Monday, February 15, 2010

REED FARREL COLEMAN: Interview 2/17/10

From the moment I met Reed a couple years ago, I immediately liked him. Like most New York natives, Reed is a straight shooter and he's got a Heart of Gold. It's with much gratitude that I present this interview. Reed Farrel Coleman, is the author of the ever popular Moe Prager mystery series which includes,(WALKING THE PERFECT SQUARE,SOUL PATCH,THE JAMES DEANS,EMPTY EVER AFTER and REDEMPTION STREET).Reed recently co-wrote "TOWER", with author Ken Bruen. He has also won Shamus, Barry,and Anthony Awards and garnered a Edgar nomination.So lets get to it with Mr. Reed Farrel Coleman.

1) It had to be quite intimidating, to be handed half a book and being told to finish it. Craig McDonald's said he can't see doing that. But you did it and you pulled it off in a big way with"TOWER". Did you ever have the feeling that you were taking a really big chance here? RFC: Tower was an enormous undertaking, one, I suspect, that I might not have tried had I known just how difficult it would turn out to be in the end. However, it ranks up there as the best work I’ve ever done. It was certainly the most difficult. And yes, I was taking risks on several levels, not the least of which was risking my friendship with Ken. Believe me, this book tested both of us in ways we never anticipated. Still, the book turned out very well and Ken and I are still close. In some ways, we’re bound closer together because of the trials we went through with the book. I’ll stop now because I could give a whole interview based solely on the writing of Tower.

2) Most people think of an authors life on the road as a cool and exciting thing. Whats life on the road for you really like? RFC:It’s like business travel, only lonelier. Christ, I sound like a Roy Orbison song. It’s also more exhausting. Let me give you the itinerary for the first day of The James Deans tour I did about five years ago. NY-LAX. LAX to a TV studio to do a cable network book show. Back to LAX. LAX to Phoenix. Rented a car, drove to Poisoned Pen to do a signing. After the signing, drove to Tuscon for a signing the following day. That was one day! Luckily, I’ve made many friends along the way and during the Tower Tour, I stayed with some friends and had meals with other friends in almost every city. Still, there’s nothing sexy or exciting about it. Never mind the guilt you feel for leaving your family behind to do the hard work.

3) Lets change gears, I know your a huge Mets fan, so my question to you is this, a Mets World Series championship or a NY Times Best Seller, your choice? RFC: NY Times Bestseller, no contest. A retired NYPD detective friend of mine, Tom McDonald said something to me many years ago that I’ve never forgotten. “When the Mets or Jets lose, you eat your heart out. You think when you get fired or get sick that they lose any sleep over you?” So as much as I love my teams, I always keep Tom’s advice in mind.

4) What was it like being a Haz Mat driver? I've been told they have permission to just run over anyone who gets in their way, as its better to avoid a potentially worse situation. Any horror stories? RFC:Basically, I drove #2 home heating oil. It isn’t very dangerous, but the possibility of rolling the truck over—very easily done—and spilling the load was always a danger. You have no idea what a mess a ten gallon spill makes, never mind a 3000 gallon spill. I once did a 360 spin on ice in a full Mack truck. Scared the shit out of me.

5) Do you collect anything yourself, books, autographs, perhaps? RFC: I collect debt. Seriously, no, I’m not much of a collector. It’s not in my nature. For me, value is in people, not in things. That is not to say I don’t admire collections or collectors. Just not me.

6) Whose got better game Reed Farrel Coleman or ESPN's Fran Frachella? RFC: Sometimes I forget that we played on a schoolyard bball team together. We were so into bball that we got together and created our own Saturday morning league at PS 209 on Coney Island Ave and Ave Z in Brooklyn. We had refs, even a monthly newsletter(written by yours truly). Fran was on my team one year. I have pictures to prove it. He played point guard and you could see then he understood the game on a very deep level. He was the better player, but I could out write him.

7) I gotta get this in here, whats your favorite Jr. High T-shirt to play ball in? RFC: Effingham Mustangs.Go 'Stangs!

8) For those who don't know, at Bouchercon, there's an annual basketball game that you play in. Harlan Coben told me its crazy and he was afraid he'd get hurt. How physical are those games & would you recommend leaving your feet in the lane? RFC:Let me put it this way,it wouldn't be Bouchercon without,as I call it, "The SJ Rozan Memorial Basketball Game." The first one I played in, SJ broke her finger. The most physical one was in Vegas. Gary Phillips and Jeff Tindall went head to head in that one. I don't blame Harlan. Besides, there's only room for one bald Jewish detective novelist on the court at one time. As you know, it's always dangerous to mix people of widely various skill levels on the court. My favorite teammate is Steve Hamilton. My favorite opponent is Tom Schreck.

9) Whats a perfect day for you? RFC: I feel like making a Lou Reed joke here, but I won't. That could be the hardest question I've ever been asked. When I have one, I'll let you know.

10) Can you remember the first picture show you ever went to see or your first concert? Who & Where? RFC: First concert was Sly and the Family Stone at the Wolman Skating Rink in Central Park in 1972. First movie I remember going to see was Village of the Damned with my brother David. I didn't sleep for a year.

11) If you could go back in time for one day to NY in the 1920's, Coney Island or Ebbets Field? RFC:That's a tough choice, but I would pick Coney Island in its heyday. Ebbets Field was demolished by the time I was conscious of the Dodgers having moved. But in Brooklyn, one grows up hearing stories of what Coney Island used to be. In its meager remnants you can see what it once was. I would really like to see that.

12) You went Lincoln HS in N.Y., and you played a little football , but it was there that you also decided you wanted to be a writer. Is that correct? RFC: Correct. I played JV and was the starting weak side tackle and long snapper. During the practice for my moving to varsity, I realized I didn't have the dedication for football, but had it for poetry. Oddly enough, I sometimes use long-snapping as an example in the writing classes I teach. To this day, I can snap a ball fifteen yards right into a punter's hands. It's a talent I was born with. It's actually not dissimilar to being born with writing talent. A lot of people try it, but only some people can actually be good at it.

13)Whats been the biggest thrill or most satisfying for you personally as a writer ? RFC:There's a tie at the top here. The day I saw my first poem published in the high school literary magazine. The day I found out my first novel was actually going to get published. My first, and only, review in the NY Times. My first Edgar nomination. But if I had to choose, I'd say it was winning my second Shamus Award for Soul Patch. It was the first time my wife was there to see me win and as I walked off the stage, Lawrence Block gave me the thumbs up and smiled at me. It was Block's Scudder series that helped shape Moe Prager.

14) If you had a chance to sit down over drinks with anyone to pick their brain, ( alive or deceased) Who & Why? RFC: Probably Jesus Christ.

15) How important is music to you, who do you like, and does it have any role in your writing process? RFC: I'm ashamed to say it plays less of a role in my life than it used to. It was never a critical part in my writing process. However, I love to listen to music when I'm cooking. I do all the cooking in my house.

16) Do you think mystery writing is better today than 25 years ago & whats changed? RFC: I stay away from those judgements because I don't see the point. It's kind of like those sports arguments. Could Oscar Robertson compete with Kobe or LeBron? It's not an answerable question. I can say that some of the best mystery writers ever are alive and working today.

17) Do you read much yourself & if so, who do enjoy reading & who's influenced you? RFC: I read all the time, but not as widely as I used to. Influences: Hammett, Chandler, TS Eliot, Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, David Lehman, Lawrence Block, Philip Kerr. But I always find this a static question. The fact is I am influenced by everything I read. I hope to never stop being influenced. Favorites: Daniel Woodrell, Philip Kerr, Ken Bruen, SJ Rozan, Megan Abbott, Peter Blauner, Peter Spiegelman.

18) What are some of your favorite films that have stayed with you over the years. RFC: Dr. Strangelove, Annie Hall, The Outlaw Josey Wales, The Third Man, Touch of Evil, Clockwork Orange, The French Connection, The Seven-Ups, Diva, Duck Soup, Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, King Rat... I have a long list. My favorite bad movie is the original Casino Royale.

19) Who's got the better drivers NY or NJ? RFC: New York, hands down.

20) Jets over the Giants why? RFC: Jets. The Giants are the team of fat cats, lawyers, accountants, and suits. The Jets are the team of truck drivers, garbage men, and mystery writers.

21) If the Moe Prager novels get made into films at some point, who could you see playing Moe? RFC: Ah, I never answer that question, though I have an actor in mind. I want the reader to see Moe as he or she sees him, not as I see him.


  1. Mr. Norman-I wonder if I could call on you to write about a forgotten book for my blog project. Each Friday various writers/readers remember books. You can see it here:
    I am looking for March contributions. Patti Abbott

  2. Thanks for turning me on to Reed Farrell Coleman. Gonna check out his stuff.

  3. Coleman's got some game, I'll give 'em that.