Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Reed Farrel Coleman

Called a hard-boiled poet by NPR's Maureen Corrigan, Reed Farrel Coleman is the former executive vice president of Mystery Writers of America. He has published twelve novels—two under his pen name Tony Spinosa—in three series, and one stand-alone with award-winning Irish author Ken Bruen. His books have been translated into seven languages.

Coleman is a three-time winner of the Shamus Award for Best Detective Novel of the Year. He has also received the Barry and Anthony Awards, and has been twice nominated for the Edgar® Award. Innocent Monster is his latest Moe Prager novel.

From a 2010 Q & A with Coleman at Jen's Book Thoughts:

Q. Reed, you started out writing poetry, having studied it in college. What drew you to poetry to begin with?

Reed: Actually, I started writing poetry when I was 12 or 13. I had a great seventh grade English teacher named Mr. Isaacs who focused on poetry. He used song lyrics and other stuff we could relate to and I got the bug. Also, I grew up in a family that communicated by shouting. We even expressed love that way. Eventually all the shouting made it impossible to be heard. Poetry gave me a voice that could be heard above the noise. When I saw how powerful and economic the vocabulary of poetry could be, I got really into how poets used the instrument of language and poetics to express themselves. Then in college I had some formal training with David Lehman. He was a great teacher and really freed me to think of myself as a writer. He also emphasized that writing and playing with words should be fun. I’ve published poetry on and off for years and was recently asked to join the editorial staff of The Lineup, a poetry journal that features poems on crime. It’s great to be writing and editing poetry again. One of the coolest things ever was getting to go to one of David Lehman’s readings and giving him a set of my novels. Oddly enough, he too has been nominated for an Edgar.

Q. Unlike some other writers, you didn’t grow up reading and loving crime fiction. You kind of discovered it by chance. Can you talk about that a little?

Reed: Sure. To me, crime fiction was the cheesy paperback on my dad’s nightstand. I was pretty snobby about what I read—a poet, don’t ya know—and never paid the genre much mind. I did like film noir, but the movies didn’t much impact my reading. Then when I was working in the cargo area at Kennedy Airport—think the real Goodfellas—I had to commute to Manhattan once a week and to kill time I decided to take a night class back at Brooklyn College. The only class that fit my schedule was a class on American Detective Fiction. From the first day in class I was totally and utterly smitten. We read The Continental Op; Farewell, My Lovely; Red Harvest; The Maltese Falcon; The Glass Key; The Long Goodbye. It completely changed my world. For the first time I saw how I might apply the lessons I learned in poetry to prose writing. After about a month in that class I knew that this was what I wanted to do with my life. I guess it’s a good thing it wasn’t a class on Poetry of the French Renaissance.

Q. And how did you transition from writing poetry to writing prose? Were there elements that you found especially challenging because of your training in poetry? Or was it just more of a natural flow from one to the other?

Reed: It took me...[read on]
Visit Reed Farrel Coleman's website.

The Page 69 Test: Redemption Street.

The Page 69 Test: Empty Ever After.

My Book, the Movie: The Moe Prager Mystery Series.

The Page 69 Test: Innocent Monster.

Writers Read: Reed Farrel Coleman.

--Marshal Zeringue