RARA-AVIS: The overlooked Reed Farrel Coleman

From: Jack Bludis ( buildsnburns@yahoo.com)
Date: 07 May 2008

I've been on this list three, four, maybe even five years and I'm not sure that I've ever seen Reed Farrel Coleman's name mentioned here.

He's hard boiled, but not noir, which may be the reason. Even though the group is named for Hammett's rare bird, it seems that the relentless fall of the noir character and their author's exploration of the incomplete mind of amoral characters is the major thrust on rara_avis--not at criticism, just an observation.

I have not read Reed Coleman's latest, but his last two--THE JAMES DEANS and SOUL PATCH--are two of the best private eye books that I've read in recent years. His character, Moe Prager, is an ex-cop who is not an alcoholic, not a bastard, married relatively happily, and makes a decent living as a wine-shop owner, but because he regrets that he never got the "gold shield" he deserved when he was one of New York's finest, he is also a private detective when the proper case strikes him.

His books put his lead character in the recent past but always flash back further to a time many of us of a certain age remember fondly, if we remember it at all--1970s.

His character is a truly decent guy. Coleman doesn't need to state his philosophy the way Chandler seemed compelled to do--Moe lives it.

In Coleman's SOUL PATCH, which has been nominated for a number of awards, the apparent suicide of a former associate--if not quite a friend--leads him to explore what may have caused it. He ends up digging into the past not only of the "friend," but into his own past and the past of many of his other "friends."

If you were youngish in the 70s, you'll feel the nostalgia. If you weren't, you'll learn what is was "something like."

Coleman does what others tell me Ross MacDonald did with the past, but somehow I never got through Ross MacDonald's figures of speech well enough to understand what he was driving at.

I understand Moe Prager. Coleman is a prose-poet without the extended similes.

Jack Bludis

PS: Last year, Coleman's THE JAMES DEANS, was not only nominated for most of the awards--it won them.

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