Hard Boiled Poets: MysteryPeople Q&A with Ken Bruen, Peter Spiegelman and Reed Farrel Coleman

  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

Many may not see poetry in the hard boiled crime fiction genre created by the likes of Dashiell Hammett, James Cain, and Mickey Spillane. That said, many of today’s best writers in that field come of poetry. Both forms rely on style and word craft. With April being National Poetry Month, I contacted three of my favorite poet/novelists to explore the relationship between the two.

Reed Farrel Coleman’s two main series, featuring protagonists Moe Prager and Gus Murphy contain an emotional immediacy associated with poetry. He examines the facets of emotions in a crystal clear manner and his phrasing has a lyrical quality. “Meter is often overlooked, but the rhythm with which I write helps propel the reader forward. I don’t count out iambs, but I can hear the rhythm of my words in my head.”

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Scott’s Top Ten of 2016 (Make it a dozen. Okay, fifteen or sixteen.)

  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

This was a great year for crime fiction. Established authors experimented with new ideas or pushed what they were doing further. People with great debuts in 2015 proved it wasn’t just beginners luck this year. 2016’s new releases were so good, it was difficult to narrow them down, so I put a few together and made it a dozen.

97803991730351. Anything and All Things Reed Farrel Coleman

This year Coleman started a new character, ex-Suffolk-County-cop-turned-sorta-PI Gus Murphy (Where It Hurts), ended the series featuring dwarf detective Gulliver Down (Love & Fear), and delivered a Game Change in the life of Robert B Parker’s Jesse Stone (Debt To Pay.) All of it was executed with a poet’s choice of words, haunting emotions, and believable leads in a struggle to find who they are and what matters to them. He also had brilliant short stories in the anthologies Crime Plus Music and Unloaded. It wouldn’t surprise me if Reed made out some moving grocery lists as well.

97803995743202. The Second Life Of Nick Mason by Steve Hamilton

Possibly one of the best crafted crime novels in a decade. Nick Mason finishes a twenty-year stretch in five due to a criminal kingpin who runs his empire from the inside. Upon Mason’s release the kingpin’s lawyer hands him a cell phone that is the condition of his release – he must answer the phone at any time and do whatever he is told on the other end. Everything Hamilton sets up in the first few chapters falls beautifully into place by the end.

97803162310773. You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott

This dark, morally complex tale looks at ambition and the dynamics of family support for their gymnastics prodigy daughter as the family and community react to a murder that occurs in their sporting community. Abbott further pushes the boundaries of noir.

97805254269434. An Obvious Fact by Craig Johnson

Sheriff Walt Longmire, Henry Standing Bear, and Deputy Vic Moretti find themselves having to solve a mystery in a town overrun by a motorcycle rally. Guns, outlaw bikers, federal agents and a woman from Henry’s past all play a part in unraveling the final mystery. Johnson strips down the cast to his most essential characters for one of the most entertaining books in the series.

97800623698575. What Remains Of Me by Alison Gaylin

A multi-layered psychological Hollywood thriller, in which a present-day murder of an actor is tied to the past murder of a director, and the same woman gets blamed for both. Gaylin’s character development beautifully dovetails with a plot that is never revealed until the final sentence. Beautiful, stunning work.

97803991739506. The Innocents by Ace Atkins

The latest and angriest of The Quinn Colson novels has our country boy hero and Sheriff Lillie Virgil solving a torturous murder of a former cheerleader, dealing with the worst aspects of Southern small town society. A book that enrages as it entertains.

97803079612737. Dr. Knox by Peter Spiegelman

Spiegelman introduces us to his new series character, a doctor who keeps his Skid Row clinic afloat by making “house calls” with his mercenary pal to the rich, famous, and criminal, who don’t need anything reported on medical records. A very interesting, complex hero, and an interesting look at L.A.

97812500099688. Murder At The 42nd Street Library by Con Lehane

In Murder at the 42nd Street Library, Con Lehane introduces us to another great new character, Raymond Ambler, Curator of the Crime Fiction Collection for the New York Public Library and amateur sleuth. A satisfying mystery with a lived-in, warm look at friendship and a worker’s look at New York.

97819438181749.City of Rose & South Village by Rob Hart

The seconds and third installments following unlicensed private eye Ash McKenna takes him to two very different places, tracking down a stripper’s daughter in Portland and a solving a murder on his friend’s Georgia commune, charting a progression of a broken man putting the pieces of himself together. Plot and character meld seamlessly into this compelling tale of a lone hero who feels he can not be a part of the society he helps.

978076537485110. Night Work by David C Taylor

This follow up to veteran screenwriter David C. Taylor’s debut, Night Life, has police detective Michael Cassidy protecting Castro during his famous New York visit. Taylor makes the city and period a living, vibrant thing coming off the page.

11. Shot In Detroit by Patricia Abbott9781940610825

This story about a photographer who gets obsessed with a project involving young black men challenges us at every turn about race, class, and art and crime fiction itself. It is a book where the author complements the reader by assuming you are as intelligent and open to difficult topics as she is.

978098913299212. Genuinely Dangerous by Mike McCrary and Kiss The Devil Goodnight by Jonathan Woods

Two dark wild rides through a pulp hell that is pure Heaven for crime fiction fans. if Barry Gifford was still running Black Lizard he would have signed these guys up.

Hard Word Book Club Discusses RED CAT with Author Peter Spiegelman

Peter Spiegelman Calling In to the Hard Word Book Club

  • Post by Scott Montgomery

For November, The Hard Word Book Club delves into the dark side of sex and art with Peter Spiegelman’s Red Cat. The book is the third installment in the series featuring John March, a private detective who has plenty of issues with his family and his past, ready to surface when his brother, David, asks him for help.

A woman David got together with through an online hook-up sight found his number and keeps calling him. he wants John to find her and warn her off. John goes searching, armed only with a fake name and description. That description matches that of a woman dragged out of the river, plunging the March bothers into a case involving, blackmail, videos that blur the line between pornography and art, and several dark secrets.

We are happy to have Peter Spiegelman calling in to discuss the book with us. We will be meeting at 7PM, Wednesday, November 30th. You can find copies of Red Cat on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. The book is 10% in-store to those planning to attend.

MysteryPeople Q&A with Peter Spiegelman

  • Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

After giving us one of the best New York detectives, John March, Peter Spiegelman has taken fictional flight to the left coast for his unique hero, Dr. Knox. The man runs a free clinic in LA’s skid row and pays for it by doing “house calls” for the rich and infamous who can’t go to a hospital. Backed up by his partner, friend, and former mercenary Ben Sutter, Dr. Knox attempts to get an immigrant boy back to his mother with other parties also in pursuit of the child. 

Peter was kind enough to take some questions from us before his appearance at our upcoming Noir at the Bar, next Monday, July 25th, at 7 PM. Noir at the Bar is hosted by Threadgill’s off of Riverside. Spiegelman joins C.B. McKenzie, Andrew Hilbert and Jesse Sublett at the event. Copies of each author’s latest will be available for purchase at the event. 

MysteryPeople Scott: I’ve always thought of you as one of those New York authors – what caused the fiction move to L.A.?

Peter Spiegelman: I used to live there – in real life! I grew up in L.A. for several weird years in the late 1960s (I am ancient!), and part of my fascination with the place comes out of that. To me, back then, L.A. was mysterious and impenetrable, as the grown-up world can be to children, and also vast and glamorous and tawdry and frightening. To some extent, I still see the city through that lens.

Its main attraction for me, something I suspect I share with more than a few writers, has to do with the amazing dichotomies that L.A. embodies—alluring and appalling in equal measures. The lovely climate and landscape, the fantastic diversity of its citizens and of its ever-morphing neighborhoods are irresistible. So is its sunny mythology as the land at the end of the rainbow, where every fantasy of fame, fortune, and self-reinvention might be realized. On the appalling side of the ledger, there’s the grinding monotony of the weather, the brutal strip-mall cityscape, hellish traffic, simmering racial tension, and the city’s dreadful homeless problem, all the more shocking, hallucinatory even, for the wealth and beauty that exist—as if in a parallel dimension—all around it.

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If you like Ross Macdonald…

We have our eyes on Ross Macdonald’s 100th birthday, this upcoming December 13th. If you are a fan of his or holiday shopping for someone who is, here are three books that might entertain a Macdonald fan.


9781440553974Hose Monkey by Reed Farrel Coleman

When it comes to exploring human sin and emotion like Macdonald, no one comes closer than Reed Farrel Coleman. In this look at at two marginalized men, an ex-cop and the detective that shut down his career, Coleman takes a murder mystery into the darkness of the human heart and provides a look at post- 9-11 New York life with grit and poetry. You can find copies of Hose Monkey on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. 


9780312938994A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton

Grafton takes Macdonald’s mantel of looking at California society and its vivid characters from top to bottom. She even uses the same fictional name, Santa Teresa, as her fictional stand in for Santa Barbara where her PI, Kinsey Malone, operates. You can find copies of A is for Alibi on our shelves and via bookpeople.com


9781400033591Black Maps by Peter Spiegelman

While he has a more upfront back story, John March shares the lonely knight errant quality of Lew Archer. His Wall Street stomping ground also shows the relationship between place and perpetrator that Macdonald often cited. You can find copies of Black Maps on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. 

Scene of the Crime: Peter Spiegelman & Wall Street

Today we begin a new monthly series, Scene Of The Crime, where authors discuss the locations they write about. Peter Spiegelman’s PI John March works cases involving Wall Street. Spiegelman, who worked as a software designer for many Wall Street businesses, also edited one of the best Akashic anthologies, Wall Street Noir, proving the reach of the street.

MYSTERYPEOPLE: What makes Wall Street a place to return to for your fiction?

PETER SPIEGELMAN: I worked on and around Wall Street for twenty-plus years, and I have friends and family who still work there, so it’s a place I know well. It’s also a place where wrongdoing has often been a part of the landscape—which makes it fertile ground for crime fiction.

MP: What makes it a unique location for you?

PS: From my first day there, it was apparent to me that Wall Street is quite a noir-ish place. Though the trappings are different, a trading floor has more than a few things in common with a casino or a racetrack. You can find compulsive risk-takers there, and people who measure their own self-worth by their latest gains or losses. There is arrogance, desperation, self-deception and self-destruction at work, along with short fuses and big egos, so it makes a great laboratory for anyone interested in how people behave under pressure—what they will and won’t do, where they draw (or don’t draw) the line.

MP: How does it inform your hero?

PS: Wall Street is a world John March knows intimately (he’s the black sheep son of a family of investment bankers)—a world he grew up in, but that he ultimately turned his back on. Now he’s an “outside insider” – someone who knows about the skeletons in the closet, and where the bodies are buried. He maintains a reflexive skepticism about Wall Street, isn’t intimidated or awestruck by big money, and isn’t misled by nonsense wrapped in jargon.

MP: What is the biggest misconception about the place?

PS: From the long, sad history of crime on Wall Street, it’s easy to believe that the industry is made up exclusively of Gordon Gekkos or Bernie Madoffs or seedy boiler-room types pushing sub-prime mortgages, or slicker Ivy League types pushing toxic derivatives. But that’s far from the whole story. The vast majority of people employed there are hardworking folks who are not paid extravagant sums, and who are no less honest than people in any other industry.

MP: What did you enjoy most about working there?

PS: I had a chance to do some interesting, very challenging work there, and to do it with some very smart people. But the best part, by far, of working on Wall Street was meeting my wife there.

Peter will be calling into our Hard Word Book Club September 26th at 7pm, for our discussion of his first John March book, Black Maps.

Join a Conversation with Peter Spiegelman

Here at BookPeople on Wednesday Sept, 26th, at 7pm, the Hard Word Book Club will be discussing one of the best modern private eye novels out there, Peter Spiegelman’s Black Maps. It is a book both unique in setting and tone, introducing us to Spiegelman’s series character John March.

March turned his back on his family of Wall Street financiers to become a deputy sheriff in upstate New York. After his life is shattered with the murder of his wife, he moves back to the city. While trying to put his life back together, he hires himself out as an investigator. Because of his family connections, most of the jobs involve the life he left behind.

In Black Maps, March is hired by a self-made investment  banker, Rick Pierro, who is being blackmailed. As John John tries to find the blackmailer, he discovers Pierro may be involved in something more criminal and personal than he thought.

Peter Spiegelman brings two pieces of his background together that make the book and the rest of the John March series a distinguished read. Peter used to work as a software designer for several Wall Street firms and said he encountered many people as dark and reckless as anything from a Jim Thompson novel. He conveys these people with nuance and shading, taking them beyond cardboard Gordon Geckos. His background as a poet produces a different rhythm and flow from the usual Chandler approach to prose. The word choice  is clean and can cut right to the emotion without over-emoting.

We’re honored to have Peter Spiegelman call in to our discussion on Wednesday, September 26th as we examine this novel that holds a unique place in the genre. Hard Word Book Club is free to attend, no registration necessary. Just show up.