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Private investigator August Riordan returns to San Francisco to avenge the death of his friend and one-time partner, Chris Duckworth. Duckworth had taken over Riordan’s old business, his old office, and even his old apartment, and Riordan suspects Duckworth’s death is linked to the missing person case he was working when he died.

An alluring young woman named Angelina hired Duckworth to look for her half-sister, but what Riordan finds instead is a murderous polyamorous family intent on claiming a previously unknown manuscript from dead Beat writer Jack Kerouac.

Following clues from Duckworth and a trail of mutilated bodies left by the family, Riordan soon realizes that avenging his partner will first involve recovering the manuscript—and then saving Angelina and himself from kidnap, torture, and death. As the bodies pile up, Riordan must work with old allies and enemies to untangle Duckworth’s last case before time runs out.

The Big Thrill tracked down multiple award-nominated author Mark Coggins for a quick Q&A about his latest mystery, THE DEAD BEAT SCROLL:

What was the biggest challenge this book presented? What about the biggest opportunity?

The biggest challenge was having to produce a sample of ersatz Kerouac prose for the newly discovered manuscript. I read a lot of his work—particularly later work—and tried to get in sync with the rhythm and spontaneous quality of his style.

The biggest opportunity is related to the challenge: the opportunity to steep myself in the world of Beat Generation writers, their history in San Francisco, and the themes of their writing.

Which took shape first: plot, character, or setting?

The idea for the plot—particularly the MacGuffin that drives the plot—came first. I used to live near the house in San Francisco where Kerouac stayed for several months while he revised his magnum opus On the Road, and the idea of him secreting the manuscript for another (unknown) work somewhere in the dwelling for future generations to discover intrigued me.

Was there anything new you discovered, or that surprised you, as you wrote this book?

I discovered many things I didn’t know about the Beat writers. Here’s one in keeping with one of the other themes of the book—gender and sexual identity: Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey interviewed a number of Beat writers for his six-year study, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male.


Mark Coggins’s work has been nominated for the Shamus and Barry crime fiction awards and selected for best-of-the-year lists compiled by the San Francisco Chronicle, the Detroit Free Press, and, among others. His novels Runoff and The Big Wake-Up won a Next Generation Indie Book Award and the Independent Publisher Book Award respectively, and his The Immortal Game has been optioned for a film.

To learn more about the author and his work, please visit his website.