MysteryPeople Q&A with Reed Farrel Coleman

reed-farrel

In The Hollow Girl, our May Pick Of the Month, Reed Farrel Coleman gives us the last book, with his painfully human Private Eye Moe Prager. Hired by Nancy Lustig, a woman who appeared in the very first book, Walking The Perfect Square, to find her missing daughter, the case takes Moe to the online blogging and New York acting world in a story that deals with the concept of identity. We caught up with Reed to ask a few questions about his final novel with Moe.

MYSTERYPEOPLE: You ended Hurt Machine with Moe in a pretty good place, what did you feel he needed to go through before you wrapped up the series?

REED FARREL COLEMAN: I felt there was the origin story to tell–Onion Street–so that when I closed the series with The Hollow Girl, there would be a perfect set of bookends. I always wanted to explore Moe as a younger man, before he was a cop, before he was jaded and world weary. When we first meet Moe in Walking the Perfect Square, he’s already done with his police career. He’s been beat up by his life and the job. I wanted to experience Moe and, by extension, the readers to experience Moe before all of that. I wanted to see Moe untainted and untested. I had to do that before I ended the series.

MP: What makes The Hollow Girl case the perfect one for him to go out on?

RFC: It’s the type of story that is symbolic of Moe’s career as a PI and as a man. Not to give too much away, but there have been big regrets in Moe’s life and this was a chance for his redemption and forgiveness.

MP: He’s hired by Nancy Lustig, a woman who has a appeared twice before in the series. For Moe, who has had his share of loves, requited and unrequited, what does she mean to him?

RFC: In our real lives, we seldom get a chance for resolution with past loves–requited or unrequited. Here, Moe gets to experience resolution in a way we don’t often get to. So Moe is symbolically living through something for all of us. I certainly felt that way. There are relationships I’ve had that ended on terrible notes that I wish I could, not so much rekindle, but explain. I think there are apologies I would like to make and talks I would like to have with old friends and lovers. I gave Moe his wish and mine.

MP: While we get get reacquainted with many characters in the past and Moe recalls some previous cases, which happens in a lot of the books, The Hollow Girl doesn’t announce itself as a fond farewell. Was there a reason for that?

RFC: I want readers to enjoy The Hollow Girl as they would any Moe Prager novel. If I kept signaling “THIS IS THE END” all through the book, I don’t think readers would enjoy the book as much as I hope they would. But by the end of the novel, I want them to leave Moe feeling satisfied and uncheated both in terms of the mystery in this book and in terms of farewell. I guess we’ll see.

MP: I read Eight Million Ways To Die right before I picked up The Hollow Girl and noticed a few echoes. You’ve cited Lawrence Block’s Scudder books as an influence. Do you hope your series has anything in common with those books?

RFC: I’ve had the honor of knowing Larry Block, as much as someone like me can know him, for over a decade. Although I have never gushed it to him, because he would hate it, there is little doubt that without Scudder there would be no Moe Prager. When I started the Moe series, I aimed at achieving the same sort of quality and hard reality that Larry Block brought to Scudder. Did I achieve that? It’s not for me to say, but I am proud to have tried my best and glad that I had Scudder there as an example of excellence.

MP: Any last words on Moe?

RFC: THE END


Copies of The Hollow Girl by Reed Farrel Coleman are available on our shelves at BookPeople and via bookpeople.com. Also be sure to check out MysteryPeople’s Pick of the Month review of The Hollow Girl.

THE KRAKEN PROJECT Hits the Ground Running

kraken project

The Kraken Project is the first solo effort by Douglas Preston. He takes the Frankenstein archetype and updates it for the information age with several twists. The result is proof that he can deliver a suspenseful and ripping yarn all by himself.

The story centers around Dorothy, a program designed to navigate a probe raft on the Kraken Mare, the largest ocean on Saturn’s moon, Titan. Since it needs to think beyond its creators for unforeseen circumstances, designer Melissa Shepard is brought in to give it artificial intelligence to think on its own. Melissa does too good of a job. Realizing it is being sent on a suicide mission, Dorothy escapes, causing the deaths of several NASA workers.

Many end up chasing after Dorothy. Melissa teams up with a government operative, Wyman Ford, trying to stop her. Parker Lansing, an unscrupulous Wall Street trader who operates in the kind of high frequency trading demonized in Michael Lewis’s current non-fiction book Flash Boys,wants to capture the program for his Wall Street slave. To flee all of them, Dorothy befriends Jacob, a suicidal teen.

It is Preston’s take on Dorothy that really brings the book to life. She begins childlike with threats and tantrums. She suffers more from confusion by her intake of information than an initial mastery of it. Her interpretation of religion is interesting and entertaining. She matures more through human contact. This is brought out fully through her interactions with Jacob, which takes the Frankenstein’s monster-child passage from a different angle.

The Kraken Project hits the ground running and doesn’t stop until it’s thought provoking ending. Douglas never forgets the need of pace and character empathy for engaging a reader. He takes a classic premise and proves that it is more timely than ever.

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Douglas Preston speaks about and signs The Kraken Project here at BookPeople this Saturday, May 24 at 4pm. If you can’t make it but would like a signed copy, you can order a signed, personalized book via bookpeople.com.

MysteryPeople Review: BORDERLINE by Lawrence Block

borderline
Borderline by Lawrence Block
Reviewed by Molly

Lawrence Block is one of noir’s most prolific writers, and his more than fifty novels cover all kinds of sub-genres. His latest contribution to society, Borderline, is a relic of the early fifties porn paperback industry and takes place in the alcohol-soaked hipster paradise of Juárez. This book has aged exceedingly well. The innuendo for a more conservative time now reads like a sly, welcome relief from the bluntness of a less-censored industry. Block’s stylish, stripped-down prose does not detract from the power of his erotic moments but instead seamlessly incorporates them into the overall narrative.

Borderline
reads like a sexier, more disturbing On the Road. Characters speak in hip slang at cool coffeehouses and sexual proclivities of all kinds are not only tolerated, but encouraged. The story takes place over a few days and not too much happens. There are a couple murders,here and there, and a lot of sex without a whole lot of love, but the story carries with it a strong beatnik vibe that fits its picaresque narrative perfectly.

A divorcee, a runaway, a professional gambler, a jaded sex worker, and a serial killer see their paths cross in the steamy bars and permissive atmosphere of life across the border from a puritanical post-war America. Some characters are lucky to meet each other, others not so much. Descriptions of the sex industry combine with the homicidal urges of a stalker to portray a world none too friendly to women, but the female characters hold their own in dialogue and moxie.

In Borderline, Block has created a fascinating critique of Cold War conformity. In the taboo-free zone of Juárez, his characters find outlets to satisfy their pent-up urges, and the consequences are tragic and inevitable. In particular, the story’s resident serial killer is egged on in his obsessions by horror comics, and believes he is justified in committing murder as it elevates his victims out of obscurity.

Included in the volume are three short stories showcasing Block’s talent for the nasty, brutal and short as his characters occupy a Hobbesian world of endless struggle and arbitrary violence. Each story is a self-contained gem that reads well on its own or with the others. Add Borderline to your list of hard-boiled classics.


You can order copies of Borderline now via bookpeople.com, or, find the book on our shelves in-store at BookPeople.

The May 11th Alibi: Noir At The Bar Roundup

Noir at the Bar w Ace 5.11.14(Order of appearance, left to right: Ace Atkins, George Wier, Jesse Sublett, Jim Wilsky, Scott Montgomery)

Our May 11th Austin Noir At The Bar was one of our best and biggest. Folks braved the storm warnings to come out and see Ace Atkins, Jesse Sublett, George Wier, and Jim Wilsky, who all provided enough thunder and lightning of their own to give the weather outside a run for its money.

After a couple of murder ballads from Jesse Sublett, Jim Wilsky got up for his first ever public reading. He explained that as a businessman, he’s spoken in front of thousands, “but this ain’t business.” Jim proved he was all business, delivering some of the hardest of the hard boiled, reading from his co-authored book, Blood On Blood.

Next, introducing George Wier, I tried something different- I said nice things about him. George reciprocated by giving us one of his best readings. His dead man in the middle of a bunch of east Texas bar denizens had everyone laughing.

Our headliner, Ace Atkins, who’s latest novel, Cheap Shot, continues the adventures of Robert B. Parker’s character, Spenser, was next. Reading from the first book from his own Quinn Colson series, The Ranger, Ace told us that he had been aiming for the feel of a Johnny Cash ballad. The excerpt certainly proved that he had captured the spirit of the man in black.

As is tradition, Jesse wrapped everything up with a reading. He read a passage from Grave Digger Blues from the perspective of his musician character, The Blues Cat. He read with such a rich rhythm, you could almost hear the cool bass playing in the background.

If you missed out or can’t wait for the next one, you’re in luck. We’ll be doing another Noir At The Bar on July 7th with Tim O’Mara, Dan O’Shea, and other authors to be named later. Ace will also be back on July 28th, signing and discussing his latest Quinn Colson novel, The Forsaken. Because when it comes to Noir At The Bar, the party never ends.

MysteryPeople Q&A with Craig Johnson

craig johnson

Our buddy Craig Johnson’s latest Walt Longmire novel, Any Other Name, hit the shelves this week. In preparation for his visit to the store Wednesday, June 11 at 7PM, we caught up with Craig for a quick Q&A about the book and the success of Walt.

MYSTERYPEOPLE: Serpent’s Tooth was such a game change of a novel for many of the characters in the series, how much of an effect did that have on this one?

CRAIG JOHNSON: There are large-scale reverberations in Any Other Name. The life-altering acts happened to be in A Serpent’s Tooth, but the fallout is in subsequent books. I’ve said it before, but the lifeblood of a series is in the ability of the writer to allow the characters to grow and change. I think it’s easy to become complacent and sink into a formulaic style, but I don’t think that’s the kind of novel my readers expect and Lord knows that’s not the kind of book I want to write. When I was writing this one, I noticed there were an abundance of head to head conversations between Walt and the other characters and that very few of them had to do with the actual case. It’s a book about relationships—a redefining of them.

MP: In many ways the book deals with the conundrum of doing what is right and what is legal for law enforcement. What did you want to express about a lawman caught in that debate?

CJ: It’s always going to be judgment calls in law-enforcement, very rarely are the situations cut and dry. It’s easy to have some tough guy stand up and throw off some bon mot that supposedly strikes fear into the heart of evildoers, but that’s really crap writing. Generally it’s about untangling and cleaning up the mess no matter how legal or right.

MP: Wyoming is such a beautiful state, yet it seems like you went out of your way to depict its less scenic locations. Was there a particular reason for that?

CJ: It’s the most beautiful place in the world, but that doesn’t mean that all of it is beautiful… The first thing I did in the acknowledgements is apologizing to the city of Gillette and Campbell County as a whole. You really have to think about the environs of a novel before you start writing it, what are the aspects that are going to amplify or illustrate what the story is about. This is a dark book, all of the humor aside, and it’s hard to write a travelogue about a place where the strip clubs get raided and the dancers pay their fines with one dollar bills, and the courthouse ladies count the money wearing plastic gloves…

MP: You did a wonderful job of depicting the officer who shot himself before the story starts. How do go about giving dimension to a character who is dead before the story begins?

CJ: Gerald Holman is the reason for this book. When you’re in the throes of a novel or an investigation it’s easy to forget the victim but Walt always seems to bring the investigation back to the essential question of the novel—why did Gerald Holman kill himself? Gerald Holman is a living, breathing question in this book and everything he did in those last few weeks of his life loom large in this investigation. He was a by-the-book kind of guy who, as Lucian says, “Never broke a law by force of bending it.” And then took his own life. It’s tragic, really, and Walt’s job is to follow this story to its tragic ending in both the beginning and the ending of the book.

MP: Lucian has a prominent role again. What does he provide the series as a character?

CJ: In this particular investigation Walt is out of his jurisdiction and only becomes involved because of a debt owed by his predecessor, Lucian. A lot of the more procedural questions are a comparison/contrast with the way Walt and Lucian approach a case; they both want justice to be served, they just rarely agree on how it should be served. One of my favorite scenes is when Lucian warns Phyllis about Walt when he thinks Walt is asleep, “He’s like a gun; once you point him and pull the trigger it’s too late to change your mind.” I think both of the characters have limitations on how far they’ll go in solving a case, and probably both are beyond what is deemed as reasonable and prudent.

MP: Besides a new lifestyle of glitz, glamor, beautiful women, and fast living, what has the recent bump of success of the Walt Longmire novels provided?

CJ: I have a new Carhartt jacket, it’s the fancy kind with a hood.


Craig Johnson will read from & sign his new novel here at BookPeople on Wednesday, June 11th at 7PM. You can pre-order signed copies of Any Other Name now via bookpeople.com, or find a copy on our shelves in-store.

Mind-Blowing Mysteries from Japan: Keigo Higashino

~ post by Raul M. Chapa

The rarest and most precious of mysteries are, in my opinion, the ones that twist the facts, that make you scratch your head, then totally astound you when you finally puzzle out the truth.  Following the clues to find out who the killer is before the end has always been what appeals to me in these stories, but then there are always those immortal titles which keep you guessing to the end, and are completely unforgettable: Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, John Dickson Carr’s The Hollow Man and Ellery Queen’s The Greek Coffin Mystery to name a few. Into this league of masters, I’d like to add Keigo Higashino’s mysteries, and though only a few of these have been translated into English (which is a shame), Higashino enjoys wide fame in Japan and Asia in general.

In print and available now are two novels from his Detective Galileo series – The Devotion of Suspect X and The Salvation of a Saint.  Both of these books deal with a police detective named Kusanagi, and his unconventional, genius physics professor friend, Yukawa. The good doctor, Yukawa, is nicknamed “Dr. Galileo” for his unique and on-target solutions to mysteries that have left Kusanagi at wit’s end, though he usually arrives at his conclusions in eccentric ways.

The Devotion of Suspect X is a brilliant cat and mouse game between the primary suspect and Yukawa, who used to be friends. Since they each knows how the other thinks, the story plays out with several intellectual feints and twists, and when it all comes together, the solution will surprise you. The Salvation of a Saint includes Kusanagi’s colleague who is convinced a wife has poisoned her husband, though she was far away when it happened. Unable to find any evidence, Kaoru Utsumi turns to Dr. Galileo for help. This play on the classic whodunit has more to do with how it was done, and once again, the answer will throw you for a loop.

Coming out in October is a book called Malice, a separate mystery series with Detective Kyoichiro Kaga looking into the murder of a bestselling author. This story takes the form of written journals by the murderer as well as notes and interviews by the detective. It leaves us with various threads to try and unravel to find the motive for the crime, and in following them up, the reader comes to a new understanding of what malice really is.

I hope you pick up Higashino’s books, because they will twist your mind in deliciously intriguing ways – and if you are looking for something along the lines of some of the best in the genre, you are missing out if you don’t at least try him.

3 Picks for May

 

 

The Three by Sarah Lotz

There’s been a lot of buzz around this story of three children who survive four simultaneous plane crashes. Sarah Lotz takes a unique approach to the suspense thriller, looking at religion, media, and fear in the modern world. This could be one of the most talked about books of the summer.

Natchez Burning by Greg Iles

The wait for a Greg Iles book is over. His Penn Cage character is now town mayor, but when a local nurse is murdered and his father becomes a suspect, Cage becomes determined to prove his father’s innocence. Penn’s quest for the truth sends him deep into his father’s past, where a sexually charged secret lies waiting to tear their family apart. A comeback for the king of the Southern-set thriller.

Borderline by Lawrence Block

Our friends at Hard Case Crime have unearthed another Block tale. This one deals with the collision of several scheming and desperate characters in a sleazy town between El Paso and Juárez. The book also contains some short stories that appeared in classic magazines like Manhunt. Another work from one of our most acclaimed and highly decorated living mystery writers.