Walter Mosley

“Black men of our day were never told, The sky’s the limit. … We could aspire to Joe Louis but never Henry Ford.”

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Walter Mosley is a Top 100 AALBC.com Bestselling Author Making Our List 20 Times

Walter Mosley is Currently #5 in Voting for Favorite Author of the 21st Century

Walter Mosley was Voted the #12 Favorite Author of the 20th Century

Walter Mosley was born on January 12, 1952, in Los Angeles, California to parents Ella and Leroy Mosley. Mosley was their only child. His mother was Jewish and worked as a personnel clerk, and his father was African American and worked as a custodian supervisor at a public school in Los Angeles. As a child, Mosley was said to have a great imagination. His mother encouraged him to read a large selection of European classics. Mosley attended a private elementary school called Victory Baptist Day School which focused on black history. Mosley then attended Alexander Hamilton High School and graduated in 1970. During Mosley’s late teen’s and early twenties, he used his time to travel. He traveled from California to Europe and back again. When he was finally ready to return to school, he enrolled in Johnson State College and received a political science degree in 1979. Mosley then entered into a doctoral program in political theory but soon after changed his mind and turned to computer programming. In 1981 Mosley moved to New York and worked at Mobil. While working at Mobil, he enrolled at City College where he took a writing course. Shortly after Mosley’s move to New York, he meets dancer and choreography, Joy Kellman. In 1987 they got married and in 2001 was divorced. They had no children.

Mosley’s writing career started at age 34, always remembering his father’s encouraging words to pursue a career in writing. He was also inspired by author Alice Walker and by his tutor Edna O’Brien to pursue a career in literature. He published his first novel Devil in a Blue Dress (1990) which also became a major motion picture, starring Denzel Washington in 1995. Mosley has written a vast number of books, series, plays. Many of his novels have been transformed into plays. Mosley wrote a detective series called The Easy Rawlins series which included 14 novels and was written from 1990 to 2016. The Fearless Jones Mysteries consists of three books written from 2001 to 2008. The Socrates Fortlow novels are written from 1997 to 2008. Leonid McGill novels are written from 2009 to 2015. Crosstown to Oblivion series (2012 to 2013). Mosley also wrote many other novels which include, RL’s Dream (1995) The Man in My Basement (2004), Fortunate Son (2006), The Tempest Tales (2008), The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey (2010), Parishioner (2012), Debbie Doesn’t Do It Anymore (2014), Inside a Silver Box (2015), John Woman (2018), Down the River unto the Sea (2018). Mosley also wrote a few nonfiction books and a few plays. Several of his books have been adapated into films.

Many of Mosley’s work has been translated into many different languages. He has also acquired numerous awards such as being named Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America in 2016 and 2019 Edgar Award for Best Novel for Down the River Unto the Sea. Mosley sees himself not as the best selling author but as a novelist. He explains his desire to write about black male heroes saying "hardly anybody in America has written about black male heroes …

There are black male protagonists and black male supporting characters, but nobody else writes about black male heroes.“

—written by Delia Mercado, AALBC Intern

Mr. Mosley is the past president of the Mystery Writers of America, a member of the executive board of the PEN American Center as well as the National Book Foundation (sponsors of the National Book Awards). He also serves on PEN’s Open Book Committee, a group working to increase the presence of African Americans and others in the publishing community. A native of Los Angeles, Walter Mosley now lives in New York City.

Read the transcript of an online chat with Walter Mosley from BarnesandNoble.com dated Thursday, November 13, 1997.

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58 Books by Walter Mosley