The Inconsistencies of the Human Heart: MysteryPeople Q&A with Reed Farrel Coleman

  • Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

If you follow MysteryPeople to any degree, you know that I’m a die hard fan of Reed Farrel Coleman. Just check my Top Ten List of 2016. His latest, What You Break, the follow up to the Edgar nominated Where It Hurts, continues with wounded ex-Suffolk cop Gus Murphy as he tries to help his co-worker and friend Slava take care of some men out to kill him. Murphy also takes a job for a shady energy czar, Micah Spears, to look into the murder of his adopted granddaughter. Both cases deal with how people deal with the darkest parts of their lives. It’s a book I can’t wait to discuss with Reed when he comes to BookPeople on February 10th with Robert Knott. Consider these six questions below a warm up.

MysteryPeople Scott: How did you want to challenge Gus in What You Break?

Reed Farrel Coleman: Without giving too much away, I have always been fascinated by the inconsistencies of the human heart. For instance, early in my career I did book signings with a retired NYPD detective who was later convicted of being a mob hit man. He and his partner killed at least seven people, one of them the wrong man, but I knew him as a nice, gregarious guy. Even after I found out that he was a coldblooded murderer, I could not force that other view of him out of my head. In What You Break, Gus is confronted with two men who have done some heinous things. His challenge is what should he do with the knowledge he gains and how should he feel about these men.

MPS: Much of the plot deals with Slava. What appealed to you about bringing more focus to the character?

RFC: I’ve written several series and I can tell you from experience that having one protagonist “on screen” and at the center of every scene is wearing. I find that readers really enjoy it when an author forces a secondary character up front and shines a light on him or her. Plus, Slava is such a great character. Readers love him. I love him. And there’s the fact that Gus Murphy is a reactive protagonist not necessarily a proactive one. So I give him something and someone powerful to react to. In the first book, Where It Hurts, that was TJ Delcamino. In this book, it’s Slava and Spears.

MPS: You told me after Where It Hurts came out, there was great fan reaction to Slava. What do you think his appeal is?

RFC: He is so wounded that he appeals to the part of us that wants to heal others. He is on the other hand, amazingly competent and even brutal. He is a walking contradiction and that appeals to readers. It appeals to me. That and the fact that he has a deep secret. I also think people love his broken English. I enjoy writing his dialogue very much.

MPS: The relationship Gus has with Magdelena is engaging, becoming more fragile as it grows deeper. At this point, what do you think she provides for Gus?

RFC: Their relationship is a vehicle by which the reader can measure Gus’s evolution and reinvention. As Gus says, there are three of him: Gus before his son died, Gus after his son died, and who Gus is becoming. One way to observe this is to see how he relates to others, particularly the women he loves. And frankly, I’m a little bit in love with Magdalena myself.

MPS: I noticed you adopted the short chapters for this book that you do for the Jesse Stone series. What prompted the change?

RFC: I hadn’t noticed when I was actually writing the book. And the chapters are still not as short as they are in the Jesse Stone books. But short chapters create momentum and help with pacing. I’ve always said that I am still learning and adapting as a writer. I guess I owe Robert B. Parker a debt of gratitude for teaching me a lesson through writing his books.

MPS: What do you think Gus and Jesse Share as series heroes?

RFC: They are both reactive men. They are far more alike than either would be with Moe Prager. But I think that the only one of the three I would describe as heroic is Jesse. In fact, I think Gus is evolving in the opposite direction. But I guess we’ll just see about that.

You can find copies of What You Break on our shelves and via bookpeople.comReed Farrel Coleman comes to BookPeople to speak and sign his latest, What You Break, on Friday, February 10th, at 7 PM. He’ll be joined by actor, writer and producer Robert Knott, here with his latest continuation of Robert B. Parker’s Hitch and Cole series, Revelation

MysteryPeople Review: WHAT YOU BREAK by Reed Farrel Coleman

  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

9780399173042With Gus Murphy, Reed Farrel Coleman has created one the the most complex and dangerous series heroes of the 21st century. Gus, the divorced ex-Suffolk cop, seeking anonymity as courtesy van driver, bouncer, and house dick for a second rate hotel after the early death of his son, first appeared in the Edgar-nominated Where It Hurts. He chooses to walk on the least solid of ground. We fear for him. He believes that to find his new self, he must destroy his former or current self. This puts his friendships, love life, psyche, and life in jeopardy. In the second book to feature the character, What You Break, we dive further into Gus’ mindset.

Gus finds himself with two cases. He is introduced by his friend, ex-priest Bill Kilkenny, to energy czar, Micah Spears. Spears is willing to to set up a youth sports center in Gus’ sons name, if he can find out why a gang member killed his adopted daughter. The why also plays into the second mystery when a trained killer goes after Gus’s Eastern European friend and co-,worker Slava. Both investigations take Gus to ghosts of past wars and acts of evil no amount of redemption can erase.

Both of these cases are perfect for Gus to explore. While driven by friendship and a need to mark a place for his son in this world, Gus takes on these tasks. What keeps him involved is a need to test himself, challenge his will, and press his luck, thinking he has to die before he is reborn. What he learns about both Slava and Spears give him a glimpse of possible roads he could go down.

The romantic subplot with his girlfriend Magdela, an actress struggling to turn her sex appeal into a career, becomes even more integral in this second outing. It begins as a passionate, heated affair that can consume him and who he was. Magdalena seems chosen for his reinvention. As they begin to feel something deeper, Gus realizes he has something to lose again.

What You Break looks at the aftermath of chaos and dark deeds. Its mysteries delve into question of how do we go on when we can’t completely be put back together. Coleman looks at people who struggle to go on after they can no longer be fully human, making an argument that that is where their humanity lies.

What You Break comes out today! You can find copies of What You Break on our shelves and via bookpeople.comReed Farrel Coleman comes to BookPeople to speak and sign his latest, What You Break on Friday, February 10th, at 7 PM. He’ll be joined by actor, writer and producer Robert Knott, here with his latest continuation of Robert B. Parker’s Hitch and Cole series, Revelation

Feb Fatales: a Full Crime Fiction Schedule this February

  • Post by Director of Suspense Molly Odintz

Glancing at our list of upcoming events, our newsletter, or BookPeople’s February events schedule, you may have noticed we’ve booked quite a few visitors to please the crime fiction crowd. Here’s the low-down on what’s happening when, all in one place.

On Friday, February 10th, at 7 PM, we welcome two MysteryPeople favorites! Fresh from his Edgar nomination for Where it Hurts, Reed Farrel Coleman joins us with his second Gus Murphy book, What It Breaksanother lyrical tale of Long Island misery, while Robert Knott, two volumes in to his transition from actor to Rennaissance Man, joins us with his fourth continuation of Robert B. Parker’s Hitch & Cole seriesRevelation

Wednesday, February 15th brings a 7 PM visit from K. J. Howe, director of Thrillerfest, and here to speak and sign her debut, The Freedom Brokera tale of kidnapping, privilege and intrigue. On Thursday, February 16th, at 7 PM (the very next evening) come by the store for a return visit from Scottish superstar Ian Rankin, here with his new Inspector Remus novelRather Be The DevilThen that same week, on Saturday, Feburary 18th, at 3 PM come by the store for Sarah Pinborough, presenting her latest work, Behind Her Eyes. We can’t tell you much about this one – we don’t want to ruin the insanely mind-blowing ending.

Then Tuesday, February 21st, at 7 PM, MysteryPeople welcomes a visit from Alexandra Burt, here with her latest crime novel and our MysteryPeople Pick of the Month, The Good Daughterset in Aurora, Texas. Burt’s previous crime novel, Remember Miahas been a national bestseller and we’re happy to say that The Good Daughter is just as compelling a tale! Two days later, on Thursday, February 23rd, at 7 PM, we welcome legendary Texas writer Joe R. Lansdale in conversation with rising Texas star Kathleen Kent. Lansdale joins us to speak and sign his new Hap & Leonard novel, Rusty Puppy, while Kent joins us with her latest work, The Dimefollowing a tough city cop’s trials and tribulations after she moves down to Dallas from the Big Apple.

The fun doesn’t end in February – on March 5th, come by the store to meet the King of Florida Capers, Tim Dorsey, here to speak and sign his latest, Clownfish Blues.  In April, we’re joined by MysteryPeople favorite Phillip Kerr, here to speak and sign his latest Bernie Gunther novel, Prussian BlueWe’ll announce plenty more March and April events coming up, so keep an eye on BookPeople’s events calendar, MysteryPeople’s upcoming events page, or sign up for our MysteryPeople newsletter to be the first to know!

Three Picks for February

February brings with it a host of crime fiction events, and plenty of great new releases!

9780399173042What You Break by Reed Farrel Coleman

Coleman follows his up his Edgar nominated What You Break with the next chapter in the life of broken ex-Suffolk cop Gus Murphy. Hired to look into the daughter of a rich and powerful man as well well as trying to help his friend and co-worker Slava, Gus dives into a realm where evil touches everyone. Coleman strikes the perfect balance of exploring his hero’s interior struggles while pulling off a strong hard boiled tale. Reed Farrel Coleman joins us to speak and sign his latest on Friday, February 10, at 7 PM. He’ll be joined by actor, writer and producer Robert Knott, here with his latest continuation of Robert B. Parker’s Hitch & Cole series. What You Break comes out February 7th – pre-order signed copies! 

9781616957186August Snow by Stephen Mack Jones

Known for his poetry, Stephen Mack Jones has entered the mystery world already possessing the craft to write a complete detective novel, and one which we hope will lead to many more. Set in Detroit, August Snow follows the titular character, an ex-cop and the scion of an African-American father and a Mexican-American mother, as he returns home after a year spent traveling. He’s got millions in his pocket from a successful suit against the town’s corrupt police department and politicians, and he’s ready to use that money for good. Echoes from the past interfere with his future as a full-time do-gooder. When August catches a case that brings up all his old demons, he finally has a chance to lay those demons to rest, and make sense of a string of murders along the way. August Snow comes out February 14th – pre-order now!

9780316311564Rusty Puppy by Joe R. Lansdale

Hap and Leonard return in this entertaining private eye yarn with the boys hired to look into the death of a young black man at the hands of the police in their small, yet violent, East Texas town. Lansdale gives us a great buddy novel, looking at small town corruption, with some great fight scenes and plenty of laugh out loud moments, while taking a serious look at an issue that still plagues us today. Joe joins us Thursday, February 23rd, at 7 PM, along with Dallas writer Kathleen Kent. Rusty Puppy comes out February 21st – pre-order signed copies! 

Congrats to the Edgar Award Nominees!!!

edgar-awards-logo

We were happy to see many of our favorite books and authors nominated for this years MWA Edgar Awards. Many of the books that made it into our Top  10 lists of the year, like Reed Farrel Coleman’s lyrical noir Where It Hurts and Alison Gaylin’s tale of celebricide What Remains Of Me, made the cut. Two of our favorite debuts of the year, Flynn Berry’s Under the Harrow (a tale of sisterly revenge) and Joe Ide’s IQ (an imaginative take on Sherlock Holmes, set in South Central LA), made the list for best first novel.

This may be the first year of mother-daughter nominees, with Patricia Abbott up for Best Paperback Original for Shot in Detroit and Megan Abbott up for Best Short Story for her contribution to Mississippi Noir. Some of out favorite anthologies, including Mississippi Noir, St. Louis Noir, and In Sunlight Or In Shadow: Stories Inspired By The Painting Of Edward Hopper had at least one story nominated for Best Short Story.

A special shout-out goes to our friends at Seventh Street Books who took up half the space in the Paperback Original category! Adrian McKinty is up for even more accolades for his Sean Duffy series with his latest, Rain Dogs. We’re very pleased to have James W. Ziskin, speaking and signing his Edgar-nominated latest, Heart Of Stone, here this upcoming Tuesday, January 24th at 7PMCan’t make it to the event? Pre-order signed copies! 

This year’s list also highlights both the breadth of the awards and the porous nature of crime fiction. You’ll find some crossover hits on the list –  Jane SteeleLyndsay Faye’s take on Jane Eyre as a serial killer, is on the shelves in our historical fiction section. Before the Fall, Noah Hawley’s tale of a plane crash and its consequences, usually resides in general fiction. Since 1989, The Edgar Awards have honored exceptional young adult crime fiction, and have for decades highlighted the best true crime and biographies of the year.

Congratulations to all the nominees, and best of luck ahead!

You can find this year’s full list of nominees here.

Three Picks for January

  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

This month all three picks to look out for in January are from authors soon to visit BookPeople to speak and sign their latest.

9780425283271Where It Hurts by Reed Farrel Coleman

One of the best of 2016 will be out in paperback at the beginning of 2017. Coleman introduces us to Gus Murphy, an ex-cop picking up the pieces of a life shattered by loss. When a criminal he used to arrest asks him to look into the murder of his son, he finds himself up against a dying Mafia and some of his old colleagues. A moving wounded character whose emotions never take away from the hard boiled tale. Reed will be here to speak and sign his second Gus Murphy novel, What You Break, on Friday, February 10th, at 7 PM. He’ll be joined by actor and author Robert Knott. Where It Hurts is just out in paperback! You can find copies on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. 

9780316342575Rather Be The Devil by Ian Rankin

A retired Rebus looks into an old unsolved case, while Clarke and Fox catch a new one when a local tough is severely assaulted, possibly by Rebus’ old nemesis Cafferty. Rankin gives us a great plot tied to characters we love to hang out with. Rankin will be at the store to speak and sign his latest on Thursday, February 16th, at 7 PMRather Be The Devil comes out January 31st – pre-order now!

9781633882096An Unsettling Case For Samuel Craddock by Terry Shames

Shames goes back to Samuel Craddock’s early days as Chief Of Police dealing with an arson and murder with racial implications. Shames does a wonderful job of capturing her hero in his younger days.Terry Shames will be here to speak and sign her latest, along with two other writers who use small town settings, Melissa Lenhardt and James W. Ziskin, on Tuesday, January 24th, at 7 PM. You can find copies of An Unsettling Case for Samuel Craddock on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

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.