Walter Mosley has written a lot of great novels. His catalog is impressive and extensive—more than 50 books! And that can feel super intimidating if you’ve never dipped a toe into the pool of Mosley’s writing because where do you start?! As someone who was once there and is now thrilled to be making my way through his catalog, here are four ways to jump in and find your next great read.
Read the First One in Each of His Mystery Series!
If you’re aware of Walter Mosley’s name, there is a good chance it’s for his mystery writing. You’ve probably heard of Devil in a Blue Dress, which starts his Easy Rawlins series. In 1940s L.A., Rawlins, a black veteran, has been fired and needs to pay his mortgage, so he takes a case from a white gangster to find a missing woman. A perfect place to start for fans of noir who want to follow a series through the years in L.A.
Bonus: The audiobook is narrated by Michael Boatman, whose voice is like delicious butter in your ears—you know what I mean.
Staying in L.A., and in the past (1950s), we also have the Fearless Jones series, which starts with a bookstore owner, Paris Minton, who needs his friend Jones’s help after an entanglement with a woman goes awry. More noir, and more of Mosley’s fantastic writing on race in America.
Over on the East Coast, his Leonid McGill series starts with The Long Fall and follows a New York PI in modern times. McGill is in his fifties and has a far from perfect past, so he’s decided to walk a slightly straighter path. Easier said than done, of course!
And in Mosley's most recent PI character (which I’m hoping will become a series!), we have PI Joe King Oliver in Down the River Unto the Sea. He’s now a PI who is focused on his teenage daughter, who helps in the office, and his two current cases—his own, after receiving an apology letter from the woman who accused him of rape (this does not go down the route of women are psycho and falsely accuse); trying to find justice for a journalist convicted of killing two cops.
Once you’ve gotten an introduction to each series you’ll be able to easily pick which to continue with. You can read through each series one at a time from beginning to end or, like me, you can just ping-pong between them based on your reading mood.
Start with a standalone, no pressure!
If series aren’t your thing, there are plenty of standalone novels to choose from like The Man in My Basement, a slow-burn suspense perfect for anyone looking for a what-is-happening?! Seriously, imagine a man shows up at your house and asks to rent your basement and then a cage shows up…
Go for your favorite genre.
Looking for a sci-fi read? Blue Light, where, wait for it…a blue light in California gives select people superhuman abilities.
Looking for literary fiction? The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey follows a ninety-one-year-old recluse who has dementia and the young woman caring for him.
Or, just pick one—any one!
I’m not joking. Go with the one that has the highest rating on Goodreads. The first one you see on the shelf at your local bookstore. Or the one your library has available. Your favorite cover design. The title that starts with the same letter as your name. Whatever! Make it fun and surprise yourself.
Mosley mixes speculative and historical fiction in this daring New York Times bestselling YA novel, reminiscent of Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad.
47 is a young slave boy living under the watchful eye of a brutal slave master. His life seems doomed until he meets a mysterious runaway slave, Tall John. 47 finds himself swept up in a struggle for his own liberation.
This was actually how I read my first Walter Mosley novel: Debbie Doesn’t Do It Anymore. I randomly picked the title that made me laugh and downloaded the audiobook. I’ve been a Mosley fan ever since, and while I’m still making my way through his catalog—so many books!—I’ve yet to find one I didn’t like.
There’s so much great work to choose from in Walter Mosley’s catalog, hopefully this will help you start with the best pick for yourself. Regardless of where you jump in, you’re guaranteed great writing, excellent characters, and an important look at social issues, past and present.
I’ll be continuing my attempt to read through all of Mosley’s work while hoping for a sequel to Down the River Unto the Sea that centers Oliver’s daughter even more.
Jamie Canavés is a Book Riot contributing editor who always has a book in one hand. She writes the Unusual Suspects mystery newsletter, never says no to chocolate or ‘80s nostalgia, and spends way too much time asking her goat-dog “What’s in your mouth?!” Tweets: @Oh_Dinky.