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Talkin' About <i>Walkin'</i>

Accalimed author Walter Mosley is perhaps best known for his series of novels about detective Easy Rawlins and his friend Mouse Alexander, set in Los Angeles in the 1940s and '50s. (In the movie Devil in a Blue Dress, Denzel Washington played the lead role).

But in his latest book, Walkin' the Dog, he brings back the Socrates Fortlow character, written in modern-day Los Angeles. Mosley has written in various genres, which

Walkin' the Dog: Chapter I. An excerpt from Walter Mosley's book.
include, a blues novel (RL's Dream), a science fiction novel (Blue Light) and a play (Since You Been Gone).

Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned, the 1998 book in which Mosley introduced the character of Socrates Fortlow, was made into an HBO movie starring Laurence Fishburne. Walkin' the Dog also will be made into an HBO movie, and Mosley says they hope to start shooting by June.

President Clinton has said that Mosley is his favorite writer.

"The character Socrates was developed for me to get and share a better idea of intellectual thought as it occurs in the black community," says Mosley. "I wanted to come from a point of view of someone who was way down below the template of justice, about a man that was seeking redemption and also seeking to find a place in a world that didn't want him to have a place in it. In essence, it's a strong representative of the black community, the impoverished part of that community.

"In the first book," he continues, "I got Socrates to realize, after years in prison and eight years of living a street life, that he needed to do something to help a young boy (Darryl), who had committed a crime and who he felt deserved a second chance. He saw himself in him. In the second book, Walkin' the Dog, he starts to deal with things. He finds that he is invited into the working class community and is offered a good job and friendships. The question he has is should he take advantage of this at the cost of his own beliefs."

Fortlow's beliefs about what is right and wrong and what he should do about them are just beginning to emerge.

"Socrates asks himself, 'Do we have the right to hate white people?' and 'Where can justice be found?' most especially at the end of the book with a cop who has been committing crimes against black people. As long as he is quiet and doesn't say anything or do anything, he could remain a faceless person and nothing would happen."

Socrates also has to deal with what happens when a big business comes down and wants to evict him from the home that he has made in a space between two abandoned buildings. He also has to cope with the police who regularly visit him when there is a crim in the area.

When asked, what he wants his readers to learn from Socrates Fortlow, Mosley said that "learn" is too strong a word for him.

"I don't see fiction writers as teachers," he explains. "What I am doing is bringing up a subject about this character and the world he lives in. There are some black people who will read it and say, 'I know those people,' and they may laugh. Some white people may say, 'I know these people, but I never suspected they lived like this.'"

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