Reed Farrel Coleman,
the youngest of three sons, was born and raised in Brooklyn,
NY. He began writing in high school, but did not consider making
a career of it until taking an evening class in detective fiction
at Brooklyn College. His first piece of long fiction, Life
Goes Sleeping, was published in 1991.
Before turning to writing, Reed worked as
a baby food salesman, an air freight manager, a car leasing agent,
a restaurant trainer, a cab driver and a truck driver. He met
his wife in a writing class at the New School in Manhattan. They
live with their two children in Suffolk County on New York's
REED FARREL COLEMAN
Q: Did you actually choose to work in the Mystery genre and
if so why?
(What does it offer that others do not?)
A: Originally, I studied poetry and my first published
work was poetry. For several years I was the co-editor of a poetry
journal. But as I am fond of saying: "If you want to be
poor, be an author. If you want to be destitute, be a poet."
About twenty years ago, I was bored with my day job and took
a night class in detective fiction at Brooklyn College. It sealed
my fate. I recognized a kind of poetry in the language of Chandler
and Hammett and thought that maybe I'd like have a stab at that
myself. The funny thing is, I took the class only because it
fit my schedule. Good thing I didn't take a class in modern dance!
Q: How much of your protagonist in either series is based
upon yourself and/or important figures in your life?
A: There are two answers to this question. There is a superficial
resemblance between Moe Prager and Reed Farrel Coleman. We're
both from the same neighborhood in Brooklyn (Sheepshead Bay/Coney
Island) and we went to the same high school (Abraham Lincoln),
but Moe is older than me and would be about my oldest brother's
age. Moe is better looking than me, but I'm smarter. On a deeper
level, Moe and I share the same struggle with our Judaism. As
to other characters in the book, Moe's brother Aaron is very
closely modeled on my brother David.
Q:Which of your books comes closest to accomplishing your
intention and why?
A: Strangely, I find this a difficult question to answer.
I begin each book with different intentions, so it's hard to
say which comes closest to achieving that which I had in mind
when I began. From an objective point of view, I suppose The
James Deans comes closet.
Q: Who or what have been your major influences regarding
(What particular book/writer/film/person/event made you want
to write and why?)
A: As I wrote recently, my style is constantly evolving.
My early influences were T.S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, William
Blake, William Carlos Williams, Chandler and Hammett. In later
years, I've found I've been influenced by the writing of my colleagues.
If you look closely at my work, you'll find echoes of Ken Bruen,
SJ Rozan, Peter Blauner, Peter Spiegelman, and Jim Fusilli. But
the greatest single influence on me was my college poetry professor,
David Lehman. He gave me permission to be a writer and gave me
the first clues on self-editing. Last year, I showed up at one
of his readings and gave him copies of all my works. It was very
Q: What new projects do you have in the pipeline?
A: I am now working on the sequel to Soul
Patch called Empty Ever After. It was originally
called An Inconvenient Child, but I've since changed it.
There's a sample of it at the end of Soul
Patch. Tony Spinosa, my alter ego, has his second Joe
Serpe novel, Gun Bunnies, the follow up to Hose
Monkey, coming out in the fall. I have a graphic novel
and a high concept stand-alone being shopped around at the moment.
I also have a novel written with Ken Bruen that we've finally
decided to try and sell. But, other than that....
For more information on Reed, visit:
Don't Play Stickball in Milwaukee
the Perfect Square
Patch, by it's nature, is a more challenging book than
TJDs. It's a book of existential loneliness, where Moe is first
beginning to understand the price he will pay for the secrets
he's kept. With only one real twist, it won't jump up and surprise
people the way TJDs
did, but that's not why I write. I'd go mad if I thought I had
to follow the pattern of the previous book. "
-from the author
Reed Farrel Coleman
Although I had met Reed on several
occasions, I have to confess that it was not until after the
Bouchercon that I actually started to read his work.
It was at this convention that [in
my opinion] Reed, Ken
Bruen and Pete
Spiegelman presented one of the most profound panels ever
presented at a Bouchercon - on poetry. I'm sure I'm not alone
in that opinion, as they scheduled the panel in one of the smaller
rooms [apparently expecting only a few] - the result of which
was an SRO event with the crowd spilling out of the doorway.
Listening to Reed recite a passage
James Deans was the inspiration to go on and read both series
- the Dylan Kleins and the Moe Pragers - hell, before that, I
though that Walking
the Perfect Square was Reed's first book!
Reed, Ken and Pete produced the above
small chapbook of poetry to commemorate Bouchercon 2005 and this
particular panel. It is limited to 110 copies, and signed by
Soul Patch, Reed Farrel Coleman, Bleak House Books,
Review by Nancy Gratton, Heirloom Bookstore
Do not be afraid. Soul
Patch (Bleak House Books, 2007) is not a literary
celebration of the currently popular, but aesthetically unfortunate,
men's facial hair affectation of the same name. In author Reed
Farrel Coleman's idiosyncratic Coney Island geography, Soul
Patch refers to a largely African American neighborhood
where a murder that occurred in the early 1970s would eventually
resonate down through the decades.
Patch is the fourth volume in Coleman's Moe Prager
mystery series (earlier volumes include Walking
the Perfect Square, Redemption
Street, and The
James Deans). The series employs the ex-cop-turned-private-eye
conceit with a fresh perspective that makes the concept seem
new again. As a series protagonist, Prager may be conflicted.
He may be ambivalent about his life choices. He may, in fact,
qualify as one of the most reluctant investigators to be found
in the genre. He is also one of the more interesting, engaging
private eyes to come along in quite some time.
In the current series entry, Moe is drawn into an investigation
of that long-ago Coney Island murder by a very personal tragedy.
An old friend from his days in Brooklyn's 60th Precinct appears
to have committed suicide, and the widow has called on Moe for
help. In the decaying milieu of the once glittering playground,
Moe's search for answers leads him into what could end up as
an expose of corruption and betrayal worthy of that legendary
real-life New York detective, Frank Serpico.
Coleman employs a deft touch in creating his characters. His
books - and this one is no exception - are populated by realistically
drawn individuals. They are not only flawed - a prerequisite
of conflict-driven fiction - but they also display the sometimes
surprising nobility that is also part of the human character.
As a protagonist, Prager is particularly satisfying, because
Coleman manages to depict him as a man of essential integrity
and authenticity. And, let's be honest here, it is no small feat
to create a character of integrity without turning him into a
prig. In Prager, however, Coleman succeeds.
Further, Coleman clearly has no patience with the current trend
in mystery writing, which is to replace careful attention to
plot detail with incoherence, all in the name of creating suspense.
Too often, would-be mystery writers (and even, if not especially,
some of those who have landed lucrative publishing contracts)
have become enamored with red herrings for their own sake. Coleman
never goes there. In Soul
Patch, as in the other Prager volumes, plot twists
abound. But Coleman firmly roots every one of them within the
logic of the larger story. Let us hope that he represents a wave
of the future. Coleman offers suspense enough to satisfy, but
he also insists on a solid believability, and this makes the
final resolution of his tales all the more compelling.
Coleman's intimate knowledge of, and affection for Brooklyn is
readily apparent in his Prager books. His characterizations of
the place are strongly drawn and, even for those of his readers
who know the borough well, thoroughly recognizable. So much so
that, when it comes down to the author-invented neighborhood
Patch, even Brooklyn-familiar readers will find themselves
half-convinced that they've actually been there. Now, that's
an achievement the author can surely be proud of.
Guns for Hire