This weekend marks the 30th Chicago Literary Fest which is a celebration of books, authors, workshops, poems and the ever changing world of the printer and now digital word.
The highlight of the event for me was to attend my see my writing hero Walter Mosley “In Conversation with Christopher Borrelli” at the Pritzker Auditorium in Harold Washington Library.
I first heard about Walter Mosley in the fall of 1995 with the release of the movie “Devil in a Blue Dress” starring Denzel Washington, based on the book of the same title. I read the book first and saw the film later but I was mesmerized by Walter’s characters and moreso by their dialogue because I grew up with people like that and that language was very familiar to me. Even the events of his 1940’s black Los Angeles resonated with me coming up in 1980s on the south side of Chicago.
I was a sophomore at DePaul University and his book changed me as I was just starting my first creative writing class, I wanted to emulate his style but knew I needed my own voice but he really got me going as a writer and as a reader too. From that book forward I put more emphasis into dialogue and paid more attention to not just what people said but how they said it. No one captures “real life talk” like Walter and not just people having conversations in the hood but his characters flow is just natural, you can’t help but like (or hate), some of the people that come across the pages but the key is, you react to them, which is the point of good writing.
Walter has done plenty of good writing, he stated in the conversation that he started writing in his early 30’s while working full time as a computer programmer over 25 years ago and since has published 47 books (with four more coming out), he is a prolific writer who also has political papers and screen plays and actual stage plays. He says he writes several hours a day when he first gets up in the morning.
The refreshing thing is that Walter does not take himself seriously, he’s serious about his craft but he has the vibe of his first major character Ezekiel “East” Rawlins. He’s hilarious, vulgar and insightful, often all at the same time. He’s a California guy and has that laid back west coast vibe with the hint of a 60’s hippie.
Like his characters he doesn’t mind talking about sex in “street terms’ but can also give you eloquent and progressive thoughts in race relations and know his American history. He’s like the ideal college professor, laid back enough to make you relaxed in class, knowledgeable and teaches you but is funny as hell.
His latest book is “Debbie Doesn’t Do it Anymore” and I think you know what “it” and if you don’t Walter tells you in the first 8 pages without apology and he read us aloud most of that. He has no inhibition just like his characters for he read those pages and us in the audience laughed and listened like we were playing old Richard Pryor records.
Walter’s passion for writing and life is unmistakable, you can see it his facial expressions and hear it in his jokes (sometimes within a joke), when the session ended, even he wanted to keep going, it was like hanging out with a old friend and talking about any and everything. Except this friend is a New York Times bestseller and is creating some of the best writing out there in mysteries, science fiction and anything else he feels like putting on paper.
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