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AUTHORS: The people behind the books we read.

Transcending the Genre

Walter Mosley is famous for his mysteries set in black Los Angeles in the '40s through '60s, but make no mistake: His achievements go beyond popular fiction.

November 24, 1999|LYNELL GEORGE | Times Staff Writer

As well, he has been deeply involved with activist Robinson's Washington D.C.-based lobbying group, TransAfrica, most recently traveling to Cuba on a fact-finding mission to examine the U.S. trade embargo's effects on Afro-Cubans. And due in January is his contribution to Ballantine's Library of Contemporary Thought series, "Workin' on the Chain Gang: Shaking Off the Dead Hand of History," a plain-spoken though deeply thoughtful examination of the problems and shackles of capitalism.

This, Mosley maintains, shouldn't be seen as a stretch, if you've been reading him closely all the while. It's all there: the mutability of racism, the destructiveness of hate, the shades of exclusion, the many chambers of identity.

"It's what I'm doing with my mysteries, the novels," he explains. "I'm not telling people what to do anymore in 'Workin' on the Chain Gang' than I did in 'Walkin' the Dog.' I do believe in the Socratic method. I believe that we do need to sit down and talk about it. I tell people that they should write down what they think is important. I don't tell them what's important.

"But I also believe that we must do something. Problem is not the politicians. The problem is us. We've been so drained of our vital life juices that we don't know what it's like to be political anymore. Voting doesn't matter. What matters is after the day you vote, you say: 'OK, now I'm gonna watch yo' ass . . .' "


Lynell George can be reached by e-mail at

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