Reed Farrel Coleman, 58, crime fiction writer, at his Lake...

Reed Farrel Coleman, 58, crime fiction writer, at his Lake Grove home, Sept. 25, 2014. Credit: Heather Walsh / Heather Walsh

Reed Farrel Coleman, celebrated purveyor of hard-boiled fiction, has a solid reputation, chiseled public profile and formidable resumé: nearly two dozen books, three Edgar Award nominations, numerous honors from his fellow mystery writers, a recently concluded Moe Prager series and an upcoming Gus Murphy series (ex- Suffolk County cop-turned-private eye). But when Putnam Books asked the longtime habitue of Lake Grove to slip into another writer's moccasins and take them for a spin around the crime scene, he was up for the challenge: With "Robert B. Parker's Blind Spot" (Putnam, $26.95), Coleman takes on the late mystery legend's Jesse Stone -- East Cost police chief, ex-LAPD cop, onetime major league hopeful -- in a tale of mobsters, murders and unsavory memories. It's the kind of book you race through, maybe in a matter of hours. "That's about how long it took me to write it," Coleman cracked, not seriously.

Seriously: How do you slip into another writer's mind and perpetuate a character like Jesse Stone?

It's an interesting challenge, because you have to make the book both Parker's and your own. And for some reason, I didn't need a lot of time to figure out how to do that. The hard part was trying to meld my writing with Bob Parker's. Ace Atkins, when he does his Spenser series, does it perfectly -- you can't really tell it's not Robert B. Parker. But that was never my approach. I don't want to do an imitation, and I felt if I did, it would never be as good as Ace's. You don't want to be the second person to fly across the Atlantic.

Had you met Parker before his death in 2010?

I met him twice. I'm friends with many mystery writers, but I didn't know Bob Parker -- we met at Christmas parties, at Kate's Mystery Bookstore in Cambridge [where Parker lived, in Massachusetts]. He was a gentleman. And I was happy to have met him; it made me feel better about doing this.

For "Blind Spot" -- which involves an abduction-murder perpetrated by Massachusetts mobsters in Jesse's town of Paradise -- were there a lot of requirements?

People have asked, "Did you get a Bible of things to do?" and mostly what I got was, "We would like you to do this," not "You can't do that." One of the reasons this has been a great marriage is I'm from Brooklyn and I hate being told "You can't," but if they say, "We'd like you to," it works. They said, "We'd like you to keep the chapters short." Sure, I can do that. "We'd like you to be true to the character." Of course. Why would I do it any other way?

Was the challenge part of the appeal?

I like to think I'm a professional and could do whatever they asked me to do. It was never my intention to make this something it wasn't. I had a friend who joked, "Are you going to change his name to Jesse Stein? Have him go to shul on Saturday?"

What's your process? You know the ending when you start?

I've published 21 novels and novellas, and while my routine is the same, my process is a little different for each one. Sometimes, the whole book comes into my head, and it's a matter of sitting down and typing it. Sometimes, I know the beginning but don't know the end; sometimes, I know the end.

With this book, to go back to the first question, the ache in Jesse is his baseball career, the biggest coulda-done in his life. He was headed for the major leagues. His dream was to be a Dodger shortstop. So, for me, growing up a ballplayer, that was the door into the character. I asked Putnam, can I use that? And they said, yeah.

The reader can tell that a baseball guy wrote "Blind Spot." Who's your team?

I'm a Mets fan. Unfortunately. Long-suffering. Which is redundant.

Top Stories

Newsday LogoCovering LI news as it happensDigital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months