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Tall Tales: Walter Mosley draws on a triumphant mythical hero for his debut in the teen genre.

Walter Mosley, one of the best-known and best-selling authors for fiction and nonfiction anywhere, published his first novel for the young adult market this May. He is, of course, the author of the wildly popular and critically anointed Easy Rawlins mysteries.

In a letter to readers explaining why he undertook a novel for youth, he explains: "I wrote this multigenre (mythical, historical, speculative) book for young adults to achieve a specific end. For a long time, I have known that many young black children find it hard to read stories about slavery because of their healthy resistance to identify with victims. My goal for this book was to create a character that rises above his role as a victim by becoming a victorious hero."

The story evolves around the young 47, his name and number among the property on a Georgia plantation and his encounter with Tall John, who appears to be a runaway himself but is an extraterrestrial who believes destiny has drawn them together.

Mosley says Tall John is a reinvention of a character from the folk tales about High John the Conqueror, a mythological spirit from Africa who confounds masters to liberate his people. "I used the speculative and mythical genres to create possibility where more realistic storytelling and historical perspective might not," Mosley says.

Mosley's most recent books include Little Scarlet: An Easy Rawlins Mystery (Little, Brown and Company, July 2004; Warner Vision just released the paperback in April, $7.50, ISBN 0-446-612715) and The Man in My Basement (Little, Brown and Company, January 2004).

Little Scarlet (about solving the mystery of why a redheaded black woman turns up dead during a riot for apparently unrelated reasons) was chosen by the Los Angeles Public Library for the citywide reading program "One Book, One City, L.A.," in April 2005. For information, visit The program featured book discussions at libraries, a screening of Mosley stories set in L.A., a bus tour of sites in Little Scarlet and other Easy Rawlins haunts, and more. Los Angeles is Mosley's hometown.
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Author:Dodson, Angela P.
Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2005
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