Monday, May 25, 2009


Excerpt from CHAPTER ONE

“PARDON ME, BUT what’s that you’re drinking?”

“White port and tonic,” I answered.

This wasn’t just an idle question. I could see she wanted to engage me in conversation. It was unusual to come across Americans or any tourists in the Algarve at this time of year, and my curiosity is always piqued by the unexpected, so I decided to oblige.

“It’s the daytime drink around here. Tasty but not too lethal. It was invented by the resident English who consider it perfectly proper to tipple in the afternoon but bad form to get bombed,” I said with a smile.

She looked like she needed a smile and a drink—both she and the man seated next to her, who I assumed was her husband. I had observed them earlier and noted that they hadn’t exchanged a word in the past half hour, which wasn’t all that unusual. Many older married couples, once their children left home, found they had lost their sole basis for conversation and companionship. But this couple’s eyes projected an anguish that went far beyond that of facing the bleak future of living with someone with whom you have no common interests. I tried to imagine what they were doing here in March. Vila do Mar, Portugal, was on tourist schedules in spring and summer, the months we regular residents steered clear of the area. The town was then jammed with Europeans who came to enjoy the incredibly perfect sunny climate, the wide white-sand beaches abutted by golden cliffs that formed enchanting grottoes, and the cheap prices. At this time of year, it’s unusual to sit in the square in front of Sir Barry’s bar and find anyone you don’t know.

Sir Barry was not really a sir. He was English, but the closest he ever came to a knight was the judge who sentenced him for running off with his clients’ escrow accounts. While Barry sat out his prescribed time in gaol, his dutiful wife, Iris, scouted alternate career possibilities for a disbarred solicitor and came up with this saloon in the center of what turned into the hottest resort town in the Algarve. Now Barry affected a dragoon mustache and a slightly contemptuous lordly mien, which brought him the status of a major town character and a very large bank account.

I HAD BEEN here in Vila do Mar for a week in my small jewel of a house overlooking the Atlantic. I came for some R & R after completing a particularly demanding case in Brussels. Not that all matters I handle don’t require full dedication in order to straighten out the usually convoluted complications besetting my client’s lives, but this one involved an added wrinkle that upped the intensity—my life was on the line. Escaping two murderous attempts may have sharpened my wits but it did get a bit wearing. I came here to chill out and rest my little gray cells, and there was no better place to do absolutely nothing than this glorious fishing village on the southern coast of Portugal. Because of its low cost of living, which seemed to get less low every year, plus the idyllic climate and aspect, people from all over the world made their permanent residences here, which furnished me with a marvelously varied pool of potential friends to choose from. I was waiting for one right now, but time had little meaning in Vila do Mar, so the fact that Graham was thirty minutes late didn’t bother me a bit. In London or New York (where I also maintained residences) I would have been foaming at the mouth by now or probably gone. Here in the land of what-can’t-wait-till-tomorrow-probably-wasn’t-worth-doing-anyway, I had lots of time to observe the couple at the next table.
They were in their fifties, dressed right out of the Land’s End catalog in chino slacks, cotton knit shirts (hers pink, his green), Reeboks, and beige cotton sweaters. They looked tanned and fit, well-to-do, and seriously miserable. This was not the vexation of a lousy golf score or unsatisfactory hotel accommodations—this was deep distress. These particular people being in this particular place at this particular time of year was out of sync, presenting just the kind of enigma that jangles my antennae.
They both expressed surprise at the existence of a white port wine, and I explained that not too much of it was shipped out of Portugal. Mixed with Schweppes and ice it made a deliciously refreshing drink created by the local Brits.
The English, with their years of experience in discovering areas that offer good living at bargain rates, had many years ago landed full force in the Algarve. Their pensions in pounds went a long way with the lowly escudo. And the presence of the longtime fascist dictator Salazar had kept the people poor and uneducated, which made for a steady supply of domestic help at prices that would make a West End matron green with envy. By the 1960s, the place was discovered by the Dutch, Scandinavians, Germans, and lastly, the Americans like me, though I came along later. But the real big growth of the area started when the Salazar bridge was built over the Tagus river, giving easy access to the south. This brought down the wealthy Portuguese of Lisbon and the north, and turned the Algarve coast of Portugal into the poorer man’s Riviera. I fell in love with Vila do Mar on a visit in 1987 and bought my oceanfront house in ten minutes from a rich alcoholic German who could no longer manage the long stone staircase down to the beach. He signed the papers with his left hand because his right arm, leg, and shoulder were still in a cast from his most recent misstep.
I gave the couple this little history of the Algarve to see if a diversion would distract from whatever it was that troubled them. They listened politely and smiled with their mouths, but the tragedy in their eyes remained.
I knew they would tell me about it in time. People always tell me things. I don’t know what it is exactly, but I seem to project a simpatica quality that makes people pour forth the most intimate details of their problems within minutes of meeting me. It usually starts as a passive exercise to merely unburden themselves as one might to a bartender or hairdresser. But I don’t deal in passivity—my deep interest in human behavior (an upscale euphemism for what’s known in Bronx neighborhoods as a yente) plus my 165 I.Q. send my brain into instant action to work out ways to resolve their sorry situations. If the problem piques my interest (my threshold of ennui is rather low) and the sufferer is willing and able to pay my fee (which is rather high) I will offer to resolve their problems. My terms are very simple: I accomplish the task within two weeks or I’m out of there and they pay nothing, but when I succeed, they pay me twenty thousand dollars or the equivalent amount in whatever hard currency they wish. You may notice I didn’t qualify it with “if” because success was always a foregone conclusion. My record was one hundred percent, which is the result of my intelligence and the fact that I only take on cases I know I can resolve (if that isn’t proof of smarts I don’t know what is).
I’m a P.R.—Private Resolver. Don’t bother looking it up in the Yellow Pages; the business category is mine alone. I’m the sole practitioner of a unique profession that I founded, or rather found me. I was on a business trip in Denmark for the New York law firm that recruited me right out of law school and for whom I worked eighty-four hours a week to earn the large salary that I had no time to spend. On the hydrofoil to Malmö, Sweden, I met a high born Englishwoman who passed the entire voyage telling me between sobs the sordid intimate details of a sticky situation in which she was embroiled involving enough money, hate, and passion to make a Judith Krantz novel. It took me exactly ten minutes to figure a way out for her, but long ago I learned the financial foolishness of giving clients quick results: (a) they don’t trust the validity of solutions arrived at without days of deliberation and research; and (b) if it looks too easy, they’re loathe to pay the big bucks. I offered to resolve the matter for her within two weeks and, being blessed with total self-confidence that some may regard as cocky smugness but I see simply as a realistic evaluation of my abilities, I demanded no upfront monies or expenses, just thirty-three thousand pounds payable only upon success. Two weeks later she sent me her check along with a glowing note of thanks and began recommending me to her friends. You can’t imagine the lust, cupidity, and stupidity rampant in the upper classes, and I soon realized I had a new profession that was far easier and more lucrative than lawyering and a helluva lot more fun. My terms of employment are perfect for wealthy folks who love a bargain and adore a gamble. Unlike the other “helping professions” like lawyers and shrinks, who keep the meter ticking and charge for time but not necessarily results, I don’t get a penny unless I perform. It’s an offer you can’t refuse, provided you have twenty thousand dollars to drop on the deal. Kinsey Milhone and any other fictional P.I.s battled injustice on the cheap, but I don’t consider having a wardrobe of sweats and jeans, living out of ten-year-old VWs, and subsisting on a diet of take-out tacos and drive-in burgers either romantic, heroic, or necessary. Like them, I, too, get my kicks out of thwarting villains and righting wrongs, but I don’t see why I have to live like an impoverished poet and dress like a bag lady while doing it. I developed a clientele that supports my very pleasant style of living, which includes a flat on the King’s Road in London, an apartment on New York’s Fifth Avenue, and my casita in Portugal, each equipped with closets filled with designer clothes. (If you could afford three homes, you shouldn’t have to schlep garments from house to house.)
I was expecting Graham any minute so I decided to speed things along a bit. I have always found a direct question the best way to elicit information.
“What brings you to Vila do Mar at this time of year?” I asked.

They looked at each other and apparently made a decision. She was the spokesperson.
“Our son died here last week. He drowned. They said it was suicide.”
“No way,” said the father firmly. “Peter would never kill himself. Besides, the boy could swim like a fish—been in and around the water all his life.” He shook his head emphatically. “No way.”
“We came to bring his body back home—and to find out what really happened,” said his wife. “We don’t mean to sound chauvinistic, but somehow we felt that the local police are not, well, sophisticated enough to do a thorough job of investigation.”
“That’s why we had the American Consul step in and arrange to have Peter’s body sent to Lisbon for analysis. That’s where they discovered the presence of cocaine.”
I remembered. It was quite a sensation in this little town. The body was found on the beach, his clothes folded neatly on the rocks, the classic suicide.
I told them I was familiar with the tragedy and expressed my sympathy. What I didn’t say was that I knew it was always difficult for survivors to accept the suicide of a loved one. The guilt was overwhelming. Why couldn’t he come to me for help? The sense of personal failure, unrealistic though it may be, could torture parents, as it was undoubtedly doing to these nice people.
“But what do you think you can accomplish here?” I asked. “The police considered it an open and shut case.”

“The police are wrong,” said the wife angrily.
“They do deal in evidence,” I said gently.
“Yes, but they were missing one very crucial piece of evidence,” she said.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“They didn’t know our son.”
I should just nod my head and keep my mouth shut. But as anyone who knows me will tell you, silence and inactivity are two states I never enter.
“As I recall, there was a suicide note. And they, or the Lisbon medical examiner, found he had taken a large quantity of cocaine just before entering the ocean.”
“No,” she said firmly. “They said they found cocaine in him. No one has proven he had taken it.”
The father reached into his pocket and took out a picture, which he handed to me. “This is our son, Peter, taken six months ago.”
I looked at the picture and felt a frisson of shock. Around the neck of this very happy, open-faced young man was a clerical collar.
“He was a minister?”
“Yes,” said his father. “One of the most popular young ministers in Westchester.”
My home county. “What town?” I asked.
“You know Westchester?” she asked. Having spent the past ten years in London and Portugal, my speech has become an amalgam of accents so that no one country seems to want to claim me.
“I grew up in Rye,” I said.
Their faces lit up. A neighbor—in this faraway strange place.

“We’re from Larchmont. Peter’s pastorate is—was—in Port Chester.”
Port Chester was a depressed area, one of the fringe towns that seem to surround affluent areas. If Peter was a minister in Port Chester, his congregation was predominantly poor, black, and Hispanic.
“If you look closely at the picture,” said the father, “it was an award ceremony for Peter’s drug-free clinic that achieved the finest help record for youngsters in the entire state. Peter hated drugs. He didn’t need them; life gave him all the high he needed. And he had seen what devastation drugs caused. If there was cocaine in his body, you can bet your life that someone else put it there.”
“Why would he take his own life?” she asked.
“He came to Portugal on vacation. He was happy. He used to tell us that he was one of the luckiest men alive because he was able to really help people and contribute to this world. He had a mission—he felt fulfilled. You have to understand, Peter was dedicated to those kids. He knew he was their lifeline. He never would have deserted them.”
People did strange things. And often had secret demons that could be invisible to those close to them, quiet agonies that drove them into deeds of desperation.
I looked at the sensitive face in the picture.
“Was he gay?” I asked.
“No,” said his father. “Not that it would matter in our family. Our son Roger is gay and none of us has ever had a problem with it.”
I had no more doubting questions. The police of Vila do Mar were hardly Scotland Yard, and their high rate of solved crimes came from the Claude Rains technique in Casablanca, which was to “round up the usual suspects.” It was a resort town, and tragedy mixed poorly with suntan lotion, so the tendency was to look no further than the obvious and get the town fathers and hostelers off their backs by resolving unpleasantnesses rapidly.
“What are you planning to do here?” I asked. “By the way, my name is Emma Rhodes.”
“We’re Anne and Martin Belling,” she said. “And actually, we don’t have a clue what to do.”
Martin took out some letters. “He wrote us about the people he met here. I thought we might start with some of them.”

“But what will that do for us, Martin?” his wife asked. “We’re strangers to them and you know how people hate to get involved. And what would we ask them? And how? We don’t speak Portuguese.”
But I do. Finding out what really happened to Peter Belling should be fairly simple for me since I know everybody in town—the people who are nominally in charge as well as the ones who really run the place.
“Perhaps I can help you,” I said. “Actually, it’s what I do for a living.”

Cynthia Smith's second Emma Rhodes high-society mystery, Impolite Society (trade paperback; $13; 978-0-9792709-7-0) will be available in a week, once Consortium takes over distribution... available for the first time in twelve years! Find copies at your favorite independent, chain, or online bookseller. See the list at the right for some of the indies that support & stock BFP titles.

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

“I have been charmed right out of my high-heeled sandals by Cynthia Smith’s Impolite Society . . . a refreshing delight.”—The Washington Times

“Cool, sardonic, and unflappable Emma Rhodes sparkles diamond bright in Cynthia Smith’s clever, twisty tales. This highly original series has panache. A winning hand from Busted Flush Press.”—Carolyn Hart, best-selling author of the “Death on Demand” and Henrie O mysteries

“Wonderful! By Dominick Dunne out of Flora Poste, with a healthy mixture of Jessica Fletcher, the effervescent Miss Rhodes resolves sticky situations without ever getting her Manolos muddy. Encore!”—Kerry Greenwood, author of the Phryne Fisher novels

“Kiss Miss Marple and Jessica Fletcher good-bye . . . here’s a woman sleuth who provides us with vicarious glamour, brains, and beauty on an international scale.”—Judith Crist, film critic

“Imagine a character with the panache of James Bond, the business purpose and personal code of Travis McGee, and the physical prowess (and appetites?) of Mike Hammer. Then put them into the female form of Emma Rhodes.”—Drood Review of Mystery

Monday, May 18, 2009

Finding copies of Reed's books...

It may be a little difficult to find copies of the first three Moe Prager books by Reed Farrel Coleman -- especially the series debut, Walking the Perfect Square -- as most dealers have sold out and are awaiting additional stock. Maureen Corrigan's amazing NPR review of Reed's books came at a weird time since June 1st marks the beginning of Busted Flush Press's distribution by Consortium... books are presently in transit from BFP to Consortium, and then they'll be heading out to stores, wholesalers, online retailers, etc., in about 2 weeks. (Bookstores: Please contact your Consortium sales rep to place an order!) There's also a second printing in the works. Please be patient because, as Ms. Corrigan put it, "It may take you a little longer to nab them, but you'll appreciate them all the more for that."

In the meantime, I still have a limited number copies of all three here at the BFP office... simply go to and purchase using PayPal. While you're there, check out the other wonderful offerings from Busted Flush... there's a reason I acquired all of these authors & titles: I love each and every one of them! If the Moe Prager books look good to you, also peruse the Fiddler & Fiora thrillers by A. E. Maxwell & the Stewart Hoag mysteries of Edgar Award winner David Handler. Then there's Vicki Hendricks's Miami Purity, which Reed himself says has a "deceptively simple and straightforward narrative style [that] belies the complexity and depth of emotion experienced by her protagonist, Sherise Parlay, and, vicariously, by the reader. In a masterful display of craft, Hendricks lets Sherise show us that knowing oneself and being in touch with one's feelings can be as much curse as blessing."
And, of course, you shouldn't miss Ken Bruen's early fiction in A Fifth of Bruen... with this you can get a sampling of the multiple-award-winning crime writer who has co-written a novel with his friend Reed Farrel Coleman, entitled Tower, which comes out in September. Oh yeah, and Bruen's London Boulevard (published by St. Martin's Minotaur) just happens to be filming right now, with Colin Farrell & Keira Knightley starring... so you mighta heard of him.

And if you have no idea what I'm talking about in regards to Maureen Corrigan's praise of Reed's Moe Prager novels, well, don't dally & check it out at NPR's website.

Want a taste of Walking the Perfect Square? Here's a free excerpt!

Now, later this week we'll take a breather from what appears to be Reed Farrel Coleman 24/7, as we talk about the just-released Impolite Society, by Cynthia Smith, and the coming-soon The Frog and the Scorpion, by A. E. Maxwell.... and then after that, an interview with Austin bookseller Scott Montgomery (at BookPeople), a recap of how things went at my first Consortium sales conference last week, and much more... please stick around!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Reed Farrel Coleman on NPR's "Fresh Air"!

Listen to NPR's "Fresh Air" today for a piece by Maureen Corrigan on Reed Farrel Coleman and his Moe Prager mysteries!

Here's an excerpt from the article:

I was all set to do a big mystery round-up for this week; one of those "Hey, let's get a jump on summer!" cavalcades of crime and suspense novels. But as any student of detective fiction knows, the minute you think you've hatched a good plan, the universe throws a wrench into the works.

Every time I started to write my paen to the predictable excellence of new crime novels by George Pelecanos and Michael Connelly, a little guy kept muscling into my consciousness, complaining about how those bestseller boys always steal the spotlight. This wise guy writer's name is Reed Farrel Coleman and he made a good case for himself.

Admittedly, I haven't been able to stop thinking about Coleman's Moe Prager mystery series ever since one of God's own divine messengers — that is, an independent bookseller — recommended it to me last year. If life were fair, Coleman would be as celebrated as Pelecanos and Connelly. Then again, if life were fair, a hard-boiled poet like Coleman would have nothing to write about.

Read the entire piece here, and listen to it on your local NPR station!

BFP publishes the first three Moe Prager books:

#1. Walking the Perfect Square (978-0-9792709-5-6, paperback, $13)
#2. Redemption Street (978-0-9792709-0-1, paperback, $13)
#3. The James Deans (978-0-9792709-8-7, paperback, $14)

Visit Reed online here.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Heading for New York!

This weekend I meet with one of the most important cogs in the new Busted Flush Press machinery: the wonderful Consortium Book Sales & Distribution sales reps! I happen to be very excited about this part, talking up BFP titles to those men & women who will be selling my books to bookstores, libraries, wholesalers, etc... They won't be able to shut me up! And in a little more than 3 weeks, Consortium will be distributing BFP... woo-hoo!

A quick word on a mystery festival coming up next week... The BookHampton Mystery Festival, May 15-17, held at the various store locations in Amagansett, East Hampton, Southampton, and Sag Harbor. Authors attending include Reed Farrel Coleman (The James Deans), Megan Abbott (A Hell of a Woman), Lee Child, Alafair Burke, Susan Issacs, Andrew Gross, and many more. And here's the magic word: All the events are free! The panel I'd love to hear: "High Heeled 'Shoes: When Women are Dicks," with Linda Fairstein, Lorenzo Carcaterra, Reed Farrel Coelman, and Megan Abbott. Find out more here.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Reed explains how TOWER came to be...

"Building Tower", by Reed Farrel Coleman

It was Edgar Award week, the night of the Nevermore Awards held at Partners and Crime bookstore in Greenwich Village. I was very late arriving, having been caught in endless traffic on the Long Island Expressway. Traffic on the LIE, shocking, I know, but it turned out to be the luckiest traffic jam I’ve ever been caught in. When I finally found a spot and made my way to the store, the ceremonies seemed to be in full swing and I didn’t want to interrupt. So, I camped on the sidewalk outside and waited to see if anyone I knew would come out.

First person out of Partners was Anthony Bourdain—yes, that Anthony Bourdain—looking pissed off and desperate for a cigarette. We chatted about the ceremonies. And no, I didn’t ask him if I could send him my recipes. Next out was some happy-faced guy in a Florida State Seminole golf shirt. Being the obnoxious twit I am, I started doing the Tomahawk chop, imitating the football team’s fans. But instead of getting pissed off, he was just glad someone in New York City knew enough about college football to bust his chops about it.

Jim Born,” he said, shaking my hand.

Next out were Lise McClendon, Lauren Henderson—both of whom I knew—a thirty-ish guy with a square jaw and long dark hair (Jason Starr) and this other skinny gentleman with gray hair and an Irish accent (Ken Bruen). Lauren suggested we go have a drink at a friend’s bar near Washington Square Park. Jim, Lise, Lauren and I headed over to the bar. Jason and Ken said they’d catch up later. Yeah, right, I thought, and the check was in the mail too, but show up they did. Just so happened there was an empty seat next to me at the table where Mr. Bruen deposited himself. (At left: Jim, Reed, Ken, and Jason that evening.) Only later did I discover that Ken and Jason had the following conversation:

Jason: There they are.

Ken: I’m not sitting next to that bald-headed one.

Jason: Why not?

Ken: Strikes me as a mean-spirited bastard.

That night changed both my life and my career and was where the saga of Tower has its roots.

Ken and I became close friends and fans of each others writing. I think Ken—the fastest reader I know—read everything I’d ever published in about fifteen minutes. I went through The White Trilogy and The Guards in, as Ken might say, jig time. Over the next two years we shared our books before publication. It got so that I felt Jack Taylor was as real to me as Ken and so it was for Ken and Moe Prager. We often joked that Moe and Jack were the same character only inside-out and we fantasized about writing a book together that included both characters. With Ken’s blessing, I wrote a short story—“Requiem for Jack”—that appeared in an early issue of Crimespree Magazine and which also appears at the end of the new edition of The James Deans. A few years later, Ken again gave me permission to use Jack in a story for the Damn Near Dead anthology. The story, “Requiem for Moe”—also available at the end of the new edition of The James Deans—was well-received and some people thought my ability to mimic Ken’s writing of Jack uncanny. Of course, it’s much easier to do when you’re writing ten pages and not three hundred.

During this period, Ken embarked on a very successful collaboration with Jason Starr. Their first effort together, Bust, was published by Hard Case Crime. I was honored and delighted that Ken and Jason dedicated Bust, in part, to me. I have been asked if I resented their collaboration. The opposite is true. First, it encouraged me that Ken would actually collaborate on a full-length novel. Something I hoped he would, but didn’t think his agent, publishers or schedule would allow. Second, Bust was not something I could have pulled off. In spite of its humor, Bust’s pedigree is Noir, and much closer in spirit to Jason’s work and Ken’s Brant books. Third, Jason and Ken produced Bust (and its sequels) in these long, mad sessions together when Ken was in New York. I admire people who can work like that because I can’t. While I don’t consider myself meticulous, I do tend to edit, edit, edit as I write and can’t move forward until I’ve got the previous section down cold.

After Bust’s release, Ken told me he and an acquaintance had been kicking around an idea for a book. It was to be called Tower, the story of two friends who’d grown up together in hard times and survived all that life could throw at them. The concept was fascinating because Tower was to be told by both of the protagonists through first person narration. Both narratives would cover exactly the same time period with overlapping sections, but each protagonist’s tale would be distinct. I thought it was a great idea and a hell of a challenge, but I was simply giving him my opinion and didn’t think Ken was inviting me to be part of the project. Then in the winter of 2005, Ken sent me the first eighty pages of what would eventually become the novel you’re about to read. In fact, Ken was so confident I would do the book and we could make it work, that he had a mock cover made with both of our names on it. When I asked him for further guidance, Ken said, “Go for it!” So I did.

Easier said than done. Because the book is divided up into Nick’s narrative to be followed by Todd’s narrative, I had to learn Nick’s narrative like a spy memorizing the details of another man’s life, a man he was going to impersonate. Then I had to write Todd’s part so as to use the same timeline and incidents established in the first part of the book. I had to bring Todd together with Nick where and when Ken had had them come together. I had to follow the plot and themes Ken had established in Nick’s narrative. Yet, I had to write a life for Todd—the first character I’d ever written at any length who was not my own invention—that made him believable, three-dimensional, sympathetic, and worthwhile. The biggest challenge was to do this in a way that would allow the reader to accept the relationship between the two men and the evolution of that relationship.

Once I decided how I would attack these problems and challenges, I had to face yet a second set of hurdles. How could I write Todd’s voice so as to make it distinct from Nick’s, but not have it be so jarring as to make his narrative seem “glued onto” Nick’s? I decided not to directly parody or mimic Ken’s meter and style. That would have been a disaster. Instead I took a scalpel to my own style. I kept sentences short, severely limited descriptions, excised pronouns where I could. I edited out every spare word. As I said to Ken many times, it was more like writing with the names of words than words themselves. As an old philosophy student, I knew he’d get it. For consistency, I kept to Ken’s format of beginning important sections of the book with epigraphs, but chose to take mine in a slightly more poetic bent.

I was done with my section in about three or four months. It was the most difficult thing I have ever done as a writer, but in many ways the most satisfying. One thing about Ken, he doesn’t keep you waiting. When I sent it off to him, he wrote back the next day. He was delighted and frankly, I think, a bit surprised at how well the two pieces fit together. Still we weren’t nearly finished. The readers we showed it to said it felt incomplete, that although the narratives fit together, they needed to be framed, needed to be given more context. After consulting with Ken on a prologue, we tried several different approaches. None of which seemed to work at all. It took nearly as long to hit on the right prologue as it had to produce the bulk of the novel. Eventually, for reasons of balance and symmetry, we both came to see the need for an epilogue. Again, the notion of one was easier to come up with than the epilogue itself. In doing so, we introduce yet a third narrative. Tower, like a lot of modern construction, was built in modular units.

I have done a lot of writing here about my end of the collaboration, but if Tower is judged a success, it will be largely due to Ken. As authors, we often pooh-pooh ideas as being the easiest part of the deal. And we’re usually right. Not here. Not with this book. Because in this particular case the idea suggested form and form in Tower was destiny. Nick’s narrative, as written by Ken, seems deceptively simple and straightforward. It is anything but. It is the solid base, the skeleton on which I could build Todd’s narrative. Ken was so sage in his choices because he left room for me to do my work. A less generous, more insecure writer would have loaded up Nick’s narrative so that the second half of the book would have been constrained. Instead of letting the book breathe and crescendo, it would have withered. Ken was like the genius actor who recognized early on that it isn’t always the sexy role that’s the most meaningful.

Still, there was more work to be done. Ken and I let the book sit for a few years, and, I think, wisely so. But last year when Ken suggested we put Tower on the market, I don’t think either of us had an appetite for the usual back and forth between ourselves, our agents, and potential suitors. One of the reasons we shelved the project for a time was that people who had seen it and liked it wanted to change it. It had been such a difficult process to begin with that neither of us, given all the other things we were working on, was really willing to devote many more months to the project. Enter Busted Flush Press.

A few years ago, David Thompson at Murder By The Book in Houston, started up Busted Flush Press, a small imprint that would feature new editions of books he felt had been under appreciated, undersold, and/or misunderstood during their initial runs; books like Vicki Hendricks’s Miami Purity, for instance. He also wanted to do short story anthologies, but ones with untraditional or unusual themes. His first two, Damn Near Dead and A Hell of a Woman, were true to his intent. Damn Near Dead featured crime fiction stories about characters who were aging and, well, damn near dead. A Hell of a Woman featured stories with female protagonists and brief appreciations of B-movie and Noir actors and characters who had helped inspire the stories. Busted Flush also published a collection of Ken’s books, A Fifth of Bruen, that were not readily available in the United States. Last year, BFP began publishing new editions of my first three Moe Prager novels. Ken and I went to David and made him the proverbial offer he could not refuse. Tower will be the first full-length original novel published by Busted Flush Press.

David asked Scottish author-editor-agent Allan Guthrie to edit the book. He was an excellent choice. Not only do the three of us share an abiding respect for each others work, but we know one another. In about a month, Allan sent along his first set of changes. After two months we were done. The tweaking, however, is never quite over. As any writer will tell you, even after the book appears in stores, there will be things Ken, Allan, and I will think we missed.

I hope this little summary of the genesis of Tower will help answer some of your questions about the book. Fiction writers are generally lone wolves and the thought of collaboration an anathema. Even if a writer can conceive of collaborating on a novel, the logistics, the creation of a new process and routine, are enough to induce hives. Collaboration isn’t for the faint of heart, but when it works, it is an amazing thing to be a part of. I can only hope that people who pick up Tower find the reading of it nearly as satisfying as the writing of it.

Reed Farrel Coleman / January 2009 / Lake Grove, New York


Tower (by Ken Bruen & Reed Farrel Coleman; paperback; 978-1-935715-07-7; $15) will be published by Busted Flush Press in September. Watch this blog over the next few months for interviews with the contributors (interviewed by Edgar Award nominee Craig McDonald), Tower excerpts, and more.

Want a BFP catalog? Just send us an e-mail with your mailing address. We also have bibliography checklist bookmarks for Megan Abbott, Ace Atkins, Ken Bruen, Reed Farrel Coleman, A. E. Maxwell, and Cynthia Smith. We'll be happy to send you some!