Crime is the high road to philosophy for Walter Mosley. In fact, what draws him to write mysteries is the chance to attack moral questions, and the novel that has most affected his writing and his outlook is not a crime story but ''The Stranger'' by the French existentialist Albert Camus.
''Mysteries, stories about crime, about detectives, are the ones that really ask the existentialist questions,'' he says, ''such as 'How do I act in an imperfect world when I want to be perfect?' I'm not really into clues and that sort of thing, although I do put them in my stories. I like the moral questions.'' Mr. Mosley's sometimes mischievous humor is habitually expressed in understatement. The ''imperfect world'' in which ''Devil in a Blue Dress'' is set is the Watts section of Los Angeles in the late 1940's. It is an area where policemen and rotten politicians are presiding menaces but no more dangerous to ordinary citizens like Easy Rawlins than some of his neighbors and friends.
More about Mosley's visit with Frankie Bailey: http://www.albany.edu/writers-inst/webpages4/archives/mosley_bailey14.html