Called a hard-boiled poet by NPR’s Maureen Corrigan, Reed Farrel Coleman has published fourteen novels. He is the three-time recipient of the Shamus Award for Best Detective Novel of the Year and a two-time Edgar Award nominee. He has also won the Macavity, Barry, and Anthony Awards. Reed is an adjunct professor of English at Hofstra University and he lives with his family on Long Island.
Twenty Years And Counting
Reed Farrel Coleman
With the recent releases of my thirteenth (Gun Church, Audible.com) and fourteenth (Hurt Machine, Tyrus Books), it dawned on me that my very first novel, Life Goes Sleeping, was published over twenty years ago. Many are the day I wonder where all that time has got to. So much has happened between the call I got from Permanent Press’s Marty Sheperd informing me they intended to publish LGS and now, that it is really hard to fathom. On the one hand, it seems to have taken forever to get from there to here—wherever that is, exactly. On the other, it’s all been such a blur. Two things, though, have been constant through it all: my family and my routine.
Well, about the family first. It hasn’t remained quite constant because my son Dylan was born in 1992, but since then … It’s so strange to look back and to realize how little I knew then and how little I know now. I wonder sometimes if I wasn’t so naïve about publishing if I would have let myself in for all the heartache. No, of course I would have. I was born to write and, for me, it has all been worth it. I mean, we all have heartache at even the lowliest jobs. Heartache and disappointment are part of the package in any career choice. It just hurts a little more when you push all the chips into the center of the table and invest everything you’ve got.
The things I’ve been thinking about lately aren’t necessarily my sacrifices, but the sacrifices my family has made and continues to make for me. Without them, I would have achieved nothing. Without them, anything I would have achieved would have meant nothing. It’s one thing to have a dream and to make sacrifices, but art is a weird dream. Inevitably, the people around you make as many sacrifices for your art as you do. I think of all the vacations we didn’t take, of the schools my kids voluntarily didn’t apply to, of all the clothing my wife wore for that extra year.
And I cannot emphasize enough how important routine is to a writer. Sure, when we’re inspired, writing is easy, but how many days of the year can one count on inspiration? Very few, my friends … very few. I learned that lesson when I took poetry writing in college. Until then, poetry was always a matter of the inspirational moment. Then I started getting assignment. POD: poetry on demand. Eventually, you learn to sink or swim. And you learn that routine is the way to swim. Sit your tush down in your chair at the same time every single day and you’d be amazed at the results. I’ve been doing it for twenty years and so it must work.
Synopses of new novels:
GUN CHURCH: Kip Weiler was once an 80s literary wunderkind. Now because of his own foibles and insecurities, he’s fallen on hard times. Twenty years after his last novel, he’s teaching creative writing at a rural community college. One day he saves his class from a potential bloodbath. For this he gets a second fifteen minutes of fame and, more importantly, the urge to write again. Little does he know that the book he is writing may be his undoing. He gets deeply involved with two of his students and a cult-like group obsessed with the intrinsic nature of handguns. It’s kind of like WONDER BOYS meets FIGHT CLUB with guns.
HURT MACHINE: It’s two weeks before his daughter’s wedding when Moe receives very grave news about his health. Then to add to the drama, his ex-wfie and former PI partner, Carmella Melendez, returns after a nine year absence to ask Moe for a desperate favor. It seems Carmella’s estranged sister has been murdered outside a Brooklyn pizzeria, but no one, not even the NYPD, seems interested in finding the killer. Why? That’s the question, isn’t it?