He’s a smart guy—he has to be to have lived this long—but he’s not always right. He frequently finds himself in over his head in various situations, but he always finds a way out.

Burner by Mark GreaneyThe one thing that hasn’t changed about him over the years is his moral code. For a man in his profession, he suffers from the worst possible flaw—a conscience.

One person who recognizes the good in him is Zoya Zakharova, former Russian foreign intelligence officer, deadly killer in her own right, and Court’s lover. When I started writing Burner, my first thought was that I wanted to explore their relationship in a way I’ve never done before.

So I started the book in a way that even I didn’t expect, at the beginning of the story they have gone their separate ways and each is the worse for it. It soon becomes clear that the only thing that may ease their pain is some field work, but with these two, pain has a tendency to increase not decrease.

Things go wrong right from the start. When a Swiss banker tries to get proof of massive corruption out to the media, everyone from the Russian mafia to the CIA races to stop him, and it’s not long before Court and Zoya find themselves fighting for their lives—on opposite sides.

Right and wrong are rarely clear-cut issues in the Gray Man’s world. No one understands that better than Court and Zoya. Clear-cut or not, choices must be made. They’ll have to decide where their loyalties lie. Because one thing’s for sure. If they’re going down, they’re going down together.

I hope you’ll have the opportunity to read Burner. I’ve wanted to write about Court and Zoya’s love for a while, but I could never find a way into story that didn’t feel artificial. I think I’ve cracked that problem with this novel. I hope you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Mark Greaney’s debut international thriller, The Gray Man, was published in 2009 and became a national bestseller and eventually a film, starring Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, and Ana de Armas (2022). Greaney is also the bestselling author or coauthor of seven Tom Clancy novels, including three Jack Ryan novels before Clancey’s death in 2013. In his research he has traveled to dozens of countries, visited the Pentagon, military bases, and many Washington, D.C., Intelligence agencies, and trained in the use of firearms, battlefield medicine, and close-range combative tactics. He lives in Memphis, Tennessee, with his wife, his three stepchildren, and his four dogs: Lobo, Ziggy, Winston, and Mars.

My Book: "Burner" by Mark Greaney
Mark Greaney