Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Special guest: Edgar Award nominee Bill Crider

As he has long been a friend and supporter of Murder By The Book and the mystery world in general, it made us all proud when Alvin, Texas, mystery writer Bill Crider earned an Edgar Award nomination for his darkly comic short tale, "Cranked" (in Damn Near Dead / read it here for free!). His 16th Sheriff Dan Rhodes novel, Murder in Four Parts (St. Martin's Minotaur), pubs in February. The Dan Rhodes books are a lot of fun, but personally, my favorite works of his are the five featuring Galveston private eye Truman Smith. Find his own blog at billcrider.blogspot.com, but he graciously contributed an entry for BFP's. Read on...


When David Thompson asked me to write something for his Busted Flush Blog, I was flattered, but I didn’t really know what I could say. After all, I have my own wildly popular blog to attend to.

But then it occurred to me that I never really write anything for my own blog. Well, aside from a few movie and book reviews, I mean. Other than that, I just put in stuff I pick up from my web surfing, whatever amuses me. So maybe there was something I could write about for David, after all. He gave me plenty of leeway. In fact, he said:

"It can be about ANYTHING... it does NOT need to have anything to do with the press, Murder By The Book, our authors, nothing... it can be about whatever you want it to be, as long as it's mystery/crime related... your favorite author no one knows about... your writing habits... your favorite living writers... your top ten books... all of the above?"

Ah, my writing habits. I remember the good old days when I had them. I was a very self-disciplined guy once upon a time, mainly because I had to be. I had a full-time job as the chair of the Division of English and Fine Arts at Alvin Community College, so I could write only in what I laughingly referred to as my "spare time," that is, the time not spent teaching class, holding office hours, going to meetings, and grading papers. Not to mention having a family life. Mainly that meant writing after seven in the evenings, and that’s what I did for many years. Somehow I managed to produce fifty or sixty novels between the publication of the first Sheriff Dan Rhodes book in 1985 and my retirement from the college in 2002. That’s a lot of books per year, but I was an English major, so you’ll have to do the math on your own if you want to know what the average is. My lack of math skills also explains why I don’t know exactly how many books I wrote. I’m not the kind to keep track. For all I know, it might have been more.

What? You say you’ve seen my bibliography and it didn’t include that many books? That’s because a lot weren’t published under my own name. Only the mysteries and westerns were "Bill Crider" books. The horror novels were done by "Jack MacLane," and all the others were done under various house names. Some of those are an open secret, but the others are so secret that no one will ever know. Except me and maybe one or two others, that is.
How did I write so much? Seat of the pants in the seat of the chair. Every night. And I mean every night, birthdays, holidays, and all. For years and years I never missed a day. It can be done.

Now that I’ve retired from the college, I don’t write as much and my discipline is lax. Laziness is part of it, and of course I’ve found other ways to spend my time, like blogging. And, sad to say, publishers aren’t knocking down my door these days. In fact I just turned in the final book of a two-book contract with St. Martin’s. With the turmoil the publishing world is in right now, who knows what the future might hold. Not me. I may find that I’ve retired from the writing game. We’ll just have to wait and see.

As for Murder by the Book, I was thinking about the store the other day when I went in for the little celebration they had in honor of McKenna Jordan’s assuming the mantle of ownership. I first visited the store in the late summer or early fall of 1983, not long after we moved to Alvin. I’d attended my first meeting of the Houston MWA chapter with a friend, and he suggested we drop by. I met Martha Farrington that day, and I believe Dean James might have been there as well. McKenna wasn’t there. She was about two years old, and if you think that makes me feel ancient, you’re absolutely right.

And then there’s David Thompson’s Busted Flush Press. What can I say? It was my story in a Busted Flush book, Damn Near Dead, that brought me my only Edgar nomination, so I’ll always have a warm place in my heart for Busted Flush, and for David and Duane Swierczynski, (the editor) who gave me the chance to write the story. I think small presses like this one might well be the wave of the future. They’re publishing some wonderful books, both originals and reprints, and given the chaos in big-time publishing these days, the small presses have a great opportunity to shine.

Okay, I didn’t write about everything that David mentioned, but that’s probably more than enough. I’ll stop now. Thanks for the loan of the forum, David. [You're welcome, Bill!]

Saturday, January 24, 2009


My favorite Ken Bruen stand-alone, London Boulevard, will start filming soon, and I could not be more thrilled with the names attached to the project:

Writing & directing: William Monahan, Oscar-winning screenwriter of The Departed

Starring: Colin Farrell (who deservedly won a Golden Globe as a guilt-stricken hitman in last year's In Bruges) and Keira Knightley

Ken himself says: "I'm just delighted... I think the casting is brilliant and the screenplay by Bill Monahan is terrific."

Though out of print at the moment, rest assured that St. Martin's will be reprinting London Boulevard this fall. I'm not sure if the Do-Not Press U.K. edition is still available, but it's worth a shot... click here.

Monday, January 19, 2009


Chapter One

THE RECEPTION WAS at the Lonesome Piper Country Club. The piper was so lonely because no one could afford the membership dues. Situated on a twenty-four-karat parcel of Long Island’s Gold Coast, the clubhouse, the former manse of a railroad robber baron, sat on a tree-lined bluff overlooking the Sound and Connecticut beyond. One peek at the place and you immediately understood why Old New York money had claimed this piece of the island as its enclave.

I had to admit that even if the marriage didn’t last the honeymoon, Craig and Constance would have a hell of a wedding album. As the photographer clicked away—“That’s right. That’s right. Groom, turn a little more to your left. Good. Smile. Perfect. Perfect. Hold it. Just one more . . .”—I couldn’t help but be curious how Aaron and I had wound up on the guest list. Considering the social status of our fellow invitees, my brother and I had a lot more in common with the help.

Constance had worked for us for about six months while she was finishing up at Juilliard. That was over a year ago, and it wasn’t like she was employee of the century or anything. True, we liked her well enough, as did our customers, but we never fooled ourselves that she’d stay on. Constance was a wealthy, handsome, and talented young woman who was more playing at work than working. It was as if she were fulfilling some sort of missionary obligation to teach the children of the Third World how to read.

Frankly, I didn’t care why we were invited. All I knew was that Katy, my wife, was in better spirits today. Smiling, even dancing with me a little, she seemed almost her old self. She had taken time with her makeup, fussed with her hair, worn a dress that accentuated her curves. She had kissed me hard on the mouth for the first time in months, making a show of wiping her lipstick off my lips with her fingers. It was as if she had awoken from a coma.

“Excuse me, sir,” a red-jacketed waiter said, just touching my shoulder. “Mr. Geary, the bride’s father, would like a word. He’s waiting for you in the East Egg Room.”

It wasn’t up for discussion, and I was curious anyway.

The East Egg Room was a private space on the other side of the clubhouse, away from the dining area and close to the men’s locker room. It was all walnut paneling, green glass ashtrays, and nailhead chairs, and smelled like the ghosts of my father’s cigars. This was the place where members played poker, drank scotch or cognac, made private deals. Mr. Geary smiled at my entrance, but with proper restraint. Six feet tall and square shouldered, he was a man of sixty with the weathered good looks of a cowboy. A cowboy with a North Shore dentist and a personal trainer. He looked perfectly at ease in his surroundings and gray morning coat.

“Mr. Prager,” Geary said, offering me his firm hand. “A pleasure to meet you. Connie tells me you and your brother treated her very well during the time of her employment. I trust you and Mrs. Prager are enjoying yourselves.”

“Very much so. Thank you.”

He cleared his throat. The prepared text or pretext out of the way, he was ready to move on to the real business of the day.

“Do you know Steven Brightman?” my host asked, picking up his Manhattan off a green-felt-covered card table.

“Should I?”

“Come, take a stroll with me, Mr. Prager.”

We stepped through the pro shop, toward the practice putting green and along the driving range. Several of the members nodded to Geary; a few took a moment to congratulate him. They regarded me with suspicion, some scowling as if I were one rung up the evolutionary ladder from silverfish.

“Do you follow politics, Moe? May I call you Moe?”

“No and yes. I’m an ex-cop, Mr. Geary. Cops don’t have much use for politicians, though politicians got lots of uses for cops. None of ’em any good as far as I can tell. And yeah, you can call me Moe.”

“Though I sometimes find them as distasteful as you do, a man in my position inevitably makes the acquaintance of several politicians.”

“No doubt.”

He pointed out to the first-hole tee box. “Do you play?”

“Some. Brooklyn isn’t exactly a hotbed of great golfers.”

“You know why they call it golf?”

“Because all the other four-letter words are taken.”


I suppose he thought telling me the oldest golf joke on earth was meant to show he was just a regular Joe, that we weren’t really that different, he and I, in spite of minor details like wealth, religion, breeding, schooling, and career. Did he have a career? I wondered what he had time for besides being rich.

“You should play more, you know,” he continued. “It’s a real thinking man’s game. Chess with sticks is how I view it. The uninitiated believe ball striking is the talent, but it’s the ability to manage the course, to think your way around it, that makes a good golfer.”

There was a message for me in there somewhere.

“No offense, Mr. Geary, but what’s this—”

“A young woman named Moira Heaton, the daughter of an ex-policeman like yourself, was working as an intern for a state senator. She left his office on Thanksgiving Eve 1981 and never made it home. She’s been missing ever since. Not a dissimilar story to that of your brother-in-law, Patrick.”

“Do you research all your wedding guests this thoroughly?”

He laughed, but not loudly enough to disturb anyone’s backswing. “No, Moe, not all my guests.”

“This is where I guess that the missing girl worked for Brightman and that you think I can help find her, right?”

“Actually, Moe, I was hoping you would have heard of this and saved me the trouble of the background details. Short of that, yes, I think you might be able to help.”

“Sorry, Mr. Geary, I really appreciate having been invited here and I have had a good time, but I—”

He shushed me politely. “Moe, a wise man listens before making up his mind, and all I’m asking is that you consider taking this on. If, when all is said and done, you choose not to get involved, then we’ll shake hands and part amicably.”

This guy was good. Never had the promise of a friendly handshake sounded so much like a threat.

“Let me think about it, okay?” I parried. “At the moment I’d like to head back to the reception and dance with my wife a little.”

“Absolutely. Pardon my taking you away from her. Convey my apologies, won’t you?”

“I will. Again, congratulations.”

When I got back to the reception, things had changed, and not for the better. Aaron was pacing a rut in the cart path outside the pro shop.

“Where the fuck have you been?”

“Getting a lecture on philosophy and the art of golf. Why?”

His lips turned down, anger changing to sadness. “It’s Katy.”

“What’s Katy? What happened?”

“After you left, I was dancing with Cindy.”

This was remarkable in itself. Aaron and my sister-in-law danced about as often as Siamese cats went scuba diving.

“Yeah, you were dancing and . . .”

“One of Constance’s cousins walked by our table carrying her newborn, and Katy asked if she could hold the baby.”

“Oh, for chrissakes! She was happy today. Where is she?”

Aaron shrugged. “Still in the bathroom with Cindy.”

Needless to say, my presence was less than welcomed in the ladies’ room. Anyone who could flee did so at the sound of my voice. Only the attendant, a wrinkled old black woman in pink polyester and a silly frilled hat, protested. I chucked a twenty in her tip basket and her squawking came to an abrupt end. I nodded for Cindy to wait outside.

“Just tell everyone the toilets are flooding.”

Guilty, wounded, Katy couldn’t look at me. She angled her legs and chin toward the stall wall, her chest heaving as she tried to suppress her tears. I knelt down in front of her and held her hand. Her face was a mask of trembling embarrassment.

“It’s okay, kiddo. You’ve gotta stop punishing yourself like this. You didn’t do anything wrong.”

A month, two months ago, these words would have been magic. Abracadabra! Presto chango! She would have stopped crying immediately, for I would have pushed her rage button. First she’d aimed her accusing finger at God, then at herself, then me. Initially, I hadn’t minded. I’d almost welcomed it in a martyrly fashion: if it helped Katy, I could take it. But eventually it left us both exhausted and bruised. No, the rage was gone, and in its place were only guilt and pain.

Our baby was dead. Had it been someone else’s, someone I’d read about in the paper, I suppose I could have retreated into the comfort of cold philosophy. I could have played the semantics game. Was it really a baby at five months? A fetus? What? At least we still had Sarah. At least we had been spared the trauma our friends Cisco and Sheila had been forced to endure. Their son had been stillborn. What’s worse, when Sheila’s labor was induced, they knew their son was dead. Of course I’d been philosophical about it, spouting the usual bullshit about how it was better this way. What way was that? Better for whom, exactly? We haven’t seen Cisco and Sheila for over a year now.

I realized I’d been punishing myself, the way Katy had punished herself, the way she punished me. In spite of my Jewishness, I know only the guilty deserve to be punished, and even then, not always. Given the randomness of things, it’s a miracle any of us get born at all. But that knowledge doesn’t stop my mother’s words from ringing in my ears: When things are good, watch out! In the world of her creation, we were always one breath short of disaster, one nightfall away from the sun’s refusal to shine. My mom lacked perspective. Now I had all the perspective I could stand.

“Life is hard for us all.” That’s what my friend Israel Roth says. “It’s not a contest of whose life is worse. When the Gettys are sad, their misery is as real as mine or yours. Money is a retreat, not a fortress. Maybe I understand your mother, may she rest in peace, a little bit different than you. Life changes a person. Maybe she would regret some of her ways, take some things back. But she’s gone and nothing can change the dead. Just say Kaddish and move on.”

Mr. Roth, unlike me, has earned the right to be philosophical about death. The Nazi tattoo on his forearm says so.

Still, things had been good. Katy’s design business was taking off. Sarah—the smartest, most beautiful child on earth—was being two with a vengeance, but that was as it should be. City on the Vine and Bordeaux in Brooklyn, the wine shops Aaron and I owned, were booming. I had my doubts about Reaganomics, but the money seemed to be trickling down at least as far as our cash registers. What did I know about economics anyway? I voted for Jimmy Carter. Twice!

So, like I said, things had been good, were good. I wasn’t even particularly itchy anymore. I’d worked my one case as a private investigator and gotten the notion out of my system. Besides, all I’d got for my trouble was bruised kidneys and a trunk full of other people’s secrets. Who needed the grief? I had enough of my own. So I put my license back in the sock drawer with the rest of my dreams. Even the dust bunnies thought my license was a bit of a farce, a frightened man’s conceit, a hedge against the ifs in life. Then we had the miscarriage. There are no hedges.

“Come on,” I said, tugging on Katy’s hand. “Let’s go home and see Sarah, okay?”

She smiled in spite of herself. Whatever other tragedies she’d suffered, whatever regrets Katy had, there was always Sarah to go home to. Sometimes that kid of ours could be an amazing source of strength for the both of us.

“Okay, Moe,” Katy relented, standing up and smoothing out her dress. “Just give me a minute.”

As I waited outside the door, I tried imagining the face of a woman I’d never met before or even heard of until fifteen minutes ago. I wondered if her father was thinking about her at that very moment, if he had hedged against the loss of his daughter. It was a day to think about fathers and daughters.

“Where have you got to, Moira Heaton?” I mumbled under my breath.

“Did you say something?” Katy asked, reappearing at my side.

"It’s not important.”
The dappled June light smelled of fresh-cut grass and possibility. Hope and potential were easy to believe in on a sunny wedding day in June. Just as we stepped out, Constance and Craig were getting into the limo that would take them to the airport. I hadn’t thought to ask where they were headed. On a day like this, they could go anywhere. But anywhere they went, they would not remain untouched for very long. That was always the test, I thought, not how good you were at avoiding the blows, but how you dealt with them after they landed.


Reed Farrel Coleman's The James Deans (trade paperback; $14) -- the Shamus / Anthony / Barry Award-winning third Moe Prager novel -- will be reprinted this week, with special bonus features not found in the Plume original!: New foreword by best-seller Michael Connelly; new afterword by Reed Coleman; two Moe Prager short stories ("Requiem for Jack" and "Requiem for Moe"); and excerpt from fall 2009 novel, Tower (written with Ken Bruen). Find copies at your favorite independent, chain, or online bookseller. See the list at the right for some indies that support and stock BFP!

Coming soon... Reed's "top-ten" list of most influential books, information on A. E. Maxwell's upcoming reprint, Just Another Day in Paradise, a guest blog entry from Edgar Award nominee Bill Crider, and more!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Reed Farrel Coleman interview

Edgar Award-nominated crime writer Gabriel Cohen (pictured at left; Red Hook) took a few minutes to chat with fellow novelist and friend, two-time Edgar Award nominee Reed Farrel Coleman, whose Shamus / Anthony / Barry Award-winning third Moe Prager novel, The James Deans (trade paperback, $14), will be reprinted next week from Busted Flush Press.

GC: When you wrote Walking the Perfect Square did you know that it would be the first book in a series?

RFC: The honest answer, though it’s one that may leave readers dissatisfied, is that I wrote the book as a stand-alone, but made sure to build it in such a way as to leave room to turn it into a series. For instance, I needn’t have given Moe such a rich and deep backstory if it were only a stand-alone. My hope was that an editor would recognize the potential to blossom the book into a series. For instance, one prominent editor for whom I have great respect, just couldn’t see how I could make a series out of it given that I had laid out the arc of the series in the first book. Luckily, others have recognized the potential and let me follow up. It was a hell of a challenge to pull it off, but that’s one of the things I enjoy most about writing.

GC: Your protagonist is connected to the NYPD by virtue of being a former member, but he’s not currently a cop. What kind of freedom does that positioning give him that he wouldn’t have as a normal cop?
RFC: As you know, when you’re writing a cop on the job, you have somewhat strictly confined parameters. When he strays beyond those parameters, he’s essentially breaking the law. This is one of the abiding conflicts in a series like yours. But there were certain moral dilemmas I wanted Moe to explore that would have been impossible had he still been on the job. Moe is free to act outside the rules, but not necessarily the law. It also allows him to tackle personal cases, which, had they come to him as a currently serving police officer, he would have had to recuse himself from. As a former cop, though, he does have access that a normal citizen or even a PI might not have. He also understands the system cops operate under and hence has an idea of how to manipulate it to serve his purposes.

GC: The reason Moe left the force is so mundane: he slipped on a carbon copy. How did you make that choice, rather than have him go out in some heroic or tragic fashion?

RFC: In general, Moe is about turning the whole haunted-white guy-loner-alcoholic-Christian-fist happy-gun crazed-ex-cop conceit on its ear. The fact is I love those books and those detectives. I love Marlowe and Spade and Scudder, especially Scudder. But I couldn’t simply rewrite what the masters had already done and done better than I ever would. So I took the conceit and turned it on its ear by making Moe a lot of the things those classic detectives weren’t. And I figured the best way to start that de-evolution was to have Moe injured in an incredibly inglorious and mundane way. Plus, I am friendly with an ex-NYPD sergeant who hurt his knee in exactly this way.

GC: Your books are very deeply rooted in their setting of Brooklyn. Do you think there’s a sort of native Brooklyn attitude or view of life? How do you communicate that to a reader who lives in, say, Peoria, or Texas—or some foreign country, for that matter?

RFC: The Moe books are published in several different countries and I get fan mail from all over the States, so I guess I must be doing something right. But I think the answer lies in the essence of who Moe is and how personally and intimately I present him to the reader. First off, I think most people are proud and connected to where they come from or where they were raised. Hence there’s a sense universality and as long as you present that connection, whether it’s to Brooklyn, Hong Kong, El Paso or Paris, in a way that isn’t condescending, readers will connect. I think readers get it because they get Moe’s connection.

GC: I notice that you like to give Moe’s story verisimilitude by tying him in with real historical events, as when you mention that he can just be spotted in the background of some news footage of the arrest of the Son of Sam. Could you talk about how your interest in New York history ties in with your fiction?

RFC: You’ll notice that the first four Moe books take place in the 70s and 80s. That is no accident. I was 13 in 1970, so I did my real growing up during this period of years. The city’s history during those years is my history and my history reflects in Moe’s history. For instance, in Walking the Perfect Square, Moe says he was at Shea Stadium during the 77 Blackout. Well, he wasn’t really, but I was. And if you lived through that summer, you can’t ever forget how the Son of Sam held this city in his grip. Not before, not since, not even in the wake of 9/11, have I witnessed anything like it. I think by me having this connection, it helps Moe connect with the readers.

GC: The books of the series show a long arc of Moe’s life and character. Do you think he reached places that would have surprised you when you were writing the first book?

RFC: The short answer to that is absolutely yes. I’m a pretty organic writer and I never outline, so I am constantly surprised by my characters and their development. It’s another aspect of writing that makes all the struggle worth it.
GC: Can you give an example or two of ways in which Moe or other characters have surprised you?
RFC: Absolutely, but I confess to never being surprised by Moe. More often than not, it’s by a character who begins life as a foil for Moe or someone to move the plot along. First off, Mr. Roth, who first appeared in Redemption Street, and who has been in all subsequent books, began as a minor character. He was put in to give certain information to Moe about the book’s antagonist Sam Gutterman and to somewhat balance Sam’s perpetual sarcasm. Yet, no matter how I tried to minimize Mr. Roth’s role, he kept asserting his presence. Eventually, Roth grew into the moral center of the series and came to represent many things. He was the father Moe would have chosen and he is Moe in old age. This also happened with the character Wit, Yancy Whittle-Fenn, a celebrity reporter who appears in The James Deans and Soul Patch. Wit turned from simple foil to the character who did the most to redeem himself and turn his life around. The best thing about these two characters is that they are, after Moe, the most beloved characters in the series.

GC: What do you see as the long arc of your series? Since your sense of character is very strong, I’m assuming that your main interest is some kind of internal development for Moe Prager. Do you feel that it’s all about a positive evolution of the character, that he grows older and wiser? Is that necessary?

RFC: Oy! I always struggle with questions likes these because I let my series arc develop from book to book and don’t really plan this stuff out. I guess I began Walking the Perfect Squarewith two basic premises in mind: Keeping secrets from those closest to you will lead to ruin. The past is never really past. But I didn’t see this overarching development when I began. And frankly, I don’t think all of Moe’s evolution is positive, but I do believe that character evolution is necessary. I have always disliked the trope of the static detective. In other words, I find it silly that one case ends and two days later a beautiful femme fatale is magically waiting in the detective’s office with another case. That’s why Scudder was particularly appealing to me. Unlike Marlowe, he grows and evolves.

GC: In this age of electronic media, it seems that the dramatic TV series offers opportunities that are in some ways very similar to what a series of novels can do. They can explore the long-term development of a protagonist and other characters, they can paint a wide picture of a world, they can follow plots and subplots with a lot of depth. With shows like The Wire or The Sopranos around, what do you think that novelists can offer that a TV show (or movies) can’t?

RFC: I love The Wire, Deadwood, The Shield, though I soured on The Sopranos. And yes, like you say, they allow for a novelistic depth of character that old format TV doesn’t. What novels can offer that TV can’t is beautiful, nuanced writing. That is not to say that the writing for TV is not nuanced. It is, but it isn’t beautiful, it’s not poetic. And I don’t want people to misunderstand, by beautiful I don’t mean flowery or overblown, but TV is still a visual medium. Even in the series I mentioned, much of the story is told wordlessly. As much as I love dialogue, and I do love dialogue, novels are about much more than dialogue. TV is about images and dialogue.

GC: As we both know, it’s already hard trying to build a viable career as a writer. Especially given this new economy and its impact on the publishing business, how do you hold onto the sense of mission that drives such a career?

RFC: It’s a calling. It’s the only thing I ever felt compelled to do. And I think I was very fortunate to have been published by a very small publisher when I began my career. It didn’t stop me from dreaming or trying for a bigger career, but it certainly tamped down my expectations and let me learn. So from early on I got an education that helped me see that my career had to be about the writing itself and not the dreamt of rewards. I often tell my writing students and frustrated beginners to fall in love with writing and not with what they’ve written. I learned early on to let the physical act of writing be its own reward. This philosophy may never get me riches and fame, but it has gotten me the respect of my peers, many loyal fans, and has helped me become a better writer.

GC: It seems, to this writer anyway, that one of the challenges of this career is maintaining a sense of balance and momentum despite what is happening to others. We see mediocre writers who are handsomely rewarded by both the publishing business and by the reading public; we see very talented writers who somehow never catch on. How do we maintain our own internal compass?

RFC: I go back to the previous answer and I’ll expand on it. Because I began small, very small, I worked in isolation for many years. My writing world consisted of reading and writing. I wasn’t part of some greater writing community and my only concerns were about my work and improving my writing. I never concerned myself with how my buddies were doing because I didn’t have writing buddies. I didn’t go to MWA dinners because I didn’t know the MWA or other organizations existed. So I was never looking over my shoulder at writers coming up behind me or ahead of me to strive somehow for things those writers had. Also, I went to therapy for many years to deal with issues of jealousy and resentment. I worked very hard to learn that my happiness isn’t dependent on measuring myself against others. It’s one of the greatest lessons there is. Besides, writers have so little control to begin with, it’s madness to think you can control popular taste or luck. You need to learn early on that there’s no magic correlation between quality and success. And when I have those occasional bouts of feeling sorry for myself, I remember that there are hundred, if not thousands of people who would give their right arms for my career.

GC: You’ve been interviewed a fair amount. Are there any questions you’ve wished you’d been asked, but haven’t been? If so, what are they?

RFC: No one has ever asked me to explain the plot of The Big Sleep. I’m glad you didn’t ask.

Gabriel Cohen’s novel Red Hook was nominated for the Edgar Award for Best First Novel. His second novel featuring Brooklyn South Homicide detective Jack Leightner, The Graving Dock, was published in 2007, and a third book in the series, Neptune Avenue will be released by St. Martin’s Minotaur this May. He is also the author of Boombox, a novel, and Storms Can’t Hurt the Sky, a nonfiction book about dealing with divorce. He has written for The New York Times, Poets & Writers, the New York Post magazine, Crimespree, and other publications, and will be the guest lecturer aboard the Queen Mary 2 ocean liner on a transatlantic cruise in May. He is currently at work on a fourth Jack Leightner novel.

Reed Farrel Coleman's The James Deans (trade paperback; $14) -- the Shamus / Anthony / Barry Award-winning third Moe Prager novel -- will be reprinted next week, with new bonus features!: New foreword by best-seller Michael Connelly; new afterword by Reed Coleman; two Moe Prager short stories ("Requiem for Jack" and "Requiem for Moe"); and excerpt from fall 2009 novel, Tower (written with Ken Bruen). Find copies at your favorite independent, chain, or online bookseller. See the list at the right for some indies that support and stock BFP!

Coming next: An excerpt from The James Deans and Reed's top-ten list of books that have influenced most...

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Let's welcome Ace Atkins!

First of all, I'm pleased to announce that we'll finally be receiving Reed Farrel Coleman's The James Deans from the printers later this week... look for additional posts over the next few days, which will include a James Deans excerpt and an interview with Reed by Edgar-nominated crime writer Gabriel Cohen.

Now, let me say a few words about a fellow whose debut crime novel will be reprinted this fall from Busted Flush: Former Auburn defensive end-turned-Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist-turned-best-selling crime writer Ace Atkins. Over the years, Ace has become a good friend of the bookstore... heck, it's hard to find someone who doesn't like Ace, and that includes critics and readers.

A while back, when St. Martin's Minotaur let the rights to his first Nick Travers novel, Crossroad Blues (1998), go out of print, Ace and I saw this not only as a great opportunity to reprint it, but jazz it up a little, with new bonus material. Well, jazz may the wrong choice of words, since his early books are a result of Ace's passion for blues music, and in particular, those early Americans who pioneered the form, especially legend Robert Johnson. In Crossroad Blues -- sixty years after Johnson was murdered after a gig at a Greenwood, Mississippi juke joint -- a college professor following rumors of nine unknown Johnson recordings goes missing in the Delta. Fellow blues historian Travers is sent to find him. Clues point to everyone from an eccentric albino named Cracker to a 17-year-old hitman who believes he is the second coming of Elvis Presley.

Here's what Ace says about seeing Crossroad Blues back in print: "There is nothing like the thrill of that first novel. Not only in the writing of the story but when you learn it’s going to be out there on the shelf. I wrote Crossroad Blues just two years out of college. I had tried my hand at a couple different stories but nothing seemed to click until I heard the legends about Robert Johnson. As soon as I wrote the prologue set in 1938, I knew this was a story that had legs. Chandler wrote about being an older, more experienced writer revisiting his earlier work. And like him, there are plenty of things I’d do differently. But as the man said, you can never duplicate that white-hot intensity of banging out the keys. (Great memories of drinking Cuban coffee and smoking cigars in that old studio apartment.) This was a story I didn’t write for money or to fulfill a contract. I wrote Crossroad Blues for the best of reasons . . . I had an obsession to tell it. I could not be more thrilled to know Busted Flush will bringing the tale back out – now ten years old – this fall. The type set will be taken direct from my original manuscript and not the sloppy typeset that was published . . . hopefully a clearer picture of New Orleans and the Delta will emerge."

Look for Ace's seventh novel, Devil's Garden (Putnam), in April '09. This promises to be Ace's best historical crime book yet, with the story revolving around Fatty Arbuckle's murder trial and the young Pinkerton agent assigned to work for the defense... a detective by the name Samuel Dashiell Hammett. This -- and Ace's other acclaimed, in-print novels, Wicked City and White Shadow -- should only whet your appetite for the BFP Crossroad Blues reprint this fall.

Oh, and since I always love best-of lists (look for one from Reed Coleman later this week), I also asked Ace to contribute a list of the ten books that influenced him most as both a journalist and crime / historical novelist:

Casino Royale, by Ian Fleming
Red Harvest, by Dashiell Hammett
All the King’s Men, by Robert Penn Warren
Absalom, Absalom, by William Faulkner
Farewell My Lovely, by Raymond Chandler
In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote
Early Autumn, by Robert B. Parker
The Deep Blue Goodbye, by John D. MacDonald
Cannery Row, by John Steinbeck
Get Shorty, by Elmore Leonard

And there's more to come on Ace and Crossroad Blues over the next few months...

Monday, January 5, 2009

Introducing BFP's reprint class of 2009

I'd like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a very happy and prosperous New Year, and thanks so much for dropping by! 2009 is shaping up nicely for Busted Flush Press, with one original novel due this fall (Tower, by Ken Bruen and Reed Farrel Coleman) and several reprints. Yes, I'm very excited about Tower, but nothing brings me more pleasure than seeing some of my favorite authors & books (and those of the bookstore at which I work) resurrected for other crime fans to enjoy.

In February, I'll be reprinting the first in the series of Fiddler crime novels by A. E. Maxwell, Just Another Day in Paradise. I started working at Murder By The Book in 1989, and Maxwell was an early discovery of mine, having read the first five or so my first year there (if I'm remembering correctly). Fiddler is a failed violinist with no first name, á la Spenser & Parker (and is "Fiddler" even his name at all?), who helps out friends in need, Travis McGee-style, aided by his financial genius ex-wife Fiora and his computer-whiz buddy, Benny. In 2009, I am a proud fan of the works of John D. MacDonald, Don Winslow, James W. Hall, T. Jefferson Parker, and others, but it all started with A. E. Maxwell for me... these introspective thrillers with a strong-yet-sensitive tough-guy hero are as much fan today as when I first read them 20 years ago. I cannot recommend them more highly. And FYI: "A. E. Maxwell" is really the pseudonym of husband-and-wife writing duo Ann & Evan Maxwell; Ann is now best known as New York Times best-seller Elizabeth Lowell. Later this year BFP will also reprint the next three Fiddler novels: The Frog and the Scorpion, Gatsby's Vineyard, and Just Another Day in Paradise.

"The writing is lean and restrained, and Fiddler, growing from book to book, gives Travis McGee a real run for his money." -- Los Angeles Times

Following on the heels of Just Another Day in Paradise will be the second Emma Rhodes high-society mystery, Impolite Society, by Cynthia Smith. Introduced in Noblesse Oblige, Emma is essentially a private investigator -- or as she calls herself, a "Private Resolver" -- to Europe's rich and elite. These books are perfect for fans of other high-society novels, such as those by Marne Davis Kellogg, Kerry Greenwood, Jane Stanton Hitchcock, and Nancy Martin. Also to come from Cynthia Smith, the rest of the Emma Rhodes books: Misleading Ladies, Silver and Guilt, and Royals and Rogues.

"You'll enjoy every moment of international hobnobbing with this high society sleuth!" -- Nancy Martin, best-selling author of the Blackbird Sisters mysteries

And this fall, celebrating its tenth anniversary, Pulitzer Prize nominee Ace Atkins's debut Nick Travers novel, Crossroad Blues, will see the light of day again. Though it hasn't been out of print for very long, this BFP reprint edition will feature new material including an original Travers story! Check back at the blog in the next week for more on Ace Atkins, and the new edition of Crossroad Blues.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Megan Abbott speaks about IN A LONELY PLACE

Over at "Out of the Past: Investigating Film Noir," Shannon Clute and Richard L. Edwards welcome guest investigator Megan Abbott, the reigning Dark Dame of Noir. Megan's choice for this podcast is the 1950 Nicholas Ray film In a Lonely Place, starring Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame. It's a joy to listen to Drs. Abbott, Clue, and Edwards discuss one of the great film noir classics, and those of you addicted to Turner Classic Movies should definitely bookmark "Out of the Past." Also discussed at OOTP: Gilda, Force of Evil, Brick, Body Heat, and Thieves' Highway (with guest host Eddie Muller).

[Clute and Edwards both contributed essays to the "appreciations" appendix in the Megan Abbott-edited A Hell of a Woman -- Clute on Kathie Moffat (Jane Greer's character in 1947's Out of the Past); Edwards on Edgar Award winner Theresa Schwegel.]