Walter Mosley is coming to UB as a social and political commentator, but most of the audience will be there to see one of their favorite authors.
Mosley, who recently turned 61, has written more than a book a year since his career began.
“I started writing in my 30s, but I’ve told stories my entire life,” Mosley said by phone from New York. He remarked that everything he does now – writing and drawing in particular – he did as a child. “I am maybe fitting into my life as I get older.”
So are his characters. Easy Rawlins, a black man who rises above the prejudices of Los Angeles in the 1950s and ’60s, is modeled after Mosley’s father. He at one point runs the maintenance department in a school, as Mosley’s father did, and, over the course of a dozen books, he at almost every moment exudes the aura of a confident and capable man.
Leonid McGill, living in New York City (like Mosley) in the 2000s, also is a man constantly making adjustments, for his wife, his lovers, his wife’s lovers, and the children they are raising together – some his, some his in name only.
Mosley likes family men in his books, and points out that even his killers – the menacing Hush and volatile Mouse – have families of their own. In this way, Mosley seamlessly helps his readers relate to people they may never meet in their own lives, no matter what their color.
But he does have a larger motive.
“I live in a country that, to a great degree, is built on the backs of black men and black women, not wholly or mostly, but to a great degree,” Mosley said. “But there are no black men heroes – they just don’t exist. You can find a few, now and then, but as a rule they don’t exist, or for them it’s a stereotype, and they are not heroic.
“My interest is in writing about heroic men,” he said. He compares his troubled Easy and Leonid to the figures of ancient stories. “Like those from Homer, they are deeply flawed – and that is what makes them heroic.
“And that’s why men and women [readers] like them – each for different reasons and in different ways.”
In May, those fans will get something they weren’t sure would ever come – Easy Rawlins returns in “Little Green.” Last seen in 2007’s “Blonde Faith” driving off a cliff and into darkness, Easy recovers in 1967 California.
“A lot of it takes place in Sunset Boulevard and with the hippies – it’s very kind of psychedelic,” said Mosley, a former hippie himself.
It should be interesting reading, as the country careens toward 1968 – a year of assassinations, protests and riots, as Easy Rawlins moves through middle age and as his country continues its 200-year struggle for equality and justice for all – one way or another.