Novelist Walter Mosley is a true child of the diversity of Los Angeles. Born in South L.A. of a black man from Louisiana and a Jewish woman from the Bronx, "my people suffered under the slave masters' whip, fled the Cossack pogroms," he wrote in an essay for The Times. "They created the blues and Israel."
Mosley created one of the most memorable L.A. detectives, Easy Rawlins, in "Devil in a Blue Dress," his first book, published in 1990. He went on to write several other mysteries, but his latest book breaks with that genre. "Futureland" is a collection of science-fiction stories. Mosley returns to mysteries and Easy Rawlins with his next book, "Bad Boy Brawly Brown," to be published in July.
He now lives in New York.
DESKTOP: I'm not completely sure, but I think it's a Dell. I love computers, but to me they are just tools. I got over the mystique of them a long time ago.
Before I was a writer, I was a computer programmer for 15 years. I worked for IBM, Dean Witter and an insurance company. I worked in COBOL and assembler programming languages on business applications.
Question: Do you still do some programming just for yourself?
Answer: It's not something you do for fun every once in a while. It would be like boxing once in a while for fun. You have to be serious about it, keep up with it.
A computer is not entertainment for me--I'm not interested in computer games or anything like that. I don't really find computers technically all that advanced. They are very, very fast and that's wonderful, but the only thing a computer can do is addition and subtraction. Word processing and everything else a computer does comes down to that--adding and subtracting numbers. Functionally it's not much different than an abacus. It's interesting, but it's not thinking.
If you want to talk cutting edge, there is the work they are doing with the human genome.
Q: One of the people interviewed for this column said she remembered learning to program in Fortran, which was fun for her. Now that she just sits at a computer and types it's less interesting.
A: I would ask her, "When you sit down to eat a pork chop, do you feel bored because you remember the days when you had to slaughter a pig?" I don't share her feelings on that. I've learned to enjoy the benefits of a modern computer.
LAPTOP: An IBM ThinkPad, one of the T series that I just got. I write my stories on it and then I don't have to transfer back and forth to a desktop. It's very fast and I can also use it to play CDs and DVDs.
Q: Do you look at DVDs on it while traveling?
A: I never do, but maybe sometime. I do have over 300 e-books stored on my computer. You can certainly carry a lot of books with you.
Q: What are you reading now?
A: The works of Isaac Babel, a Russian writer who was killed in the Gulags in 1940.
HAND-HELD: I have a couple of them. I use a Palm VII because I like the way it handles names and addresses and I sometimes use it to get e-mail. Then I have a Cassiopeia that I use for writing. If I'm out at a restaurant or an art museum or on a boat and get an idea, I can just take out the Casio and use the stylus to do some work. When I travel I take them both.
Q: You don't find it difficult to use the handwriting recognition for more than a word or two?
A: No. It's actually very easy. In some ways easier than writing on paper.
Q: Did you write parts of "Futureland" on it?
A: No, but parts of "Bad Boy Brawly Brown" were written on it.
BOOKMARKS: Sometimes I will go to Amazon or Barnes & Noble to look at the ratings and see how one of my books is doing, but I don't use the Web very often.
If you want to know the altitude of a mountain in Argentina or what model Chevrolets they had in 1951, the Web is wonderful, beautiful. But it has too much information and often the wrong information. It's not always reliable. You have to be very careful what you use from it. I think in some ways it gives people too much control over the flow of information. Anyone can put stuff out on the Internet and call it fact.
GADGETS: I have a digital camera that is a lot of fun for me. Last year I took a series of photographs and used PhotoShop to work on them. I made them into a booklet that was my Christmas card.
And I have something called the Compressor that I got about two years ago from Hammacher Schlemmer. It's really great--it weighs about as much as a Walkman and stores music. I have about 100 albums on it of CD quality. It makes me so happy.
I do love gadgets when they fit into my life. I even dropped this thing into my bathtub and it still works.
As told to David Colker