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

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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!

MysteryPeople Q&A with Ace Atkins

 

  • Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

 Ace Atkins’ latest book featuring Robert B Parker’s Spenser, Little White Lies, sends the Boston PI down south to track down a con man who uses God, guns, and patriotism in his swindles. It is an entertaining and timely novel with a keen and subtle eye directed toward our current society. We stopped Ace for a moment in his exhaustive writing schedule to talk about it some.

MysteryPeople Scott: This is loosely based on an article you worked on for Outside Magazine, The Spy Who Scammed Us, about a con man. What made you want to explore some of the article’s aspects in fiction?

AA: I’ve written about many con men as a journalist. Several in my days as a crime reporter for The Tampa Tribune. The Outside piece didn’t play as much into this story as the national news story on a man named Wayne Simmons. Simmons was recently outed as a CIA fraudster who’d made hundreds of appearances on FOX news. He represented himself as a top Company man with time in black ops who talked about delicate matters of international importance. It turned out, he was a former used car salesman who was never vetted by producers at FOX.

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MysteryPeople Review: ROBERT B. PARKER’S LITTLE WHITE LIES by Ace Atkins

9780399177002

  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

I’ve mentioned in some of my reviews of Ace Atkins’ later Spenser books that he is bringing more of himself to the series, adapting the characters to reflect his own voice. After proving in the early books like Lullaby and Wonderland that he could do Parker’s voice and had his characters down, Ace began to bring more of his own sensibility into the books, starting with Cheap Shot. It may have come to full fruition in his latest and best Spenser book yet, Little White Lies.

Ace took inspiration for his latest from an article he co-wrote for Men’s Journal. Spenser’s therapist girlfriend, Susan Silverman, refers one of her clients to him. The woman has been bilked out of $300,000 by M. Brook Wells (or that is the name he is at least currently going by), a man selling himself as ex-special forces and CIA. Tracking Wells down gets Spenser shot at by some real military types and he discovers a trail of conned marks, including a seedy gun merchant, cable news bookers, an entire church, and a gang of gun runners. Dealing with one dangerous revelation after another, Spenser has to invite bad ass back-up, Hawk, for a trip to Georgia.

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Three Picks for May

For the murderous month of May, get your adrenaline pumping with three new works in some of our favorite new and continuing series. Ace Atkins brings us his latest Spenser and Hawk tale, Steve Hamilton follows up his brilliant The Second Life of Nick Mason with another tale of hard bargains and harder choices, while David Swinson gives us the second installment in his new series following a drug-addicted, accidental hero. 

Robert B Parker’s Little White Lies by Ace Atkins9780399177002

Spenser and Hawk go into the deep South to to find a con man mixed up in real estate, right-wing politics, religion, and gunrunning. A fun tale with our classic heroes confronting modern villains in a story that feels ripped from the political headlines of the Trump era. Ace will be at Book People Friday, July 21st, to sign and discuss Little white Lies and his latest Quinn Colson book, The Fallen – keep an eye on our website for more information closer to the event. You can find copies of Little White Lies on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

9780399574382Exit Strategy by Steve Hamilton

Hamilton’s sequel to his extraordinary The Second Life Of Nick Mason, has Nick continuing his indentured servitude to imprisoned kingpin Darius Cole by going after the witnesses in Darius retrial that stands between him and freedom. Only catch is that they are all in Witness Protection. An action packed crime thriller with all the players making great chess moves against the other. Steve will be here at BookPeople signing Exit Strategy on Tuesday, May 23rd, at 12 PM. You can find copies of Exit Strategy on our shelves starting May 16th, or pre-order via bookpeople.com

9780316264211Crime Song by David Swinson

D.C. drug-addicted private eye Frank Marr gets a case that hits way too close to home when his cousin is murdered. To make matters works, Frank’s apartment is broken into, yet their purpose remains mysterious given their failure to steal his narcotics stash. The trail leads to some well executed reveals, pitting Frank against some tough adversaries as he tries to keep his addiction hidden. Crime Song is the second book in what is becoming a great, gritty series with a complex and utterly human hero. You can find copies of Crime Song on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

Times Are Changing All Around: MysteryPeople Q&A with Robert Knott

  • Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

Since Robert Knott took over Robert B. Parker’s Old West town tamers Hitch and Cole, he has added an authenticity to the series as well as a subtle examination of both men dealing with a world that is making them less relevant. This time the two are going after Driggs, a slick psychopath who broke out of prison with the warden’s wife as a hostage, and who has a history with Hitch. I look forward to introducing you all to Bob Friday, February 10th at 7 PM, when he will be at BookPeople with Reed Farrel Coleman. As you will see, even on a Q&A via e-mail, he can be entertaining.

MysteryPeople Scott: Driggs is one of the best bad men Hitch and Cole have come up against. How did he come about?

Robert Knott: I was walking down the Street in Brooklyn NY and came to Driggs Street. I stopped and said: that is him. That is my guy. The name alone rang a bell for me and I loved the idea of a powerful man to go with the name. Driggs is stoic, cunning, charismatic, effortless, a leader with little to no need for followers. Then of course he had to have a background. So I put all the darkest elements of his past and family and mixed them with the most capable of men, and that was him, that’s Driggs. I basically planted him and watched him grow.

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You Don’t Ask a Praying Mantis Why: MysteryPeople Q&A with Reed Farrel Coleman

 

Debt To Pay is Reed Farrel Coleman’s latest novel to feature Paradise Police Chief Jesse Stone, created by Robert B. Parker. It’s a great example of a simple plot that allows for complex characters and emotions, wherein Jesse has to go to Dallas to protect his ex-wife during her wedding when a psychotic hit man returns from Jesse’s past for revenge. We caught up with Reed to talk about the book and continuing Parker’s legacy.

“I think Jesse is no longer drawn to the bright lights and big city. He’s come to understand the charms of small town New England. In Paradise he’s much more than just another cog in the wheel. The department is his department and he takes pride in that.”

MysteryPeople Scott: Debt To Pay is a series-changing book in many ways and you put Jesse in an interesting situation in having to protect his ex-wife at her wedding. What did you want to do with Jesse in it?

Reed Farrel Coleman: When I first took over the series, I was taken aback at readers’ antipathy for Jesse’s ex, Jenn. Fans actually begged me to kill her off. I think part of that was plot fatigue. They were tired of Jesse and Jenn continually playing out their dysfunction. So I had the notion that Jenn and Jesse finally had to come to some parting of the ways that made sense and rehabilitated Jenn. Also, without giving too much away, I needed Jesse to start on the road to making some changes that will serve the series in the future. This book is kind of the beginning of those changes.

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