By Dan Levy
Reed Farrel Coleman didn’t want to write–he had to write. “When you grow up in a household of people who scream, eventually nobody hears anything. As a kid, I searched for a voice to be heard.” Through the inspiration and encouragement of Mr. Isaacs, his seventh grade teacher, Coleman found it in poetry. And that sustained him until fate, or more accurately the scheduler of night classes at Brooklyn College, intervened.
“I had a very good job working as a freight forwarder. Basically, I was a travel agent for inanimate objects,” Coleman explained. “Poetry had taken me about as far as I was going to go. So, I decided to take a night class. There was one class that fit my schedule–American Detective Fiction.”
That was fourteen novels ago. In October 2010, the decorated author and former executive vice president of the Mystery Writers of America, launches his fifteenth novel, Innocent Monster, which is the sixth in his Moe Prager series.
Innocent Monster takes readers seven years beyond the brutal murder that tore Moe Prager’s family apart. Moe brushes the dust off his PI license when his estranged daughter Sarah comes to him with a request he cannot refuse: Sashi Bluntstone, an 11-year-old art prodigy and daughter of Sarah’s dearest childhood friend, has been abducted. The cops have gotten nowhere and the parents have gotten desperate. Moe stumbles around the fringes of the New York art scene and discovers that Sashi is both revered as a cash cow and reviled as a fraud and a joke. Suspects abound beyond the usual predators and pedophiles, for those closest to Sashi in life have the most to gain from her death. Cruel ironies lurk around every corner, beneath every painting, and behind every door.
“Moe is such a good vehicle (for philosophical exploration). That’s what’s engaged me about him,” Coleman said, noting why his protagonist is a great series character to write. Coleman added that unlike many authors, Moe Prager is not a complete autobiographical sketch. “He always just sees himself as a poor schmuck from Brooklyn. He’ll always see himself as a cop, though he only worked ten years and only in uniform.” As a result, Innocent Monster is a novel that is set in the upper echelons of high society but ultimately plays out at the street level.
In Innocent Monster, readers will find, as they have in his other novels, a poetic influence on the page and in the story structure. “At first, I didn’t recognize that it was there,” Coleman explained. “People, and even critics who didn’t like my books, noted the rhythmic language.” The novel itself sprung from its simple two-word title.
While many authors are great at hooking readers with murders, dead bodies, or ticking time bombs; Coleman’s hook of choice is poignancy. “One of things I love about Lee Child’s writing is that his books all start with different situations, but they all grab you by the collar. The first page of Innocent Monster is a discussion of post-9/11 New York and how Moe compares his state of being to (New York’s).”
In fact, Coleman fans will find that poignancy abounds in the seventh of the Moe Prager series, Hurt Machine. “Moe has to deal with the toughest thing he’s ever had to face–his own mortality.”
Reed Coleman has published under his own name, under his pen name Tony Spinosa, and in partnership 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. Learn more about him atwww.reedcoleman.com.