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 author interview

 published books


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 Long Island.


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 your writing?
(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 gratifying.

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:

 Life Goes Sleeping

Little Easter

They Don't Play Stickball in Milwaukee

Walking the Perfect Square

Redemption Street

 book/s in review


"Soul 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

Poetry of Murder

Although I had met Reed on several occasions, I have to confess that it was not until after the Chicago 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 from The 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 all three.

-from Steve
Heirloom Bookstore


Soul Patch, Reed Farrel Coleman, Bleak House Books, 2007
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.

Soul 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 of Soul 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.

The James Deans

Hardboiled Brooklyn

These Guns for Hire

Hose Monkey

 previous features

   author's favorite picks on:

Jane Cleland
  • Music: An indie band from NYC called Murder Mystery.
  • Film: A classic film from 1950 called The Next Voice You Hear.
    In it, God speaks on the radio.
  • Blog/Website: I think author blogs are largely a way of wasting valuable work time.
    Sarah Weinman's is the only one I ever look at.
  • Book/Graphic Novel: Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell is perhaps the best book I've read in the last twenty years. I wrote the man my first fan letter.
  • Restaurants: Schnack on 122 Union Street in Brooklyn. It's this tiny little place that serves profoundly un-gourmet like food, but uses the best possible ingredients. Otto at 1 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan for interesting pizza and wine. Patsy Grimaldi's 19 Old Fulton St. at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge (Brooklyn side) for wonderful pizza.
  • Author's Choice/Misc.: Gruet Champagne. Oddly enough, it's from New Mexico, but it's the best domestic champagne I've ever tasted. And I know champagne. I worked for a French company for five years. A good deal in red wines is Rancho Zabaco Zinfindel. Everyone is hot on Pinots, but I like the earthy and rich flavor of zins. RZ is a very good deal.

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