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.”

Peter Spiegelman’s life as a poet appears to have always put him on the hunt for the perfect word. His writing is sharp with paragraphs that have the perfect conciseness of a poem’s stanza. When asked how poetry influenced his prose writing, he answered. “My interest in the sound of the sentences I write—how they strike the ear when they’re read aloud, their rhythms and cadences—certainly has its roots in writing poetry. So to my concern with language that is concise and that operates on several levels simultaneously—that carries plot forward even as it works to establish and enrich setting and character, and to define the “emotional weather” of the story.”

This can be seen in his series with Wall Street private investigator John March and his latest creation, Skid Row doctor and practitioner of expensive “house calls” to the rich and infamous, Dr. Knox.

It’s easy to see the poet in Ken Bruen’s work. His tight novels, the most famous featuring self destructive P.I. Jack Taylor. Ken plays with word placement, with half of a sentence dropping down to the next line. His creative phrasing creates a rat-a-tat-tat style that starts out pummeling, growing into a unique lyricism linking character and reader together for a fast trip down through Hell. ” Poetry taught me the art of brevity and never, never waste a word.”

I asked each author about the shared aspects of crime fiction and poetry. The commonality Reed found was in it’s diversity. ” Poetry isn’t one thing in the same way that crime fiction isn’t a monolithic entity. Ken Bruen, Peter Spiegelman and I all started out as poets, but our poetry is as different as our prose.”

Ken’s belief fit perfectly with his style of writing. “Crime and poetry share the blessing of immediacy. If done properly, they can leave a sense of quiet awe.”

“The poetry I love best has a lot in common with my favorite crime fiction.” Peter Spiegelman shared. “Both create palpable emotional atmospheres—often in an admixture of their settings and narrative voices. Both also can pivot on the telling detail—a scrap of description or dialogue, an startling image—beautiful or unsettling or both—that casts new light on a character, an action, a relationship, a back story, or that redefines these entirely. And so often both are devious things: misleading, secretive, withholding—guarding their epiphanies until the end.”

Both Ken and Peter thought Baudelaire would have made a good crime fiction author. Ken even wrote a novel titled Dispatching Baudelaire. “He would have been a savage almost Ellroy type of writer.”

When it comes to crime fiction writers who could have made great poets, both Reed and Peter agreed on Chandler, with Peter also citing Ross MacDonald. Ken mentioned contemporary Daniel Woodrell “…a poet on almost every single page of his work.”

When listing contemporaries, Peter Spiegelman brought it full circle like a craftsman poet. “Daniel Woodrell, Megan Abbott, and Reed Farrel Coleman.”

You can find works by Reed Farrel Coleman on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. 

You can find works by Ken Bruen on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

You can find works by Peter Spiegelman on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

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.

Read More »

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.

Read More »

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.

Read More »

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