Walter Mosley on His Favorite California Books

The next guest of Alta’s California Book Club is a fan of Dashiell Hammett, Ross Macdonald, and Raymond Chandler.

walter mosley, high window, galton case, maltese falcon

Some writers, understandably, have found it difficult to stay productive during the coronavirus pandemic. Walter Mosley doesn’t seem to be among them: he’s been spending time writing fiction, screenplays, and a comic book. All this comes on top of what was already a busy year—par for the course for an author who has written more than 50 books since 1990. Trouble Is What I Do, the latest in his Leonid McGill detective series, came out in February, and the story collection The Awkward Black Man was published in September. This coming February, Mosley will release Blood Grove, the latest in his groundbreaking series of novels featuring private detective Easy Rawlins, who has given readers a singular view of Black life in Los Angeles in the years after World War II. Mosley will join Alta’s California Book Club on December 17 to talk about the first title in the series, Devil in a Blue Dress. We asked him via email about his work and his most treasured reads.

What are some of your favorite books about California—or that are set in the state?
The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiell Hammett; The Galton Case, by Ross Macdonald; and The High Window, by Raymond Chandler.

What’s a California story that deserves its own book?
The slow social disintegration of San Francisco.

You’re a prolific writer—have you been able to write even more during the pandemic?
Yes. I write every day and have been working on fiction, screenplays, and even a comic book.

A lot of people have written about how Devil in a Blue Dress is a reworking of the traditional hard-boiled detective story. Were there books about Black life in Los Angeles that inspired you?
If He Hollers Let Him Go, by Chester Himes.

Blood Grove, your 15th title in the Easy Rawlins series, is coming out in February. How many more novels featuring him do you envision writing?
You might as well ask me how long I plan on living!

To join Walter Mosley in conversation with Alta’s California Book Club, click here.

John McMurtrie edits for McSweeney’s Publishing and the literary travel magazine Stranger’s Guide.
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