Saturday, July 21, 2018

Weekend Guest Blogger: Reed Farrel Coleman

Called a hard-boiled poet by NPR’s Maureen Corrigan and the noir poet laureate in the Huffington Post, Reed Farrel Coleman is the New York Times-bestselling author of thirty novels, short stories, essays, and poetry. He writes the Jesse Stone novels for the estate of the late Robert B. Parker and has been hired by film director Michael Mann to write the prequel novel to the movie Heat. Reed is a four-time Edgar Award nominee in three different categories and a four-time recipient of the Shamus Award for Best PI Novel of the Year. He lives with his wife on Long Island.

Bob’s Company

By Reed Farrel Coleman

Recalling those days in 2013, I realize what a risk we were all taking. Probably a good thing I didn’t overthink it back then. Also a good thing that neither the estate of the late Robert B. Parker nor GP Putnam Sons had a bout of buyer’s remorse. I had hired on to take over the authorship of the bestselling Jesse Stone series. When I was offered the chance, not only didn’t I overthink it. I guess I didn’t think about it at all. I jumped. And as with many of the best things in life, jumping was the way to go. But you can’t avoid the thinking forever.

Having taken the gig, I had a lot of things to figure out. Should I try to imitate Bob’s writing style? How could I be true to Jesse and yet make him my own? These two questions are actually bound together, because the language a writer uses, the style he chooses, affect how the reader sees the character. And believe me, when you take on a beloved character, one portrayed on TV by Tom Selleck, you better have some idea of what you’re doing. You see why it was a good thing I didn’t overthink it before saying yes?

I’ve told the story many times about how my conversation with my friend and colleague Tom Schreck helped me decide how to handle taking on this responsibility. Tom is a huge Parker fan—even has a cat named Spenser—and an even bigger Elvis Presley fan. When I told Tom that I wasn’t sure if I should try to imitate Bob Parker’s style, he said this: “Reed, I’ve seen the best Elvis impersonators in the world. Some of them are really amazing, but there are two things I can’t get past. No matter how good they are, I never forget it isn’t really Elvis up there and they can never do anything new. They’re trapped.” Those words decided how I would handle the series. I decided to be true to the characters and to the format—short chapters, lots of dialogue, lots of banter between Molly and Jesse—but that the style would develop as I wrote the novels.

Well, my fifth Jesse Stone novel, Robert B. Parker’s Colorblind, is due out on September 11, 2018. The first four I’ve done have all made the New York Times list. I give the credit for that to how well the reading public loves the Jesse Stone character and, I guess, to the fact that I’ve made some good choices. Still, through the first three books, Jesse never quite felt like my character. I was always very conscious as I wrote of Bob Parker’s presence. It wasn’t quite like asking myself what would Jesus do, but it was something like that. Not until I wrote Robert B. Parker’s The Hangman’s Sonnet, my fourth Jesse novel, did Jesse begin to feel even a little bit like my character. Oddly, I hope he never feels totally like mine. I enjoy Bob’s company and would hate it if he ever stopped looking over my shoulder.

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