Walter Mosley's newest book, Little Green , begins as the author's iconic hero Easy Rawlins comes "half-awake, dead and dreaming," after driving a car off a cliff in what may have been a suicide attempt. Shortly, with the help of Mama Jo's voodoo potion, Gator's Blood, he is wandering through the hippy scene of Sunset Strip in the late 1960s, helping his friend Mouse find a missing boy. Though Easy, a World War II vet, is much older than the hippies, he realizes that he shares something in common with them. The book is dubbed a "mystery," but like all good books, the mystery it addresses is not related to solving a specific crime but to the mystery of existence. Mosley will be reading from Little Green in the Wheeler Auditorium at the central branch of the Pratt Library on June 11, at 7 p.m.
City Paper: So the new book, Little Green is like your 40th--
Walter Mosley: Forty-third published book.
CP: So do you have any of that Gator's Blood that you could share with the rest of us?
WM: I'm sure you write more than I do.
CP: It is seriously a prodigious output. In this book, Easy says he is like a shark and dies if he stops moving. Does that describe you as a writer?
WM: I've never thought of that before, but it's definitely true that I need to keep writing.
CP: You've been writing about Easy Rawlins for over 20 years now. What's it like to stick with a character so long?
WM: Well, you know, there's only 12 Easy novels out of the 43 I've written, so, you know, it's kind of like doing many things, and Easy Rawlins is one of them. And I love writing about Easy and Mouse and Jackson Blue and Jesus-it's really fun to write about all of them.
CP: You say it's "only" 12, but people make a big deal that Proust had seven volumes of Remembrance of Things Past-
WM: Sure, but there are a lot of people in the past, like Balzac with a 180 novels. Simenon wrote 150 books and 80, I think, were [Commissioner] Maigret. It's not unusual in the genre, I think. I'd like to say it is, but it isn't. It's unusual today, because there's a feeling among so-called literary writers that books are very precious things that take many, many years of gestation and work. Sometimes that's true, but a lot of times, it's just practicing that muscle of writing in which things are discovered, not done on purpose.
CP: One of the fascinating things about Little Green was the way that Easy views the counterculture, especially in terms of race, when he thinks that for the first time these white people see what it is like to be judged by their appearance, to be rousted by the cops. But on the other hand, they could always go and cut their hair. When you put him in that world, walking down Sunset, is that from experience?
WM: It's fun to talk about the hippy movement. It's something I know something about. I was around at that time, for Easy to see it. You're right in saying to one degree they could cut off their hair, but they wouldn't. At that time they believed in this culture, they believed they were right, and how that is similar and different for black people was very interesting for us then and very interesting to look at now. There are these people who, because they are white-whatever white means-honestly believe they can change the world, which is something we hoped for but did not have confidence in. But they said, 'This is our world and we are changing it,' and to a great degree, they were right. And so Easy, seeing that and experiencing it with them gives him a different view on life in general and [in] his life. And it shows how the world looks at him differently. I was a hippy and hung out in communes everywhere from Oregon to Vermont.
CP: But this is the first time you've written about it. Is it something you've been saving up?
WM: I hadn't got there yet.
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