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Easy Rawlins Is Back with a 'Cinnamon Kiss'

ED GORDON, host:

I'm Ed Gordon, and this is NEWS & NOTES.

Walter Mosley has weaved yet another suspenseful whodunit tale. The latest novel is titled "Cinnamon Kiss." And it marks the 10th adventure for Mosley's most popular character, the oft-troubled sleuth, Easy Rawlins.

Mr. WALTER MOSLEY (Author, "Cinnamon Kiss"): I think Easy is a very interesting character, and he's an unusual character for America inasmuch as he's a black male hero. There are not a lot of black male heroic characters in America, characters that you want to be like, you know, not that you just respect, but you want to be like them. Also, I've been writing this novel--the first book about him, "Gone Fishin," is 1939. This book is 1966. I'm following a life. He gets older. The world changes, and so it's possible to see him in different ways and in different lights.

GORDON: Let's talk right about the latest, "Cinnamon Kiss," number 10 in the series of Easy Rawlins, and the trials and tribulations of this man. Talk to me about number 10.

Mr. MOSLEY: Well, number 10 is kind of the opposite of the previous book, "Little Scarlet." You have the Watts riot. You have a very big external event that changes black relations in America. This is about 11 months later. Easy's daughter has a blood disease. There's nobody in America who can cure that blood disease. There's one place in Switzerland that would even try. He can't get any money out of his property because of the riots that have, you know, lowered all the property value under what his mortgage is. And so Easy has a choice. He can either go out with Mouse and rob an armored car in Texas. Mouse has set it all up, and he's ready to go. Or he can do a job as a private detective for a guy up in San Francisco. It would be much safer to rob that armored car. But Easy, fool that he is, decides that he's going to do the real thing, the job thing, and he's going to help this guy up in San Francisco. He's trying to save this woman named Cinnamon. He is being chased down by a guy who's not only a killer, but a torturer, and that's the mystery.

Then on the other hand, we see a lot of other things. We see black life after the riots, the changes in America. We see the Vietnam War and how people are responding to that, and we also see the beginning, in Easy's eyes, of the hippie movement.

GORDON: Some authors say yes to this and others do not. Is Easy a living character for you? Do you, as you just go through life, think about him, or is he just for you someone on the page?

Mr. MOSLEY: Well, you know, I think in many ways, he's more than a living character. I think that Easy is a product of my unconscious mind. Those things that exist in your unconscious are larger than life. They're magical in their being, and so I don't have Easy, you know, sitting in this chair here next to me, saying, `Hey, Walter, why don't you say that now? What did you think of--you want to go out and get drunk after th'--I don't have him doing that, but what I have is him way back there in my heart, in kind of the religious moment in my mind. And so he exists in a very, very important way for me, though not in a living way.

GORDON: Do we see the end of Easy Rawlins?

Mr. MOSLEY: Sure, when he's 80 years old. When he's 80, it's going to be his last mystery, and I can see him now. He's going to have a job. Somebody, you know, is going to be killed. Maybe it's going to be a grandchild. Maybe somebody's in trouble, and he's going to have to get out there as an old man, infirmed in some ways, but rich in wisdom, and he's going to solve some crime. It's going to be his last book, but it'll be the year 2000.

GORDON: So, Walter, do you indeed play it out that far ahead? I mean, can you really say that for sure?

Mr. MOSLEY: I can't say anything for sure. I can't even say I'm going to walk out of this room for sure, so I certainly can't say that for sure.

GORDON: Well, as sure as sure can be today. How about that?

Mr. MOSLEY: As sure as I am, yeah, I'm going to do that, you know, because I like writing about Easy Rawlins. I want to do it my whole life. I don't want to be dominated by Easy Rawlins. I don't want that to be the only books or kinds of books that I write, but I want to write those books. I love Easy and Mouse and Jackson Blue and EttaMae and Jesus and Feather and, you know, there's all these characters in Easy's life that are wonderful to write about, and I like to visit them every once in a while.

GORDON: And when Easy--when we lay Easy to rest, can we think about--will we see some of those characters carry on in their own books?

Mr. MOSLEY: I think Easy will probably outlive everybody in his life. The difference between my Fearless Jones novels and my Easy Rawlins novels is that Easy is drama verging on tragedy; meaning to say if Easy saves your life, you'd be better off dead. And Fearless is a drama verging on comedy. You know, everything is going to come out fine in Fearless' world, you know. You might be dead, but you don't know it. And if you're living, you've got something good going for you. But, you know, so in Easy's world, most everybody's going to die.

GORDON: Let me ask you this. You've done "Devil in a Blue Dress." "Always Outnumbered" was produced by HBO. Can we see something else that you've written come to big screen anytime soon? Have there been talks? Have you...

Mr. MOSLEY: I'm making a deal right now with HBO and a theatrical group to make a movie for release in the theater, "Little Scarlet," starring Jeffrey Wright and Mos Def. I'm very happy about that.

GORDON: That's pretty great.

Mr. MOSLEY: We're making the deal as we speak.

GORDON: Well, Walter Mosley, it's always good to talk to you, and we look forward to opening up that book and getting through the pages of "Cinnamon Kiss." We appreciate your time.

Mr. MOSLEY: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ed Gordon
Hard hitting, intelligent, honest, and no-nonsense describe Ed Gordon's style and approach to reporting that have made the Emmy Award-winning broadcaster one of the most respected journalists in the business today. Known for his informative on-air interaction with newsmakers, from world leaders to celebrities, the name Ed Gordon has become synonymous with the "big" interview.