MysteryPeople Q&A with Reed Farrel Coleman

 

  • Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

In Reed Farrel Coleman’s latest Jesse Stone novel, Robert B. Parker’s The Hangman’s Sonnet, the Paradise police chief is mourning the death of the woman he loved, hitting the bottle hard again, and hit with a series of crimes revolving around a reclusive folk singer and the legend of a lost recording. Reed’s understanding and exploration of emotions makes this a stand out in the series, He was kind enough to answer a few question about his direction with Jessie and writing some of the other characters in his world.

MysteryPeople Scott: Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems like you used the previous book, Debt To Pay, to move Jesse more into the realm of the themes and personal challenges you like to write about. Your voice comes through clear in The Hangman’s Sonnet and you are more able to deal with emotions closer to the way do with your own characters. Did you feel more in your own zone with this one?

Reed Farrel Coleman: You know, Scott, it wasn’t premeditated, but I think you’re right. Part of that simply comes from feeling more comfortable in writing the series. After four books, I feel close enough to the characters to have a better understanding of their internal lives. And one of the things I have always said about taking over the series is that Mr. Parker left a lot of room for the people who inherited the series. There was so much unexplored territory in the nine books Bob wrote and the three subsequent books by Michael Brandman. For instance, although the novels are set in Paradise, Mass, there isn’t a whole lot of exploration of the town in Bob’s and Michael’s books. So I had room to expand on that and have, turning a more focused eye on the town. Similarly, there was a lot of room left for me to explore within the characters themselves, especially Jesse. It’s my comfort zone and I have to think Bob would approve. I’ve always said that Ace Atkins has the tougher job because he has so much less free space to operate in.

MPS: In some ways you put Jesse in a place of grieving where you started the Gus Murphy series and Moe Prager has had to mourn in a few books.

What draws you as an author to have them lose someone they love?

RFC: Because I think characters and, for that matter, real people, reveal themselves for who they actually are under the most extreme circumstances. In crime fiction, it’s very easy to show characters in extremely dangerous situations or situations where the cops/PIs/amateur sleuths et al, witness other people’s grief. But I think it’s very revealing to show protagonists in the midst of grief and mourning.

MPS: How does Jesse’s grief process differ from Gus’s?

RFC: Interesting question. With the murder of Diane, Jesse loses his fiancée and the first woman with whom he had a loving and healthy relationship. Terrible. Still, even Jesse would tell you that the loss of a child is worse. In the first Jesse novel I did, Blind Spot, Jesse even discusses it. Although Jesse is knocked off his pins by Diane’s murder, he will recover. Gus will never fully recover from the loss of his son. Never. In fact, the loss leads to changes in Gus so extreme that he begins to believe he is no longer the same person. As Gus says in What You Break about the stages of his life in relation to the loss of his son: “Before John Jr. During John Jr. After John Jr.”

MPS: With the legend of Terry Jester, you have that writer challenge of creating a pop culture character, that everybody was supposed to know, running around with actual artists like Paul McCartney and Jackson Browne. How did you approach him?

RFC: I had a lot of fun with it. I mean, even his name (Jester), was a bit of a wink at the camera and readers. If you recall the lyric from Don McClean’s “American Pie” about “the jester on the sideline in a cast,” you might remember that this was a reference to Bob Dylan and his motorcycle accident. I thought, hey, why not? And I’m old enough to remember that there were a lot of ’60s ” pop stars” that we were sure would last forever and who history has all but forgotten.

MPS: I really loved the character of Hump. He does some bad things but he also acts a little as comic relief and near the end I felt for the guy. How did you approach him?

RFC: Exactly as you have stated. He’s kind of a sweet-hearted buffoon, a little like Lenny in Of Mice and Men. He does bad, but almost innocently and at the behest of people he trusts. And yes, you should feel sorry for him at the end because he comes to the realization of what his life has amounted to. Also, there is something we connect to in someone who appreciates beauty even if he can’t explain it.

MPS: You have a cameo by Spenser. Did you have to keep anything in mind when writing for the famous PI?

RFC: I had to check with Ace to see if it was okay with him and then I ran it by him to see if he bought it as Spenser. Since my books are in third person, I didn’t think I needed Ace to actually write Spenser’s lines. I guess Ace thought I did it well enough. Let’s face it, they exist in the same universe and deal with some of the same people, Vinnie Morris, for example. I think it’s cool that there is some crossover. Now if we get ahold of a literary time machine, we can have Jesse Stone and Spenser help out Cole and Hitch.

You can find copies of The Hangman’s Sonnet on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

Advertisements

Three Picks for September

  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

This month features three series heroes that never disappoint – in serving justice or in providing an entertaining read.

9780525426950The Western Star by Craig Johnson

Sheriff Walt Longmire has to deal with a why-dunnit in the present connected to a who-dunnit he was involved with in 1972 as a young deputy at a Wyoming sheriff’s conference held on a train moving across the state. Johnson tips his hat to Murder On the Orient Express, with a unique mystery that gives the classic a run for its money. Craig Johnson will be at BookPeople September 12th to sign and discuss The Western Star. The Western Star comes out today! You can find copies on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. Craig Johnson joins us to speak and sign his latest on Tuesday, September 12th, at 7 PM

9781617755859To Funk And Die In L.A. by Nelson George

Hunter D, New York’s security man for hip-hop stars, goes to La La Land to find his grandfather’s killer. It is all tied to the Rodney King riots, gangs, and a reclusive funk star from the Seventies. Nelson gives us another tight, tough hard-boiled detective story that also looks at black culture and the politics of art. To Funk and Die in LA comes out today! You can find copies on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. 

9780399171444Robert B. Parker’s The Hangman’s Sonnet by Reed Farrel Coleman

Jesse Stone’s drinking problem raises its ugly head as he mourns for his murdered love while working a series of crimes connected to a once famous singer and the legend of a lost recording that even involved a Boston PI named Spenser. Coleman takes a look at loss and the human recovery from it while giving us a highly entertaining mystery. Robert B. Parker’s The Hangman’s Sonnet comes out next Tuesday – pre-order now!

Scott’s Top Ten of 2017 (So Far)

  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

Around this time of the year, we like to look back on what has come out so far in the year as we think of suggestions for reading for the rest of the summer. Below, you’ll find recommended reads that deserve their due. In fact some are so good I had to combine a few, so my top ten is a top twelve.

97800626644191. The Force by Don Winslow

I know, an obvious choice, but it is so obviously great. This epic look at today’s New York through police eyes has plot, character, and theme singing together in this opera of city corruption. You can find copies of The Force on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

Read More »

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.”

Read More »

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!