Reed Farrel Coleman is the former executive vice president of Mystery Writers of America. He has published fourteen novels: two stand-alones and three series, including seven books in the Moe Prager series. Tower was co-authored with award-winning Irish writer Ken Bruen, and Gun Church was released as an exclusive audio download from Audible.com.
Reed is a three-time recipient of the Shamus Award for Best Detective Novel of the Year and is a two-time Edgar® Award nominee. He has also received the Macavity, Barry, and Anthony Awards. Reed was co-editor of the poetry journals Poetry Bone and The Lineup and the editor of the short story anthology Hard Boiled Brooklyn. His short fiction, essays, and poetry have appeared in The Long Island Quarterly, Wall Street Noir, Brooklyn Noir 3, The Darker Mask, These Guns For Hire, Crimespree Magazine, and several other publications.
Reed Farrel Coleman: A Thank You
The other night at the Edgar banquet, I sat and listened to Dennis Lehane’s acceptance speech when he won the Edgar® Award for Best Novel. The unscripted speech was very moving in an unexpected way. There was Dennis, standing at the podium, dumbfounded, gathering himself, turning the statuette to face him, and introducing himself to Poe. Great moment. During his brief remarks, Dennis thanked his publisher, his agent, his family, and all the people you would expect him to thank. Nothing out of the ordinary there, but then he added one last thank you and that’s what got to me. Dennis thanked the city of Boston. Yes, he acknowledged the recent tragedy. Yet, that wasn’t the point, not exactly. He was thanking Boston for helping to shape the person, good and bad, he is, and, by extention, the writer he is. I understood his sentiment completely because it is precisely how I feel about Brooklyn.
The other day, when I was contacted by a childhood friend whom I hadn’t heard from in forty-years, it dawned on me that I have lived away from Brooklyn (though not that far away) longer than I lived in Brooklyn. The thing is, I have never been able to escape Brooklyn. I have never wanted to. Brooklyn gave me everything I ever needed and, I suppose, a lot of stuff I could have done without. Or maybe not. As a writer and as a middle aged man, It’s impossible to separate what you need from what you don’t. One part of Brooklyn in particular, Coney Island, is so integral to me as a person and as a writer that I sometimes feel like a bird who, as a hatchling, imprinted on the parachute jump instead of his parents.
In no book have I felt this connection to my hometown like I did while writing Onion Street. As Onion Street is a prequel set in 1967 and Moe is just another aimless college student, I had to get into Moe’s head and the setting in a profoundly different way than I had before. Moe is thirty or so in Walking the Perfect Square, the first novel in the series. He’d been on the job as a NYPD cop for ten years. Basically he’d been there, done that, no matter where there was or what that had been. So the eyes through which he saw New York and his old Brooklyn neighborhood were more than a bit world weary and jaundiced. But the eyes of the twenty year old Moe were still untainted. In getting into the young Moe’s head, seeing the world through his inexperienced eyes had the effect of bringing me back in time. It got me back in touch with how I had once felt about Brooklyn, not as a grown man but as a kid. How it was a world of dangerous wonder to me.
I hope the readers get that when they read Onion Street. And if I’m ever lucky enough to win an Edgar, I think I’ll get up behind that podium and steal part of Dennis Lehane’s acceptance speech. Because, frankly, I don’t know where I’d be as a writer or as a person without Brooklyn.