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author, literary omnivore

Walter Mosley

Marcia Wilson/WadeVision Photography

Walter Mosley didn’t start writing until he was in his 30s. He hasn’t wasted a second since, producing some 37 books as well as plays and screenplays. Next up is “Little Green,” the 12th in his best-selling series about detective Easy Rawlins. He’s in town March 26 to speak at Wellesley College.

BOOKS: What are you reading currently?

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MOSLEY: I’ve been reading a science fiction book that I kind of love, which has the worst title, “The Maker of Universes” by Philip Jose Farmer. I love this idea in it of alternate existences. I’m also rereading Raymond Chandler’s “The Long Goodbye.”  

BOOKS: Do you read a lot of noir?

MOSLEY: I read it a lot in my 20s and 30s. Now I don’t read it so much. One of the reasons I don’t is that the plots are subliminal so what happens is they get into my head. I wrote a mystery once, and at the end of it I thought, “This looks familiar.” Then I realized I had taken a plot from a novel I had read a couple years ago. I had to start over.

BOOKS: What kind of books do you read?

MOSLEY: You name it and I’ll read it. A lot of philosophy. Another book I’ve been reading is the biography of Sigmund Freud by Peter Gay. I also have a very interesting book that I just love to death, “The Popular College Educator Library.” It was published by the The New York National Educational Alliance after World War I. It’s basically a college education in 10 volumes. It has things like how to to build an airplane, how to do accounting, what is anatomy, everything. I like books like that, that you can sift through, and say,“My God.”

BOOKS: Did becoming a writer in your 30s change your reading?

MOSLEY: I don’t think it did. There’s an assumption inside that question. A lot of people assume when you are a writer that you read a lot, and I’ve never found that to be true. I find reading to be one experience and writing another. I don’t think I’m going too far, but I think it’s possible to be a writer and illiterate. My example is the beginning of the whole Western tradition of literature — Homer. He wasn’t only illiterate. He was blind.

BOOKS: Which contemporary authors do you like?

MOSLEY: Junot Díaz, Edwidge Danticat. I’ve recently been reading a novel by a poet, “Southern Cross the Dog” by Bill Cheng, a novel about the blues that I’m really liking.

BOOKS: What are your favorite places to read?

MOSLEY: I love reading in the bathtub. I love reading on the subway. I have to keep looking up to make sure I don’t miss my stop. Time goes by so much faster when you are reading.

BOOKS: Did you read a lot growing up?

MOSLEY: My dad was a custodian at school. I’d go with him to work sometimes. He’d let me wander around. I would go to the library and look for books.

BOOKS: Are you a voracious reader?

MOSLEY: I feel like a regular guy with reading. I was in LA where I was driven around by a guy who told me he doesn’t let his son read mysteries because they aren’t good for you. It’s so interesting to think that reading couldn’t be good for you. There are a lot of people in my business who feel there’s a hierarchy for the written word. Gabriel García Márquez is a great writer, but it doesn’t mean that I get more out of him than from reading Stephen King. Reading is one of the few active intellectual things we can do. Like most of the arts, painting or movies or music, just the appreciation of them doesn’t necessarily challenge you intellectually. Reading necessarily challenges you intellectually. It’s kind of wonderful. Amy SutherlanD

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