Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Reed Farrel Coleman


A nor’easter blows into Paradise, bringing unexpected tragedy with it. In an abandoned building collapsed by the storm, police discover the body of a murdered man wrapped in a blue tarp. Only feet from him they also discover the skeletal remains of two teenage girls who had gone missing from a 4th of July celebration twenty-five years earlier, many years before Jesse Stone came to town. Adding to the trauma and mystery is the fact that these girls were childhood friends of Jesse’s right hand, Molly Crane. Things get even more complicated when the mother of one of the dead girls returns to claim her daughter’s body and is promptly murdered. Jesse must lift the veil off the past to see how the murders are connected and to bring justice to the victims.

               When I took this gig, I knew my life was bound to change in ways I couldn’t imagine. Of course it changed in ways that were easy to imagine as well. After almost a decade and a half of publishing novels, my public profile was raised more in twenty-four hours—the day following the announcement that I was taking over the Jesse Stone series—than in the previous twenty-four years. It was also nice to be able to pay some bills instead of watching my wife be the greatest financial juggler the world had ever seen. What’s that country song about mothers not letting their sons grow up to be cowboys? Well, I have similar advice about letting sons and daughters grow up to be writers. The pay generally stinks. The hours suck. It’s frequently lonely, frustrating, and torturous. Otherwise it’s grand. Oh, and it’s the only thing I ever wanted to do or was any good at.

               But I want to talk a little bit about the unexpected consequences of taking over one of the great series in crime fiction. One is that the fans of the series, whether they came to it originally through the novels or the TV movies have, for the most part, been more than kind and understanding. Largely, they have been supportive and keen on my attempts to keep the series fresh. I have maintained the form of the novels—third person omniscient, short chapters, snappy dialogue—but I have never tried to imitate either Bob Parker’s writing or Michael Brandman’s. Michael is the gentleman who wrote the three Jesse Stone novels immediately following Bob’s passing.

               And it’s Michael Brandman I want to talk about next. I replaced him under circumstances I am unfamiliar with and with which I wish to remain unfamiliar. Yet Michael has been nothing but gracious and kind to me. He has written to me wishing me luck and success. He has discussed with me the shooting of the Jesse Stone movies. We’ve talked about having lunch together the next time I’m in LA. Michael is still heavily involved in the Jesse Stone movies that will hopefully, for all of our sakes, continue to be produced. There seems no end to their popularity. And no, for everyone who asks, I’ve never met Tom Selleck.

               I’d also like to talk about two of Bob Parker’s friends, Mel Farman and Jim Kennedy. When you pick up your copy of Robert B. Parker’s The Devil Wins, you’ll notice the book is dedicated to these two gentlemen. And gentlemen they are. Mel Farman was Bob Parker’s oldest friend. They had dined together once a week for something like fifty years, the last twenty at Legal Seafood in Harvard Square. Bob and Mel had been in the advertising business together many many years ago. When I got the gig, Mel wrote to me, introduced himself, and invited me to dinner at Legal Seafood the next time I was in Boston. I took him up on the offer. Amazing. Amazing. He had me sit in Bob Parker’s seat that has a plaque next to it at the bar. Mel and I hit it off as if we were old pals.

               Jim and Bob don’t go as far back as Mel and Bob, but he is definitely part of the inner circle. He too wrote to me, introduced himself, and welcomed me. And as sweet as Mel’s offer was to take me to dinner, Jim had an even more unique way have dinner with me. Last year I appeared at the Pewaukee Library in Waukesha County, Wisconsin. A fund raising dinner was held as part of the event and guess who bought a ticket and showed up … Jim Kennedy. Hey, the guy lives in California! I mean, Pewaukee is beautiful when it’s not winter, but come on. He was great.           

                When I took this gig, there were a lot of potential challenges, not the least of which was worrying about how I would be received by the fans of the series and by Bob Parker’s friends. Well, so far so good. I could not have asked for a better reception.

Mel Farman, Jim Kennedy, and Ace Atkins who now writes the Robert B. Parker Spenser novels

Reed Farrel Coleman is the New York Times Bestselling author of Robert B. Parker's Jesse Stone series. He has also been signed by Putnam to start a new series featuring retired Suffolk County cop, Gus Murphy. The first novel in the series, WHERE IT HURTS, will be released in January 2016. Reed is a three-time Shamus Award winner for Best PI Novel of the Year and a three-time Edgar Award nominee in three different categories. He has also won the Audie, Barry, Macavity, and Anthony Awards. He is a former Executive Vice President of Mystery Writers of America and a founding member of MWA University. Brooklyn born and raised, he now lives with his wife on Long Island.

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