Welcome and Happy Holidays. A couple of days ago, Noir Journal went past 30,000 hits since Noir Journal #1 in October 2009. Thanks to so many people--too many to mention (just read through the 48 posts to see who they are) but a big thank you to Noir Journal's first two friends: the great crime novelists Allan Guthrie and Sam Millar.
Now, let's begin . . .
To mark the book's publication date of Dec. 18, 2011, Coleman has provided Noir Journal with an exclusive guest post.
Thanks to Reed and to Leyane Jerejian at FSB Associates for arranging everything, sending the review copy, and for giving us permission to reprint Coleman's article "Four that Got Me Here," at the end of this post--about the four books that were his most powerful influences as a crime fiction writer.
Now to the Coleman guest post, in which he provides some insight into his own writing process and into the future of his P.I. Moe Praeger.
Finding the Book
By Reed Farrel Coleman,
Author of Hurt Machine
I've never been an outliner and hope never to be one, but until just recently I didn't understand why I found the process so off-putting. I have said that writing an outline is like writing the book once, so why would I want to write it again with all the surprise taken out of it? I guess that's part of it. I have also said that once I've done an outline, I feel compelled to write to what I've already put down on paper. That's part of it too. I've said that the joy and pleasure I get from writing is in the not knowing, in listening to my characters and following their leads. Surely, outlining puts a crimp in that notion. Where is the adventure in having the writing equivalent of a GPS?
So, back to this revelation. I've decided that my Moe Prager series is coming to an end. Let's face it, Moe is in his mid-sixties and recovering from cancer. While I don't think that necessarily disqualifies him from being a PI, I do feel the series has nearly run its course. There will be two more novels in the series after Hurt Machine (Tyrus Books, December 2011): one a prequel, Onion Street, featuring Moe as a college student involved in an incident that leads to his becoming a cop, and an as-yet-to-be titled novel about Moe's final case.
The thing is, I was really struggling with Onion Street. I knew the story. I knew the crime. I knew the players, the setting . . . Hell, I even had the title! The first chapter fairly appeared on my computer screen as if by magic. I knew more about this book before I started than almost any other project I've ever tackled. Apparently, I knew a little too much about it. I wrote and wrote and wrote and for all the words I put down, they amounted to very little. I couldn't find my way into the book. I've been at this long enough -- twenty years and fourteen published novels -- to spot the problem. But spotting the problem is just half the battle.
It was only after a long discussion with my friend and colleague Peter Spiegelman that I understood what was going on. I knew nearly everything about Onion Street except the two most important things. I had discovered neither the proper tone for the book nor its emotional core. Like chickens and eggs, you can't have one without the other. And for me at least, I couldn't write very well without them both. I had, without realizing it, outlined Onion Street in my head. Knowing the series was coming to its end had changed my usual process because it altered the way I thought about and conceived of future books. I had fallen into my own trap. By pronouncing there would be only two more books in the series, I was now forced to write to a particular outcome, always a taboo for me.
Understanding that has let me move beyond it and now Onion Street is moving along nicely. No one enjoys struggle and a lot of what writing is about is struggle. I never fail to learn something from my struggles. Here I learned that it's okay to know things about the book you're about to write as long as they're the right things. More importantly, I learned that the real danger in outlining is for me is that it hinders the discovery of the most essential ingredients in my writing process.
© 2011 Reed Farrel Coleman, author of Hurt Machine
Reed Farrel Coleman, author of Hurt Machine, is the former executive vice president of Mystery Writers of America. He has published twelve novels -- two under his pen name Tony Spinsosa -- in three series, and one stand-alone with award-winning Irish author Ken Bruen. His books have been translated into seven languages.
Reed is a three-time winner of the Shamus Award for Best Detective Novel of the Year. He has also received the Macavity, Barry, and Anthony Awards, and has been twice nominated for the Edgar® Award. He was the editor of the anthology Hard Boiled Brooklyn, and his short fiction and essays have appeared in Wall Street Noir, The Darker Mask, These Guns For Hire, Brooklyn Noir 3, Damn Near Dead, and other publications.
Reed is an adjunct professor at Hofstra University, teaching writing classes in mystery fiction and the novel. He lives with his family on Long Island.
(This article originally appeared on FW Crime, and F+W Media, Inc. Company. Thanks again to Leyane Jerejian for permission to reprint it.)
The Four That Got Me Here — Reed Farrel Coleman
Reed Farrel Coleman, author of the Moe Prager mystery series cites four major influences on his appreciation of crime fiction as a reader and writer.
By Raymond Chandler
It was when I was finished with this book that I knew I was put on this earth to write crime fiction.
By Dashiell Hammett
Showed me that you could discuss big themes in crime fiction as long as your work was entertaining.
By Lawrence Block
No Matt Scudder, no Moe Prager.
By Philip Kerr
Kerr’s writing of Bernie Gunther is as close in tone to what I try to achieve for Moe.
To read the original article, go to http://www.fwcrime.com/prologue/fourreedcoleman
That's it. Some interesting new reviews to come soon from the illustrious Noir Journal group of reviewers.
Stay safe for the holidays.