Picks and Pans Review: Talking With...

updated 10/30/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 10/30/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

>Walter Mosley


LIKE EASY RAWLINS, HIS WARY PRIVATE eye—currently being played to a fine turn by Denzel Washington in Devil in a Blue Dress—Walter Mosley, 43, is an affable and soft-spoken man.

In his newest work, R.L.'s Dream (Norton, $22), the author of four earlier Rawlins capers—whose fans include Bill Clinton—takes a detour from South Central L.A., the site of his period crime thrillers, and moves to different turf with what he calls a blues novel.

"I could keep on writing the Easy books and make each one better," says Mosley, who made a living as a painter and potter before he became a writer, "but I'm also trying to widen my palette by saying different things."

Set in 1980s Manhattan, the story pairs Soupspoon Wise, an aging, black, Mississippi Delta guitarman who is dying of cancer, with Kiki, a young, white, streetsmart Arkansas woman hardened by past abuses. "Soupspoon is a wholly original character for me," says Mosley, whose father, Leroy, was a custodian at the Los Angeles Board of Education and also died of cancer. "I wanted to let people know from a black man's point of view what the blues was and still is."

Not that Mosley is in the mood to sing them these days. The writer, who is separated and lives in an apartment in Greenwich Village, says there haven't been too many changes in his life since making his name in the book biz. Mosley remains modest about the raves he has received. "I don't pay much attention to it," he says. "I like going to Hollywood and hanging out with movie stars and directors, but fame is not the center of my life."

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