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Authors: Reed Farrel Coleman

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Empty Ever After

BOOK: Empty Ever After
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Table of Contents
 
 
 
PRAISE FOR REED FARREL COLEMAN AND EMPTY EVER AFTER WINNER OF THE SHAMUS AWARD
“Reed Farrel Coleman is a terrific writer.… a hard-boiled poet … If life were fair, Coleman would be as celebrated as [George] Pelecanos and [Michael] Connelly.”
—Maureen Corrigan, NPR’s
Fresh Air
 
“Among the undying conventions of detective fiction is the one that requires every retired cop to have a case that still haunts him. Reed Farrel Coleman blows the dust off that cliché in
Walking the Perfect Square
… with a mystery that would get under anyone’s skin.”
—Marilyn Stasio,
The New York Times
 
“In the dark, compelling fifth Moe Prager mystery from Anthony-winner Coleman (after 2007’s
Soul Patch
), the PI and former New York City cop pays a heavy price for a choice he made in the late 1970s after locating the missing Patrick Maloney. While this appears to be the end of the series, fans of well-written PI novels will hope to see more of Prager.”

Publishers Weekly
 
“Moe Prager is the thinking person’s PI. And what he thinks about—love, loyalty, faith, betrayal—are complex and vital issues, and beautifully handled.”
—S. J. Rozan, Edgar Award-winning author of
On the Line
 
“Whenever our customers are looking for a new series to read, they often leave with a copy of
Walking the Perfect Square.
It has easily been our best-selling backlist title. Thank you, Busted Flush, for bringing this classic ‘Moe’ back into print!”
—Gary Shulze, Once Upon a Crime (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
 
“The biggest mysteries in our genre are why Reed Coleman isn’t already huge, and why Moe Prager isn’t already an icon. Both are to me. Read this book and you’ll find you agree.”
—Lee Child, best-selling author of
Worth Dying For
“Reed Farrel Coleman is one of the more original voices to emerge from the crime fiction field in the last ten years.”
—George Pelecanos, best-selling author of
The Way Home
 
“Originally published in 2001 …
Walking the Perfect Square
has been reissued by Busted Flush Press, good news for mystery lovers, since Reed Farrel Coleman is quite a writer, and this is only the first of five books about Moe Prager. The story and the characters will hook you, and Coleman’s lightly warped take on the world will make you laugh, dark as the tale is.”
—Marilyn Dahl,
Shelf Awareness
 
One of crime fiction’s finest voices, Edgar Award-finalist Reed Coleman combines the hard-fisted detective story with a modern novel’s pounding heart and produces pure gold. Moe Prager belongs with Travis McGee and Lew Archer in the private eye pantheon. Coleman’s series is a buried treasure—dig in and hit the jackpot!”
—Julia Spencer-Fleming, best-selling author of
Once Was a Soldier
 
“In a field crowded with blowhards and phony tough guys, Reed Farrel Coleman’s hero stands out for his plainspoken honesty, his straight-no-chaser humor and his essential humanity. Without a doubt, he has a right to occupy the barstool Matt Scudder left behind years ago. In fact, in his quiet unassuming way, Moe is one of the most engaging private eyes around.”
—Peter Blauner, Edgar Award-winning author of
Casino Moon
and
Slow Motion Riot
 
“Reed Farrel Coleman makes claim to a unique corner of the private detective genre with
Redemption Street
. With great poignancy and passion he constructs a tale that fittingly underlines how we are all captives of the past.”
—Michael Connelly, best-selling author of
The Reversal
 
“Moe Prager is a family man who can find the humanity in almost everyone he meets; he is a far from perfect hero, but an utterly appealing one. Let’s hope that his soft heart and lively mind continue to lure him out of his wine shop for many, many more cases.”
—Laura Lippman, best-selling author of
Life Sentences
“Reed Farrel Coleman is a hell of a writer. Poetic, stark, moving. And one of the most daring writers around, never afraid to go that extra mile. He freely admits his love of poetry, and it resonates in his novels like the best song you’ll ever hear. Plus, he has a thread of compassion that breaks your heart … to smithereens.”
—Ken Bruen, two-time Edgar Award-nominated author of
London
Boulevard
 
“Coleman is a born writer. His books are among the best the detective genre has to offer at the moment; no, wait. Now that I think about it they’re in the top rank of any kind of fiction currently published. Pick up this bookdamn it.”
—Scott Phillips, award-winning author of
The Ice Harvest
and
Cottonwood
 
“Reed Farrel Coleman goes right to the darkest corners of the human heart—to the obsessions, the tragedies, the buried secrets from the past. Through it all he maintains such a pure humanity in Moe Prager—the character is as alive to me as an old friend. I flat out loved the first Prager book, but somehow he’s made this one even better.”
—Steve Hamilton, Edgar Award-winning author of
The Lock Artist
 
“Coleman may be one of the mystery genre’s best-kept secrets.”

Sun-Sentinel
 
“Moe is a character to savor. And Coleman? He’s an author to watch. Make that watch and read. For this is only the beginning, folks, and I’m hitching my wagon to this ride.”
—Ruth Jordan,
Crimespree Magazine
BY REED FARREL COLEMAN
Moe Prager novels
Walking the Perfect Square
(2001)
Redemption Street
(2004)
The James Deans
(2005)
Winner of the Anthony, Barry, and Shamus Awards
Nominated for the Edgar®, Gumshoe, and Macavity Awards
Soul Patch
(2007)
Winner of the Shamus Award
Nominated for the Edgar®, Barry, and Macavity Awards
Empty Ever After
(2008)
Winner of the Shamus Award
Innocent Monster
(2010)
 
Writing with Ken Bruen
Tower
(2009)
Nominated for the Anthony, Macavity, Spinetingler, and Crimespree
Awards
 
Writing as Tony Spinosa
Hose Monkey
(2006)
The Fourth Victim
(2008)
 
Dylan Klein novels
Life Goes Sleeping
(1991)
Little Easter
(1993)
They Don’t Play Stickball in Milwaukee
(1997)
 
Edited by Reed Farrel Coleman
Hardboiled Brooklyn
(2006)
FOREWORD
BY S.J. ROZAN
 
HERE’S THE THING
I learned right away about Reed Farrel Coleman: there’s no BS to the guy. This isn’t to say he’s nothing more than the shaved-headed, Brooklyn-accented oil-truck-driving tough guy novelist he appears to be. He is that. He’s also a poet, an editor, a work-at-home devoted dad, the cook of the house, and a hell of a loyal friend. Hell of a basketball player, too. He can also discourse at length—and will, if you give him a chance—on movies and rock music. And books, and how much weight a coat of paint adds to an airplane.
The guy works hard. This is important. He writes fast, turning out short books with short words and short sentences, and if you don’t look closely you might think he’s just tossing it off. This idea could be reinforced when you learn he has rewriting in the needles-under-the-fingernails category. But if you’re thinking he’s just a wild man, slamming down on paper whatever comes into his head, you’re wrong. He puts in long hours and he sweats over every word. He revises as he goes, word by word and phrase by phrase. For Coleman writing is a conscious, full-throttle effort. Like playing basketball. No airy cogitating, no waiting for inspiration to strike, for the muse to waft into the room and lay a soft hand on his shoulder. The hell with that. It’s all about the heavy lifting.
So where does the poetry come in, and where does it come from? No less an authority than NPR’s Maureen Corrigan called Coleman “a hardboiled poet.” She’s right, because in poetry every word, the sound of every word, its shape and meaning and the flow of every phrase, is critical. No slack, no fat. That’s how Coleman writes. Any word, any phrase that’s not doing two or three jobs at once: out. That’s why it’s short and that’s why it looks simple.
Just try it.
That’s where the poetry comes in, and that’s hard enough. But where does it come from? That’s even harder. That’s not technique. That’s the part you’ve heard about, the part where you open a vein. Coleman’s books can make you cry but they’re not tearjerkers. With him you don’t get cheap cathartic tears, have a good cry and you’ll feel better. You get the real thing and you sometimes feel like an oil truck hit you. People whose powerful love for someone isn’t enough to make them overcome their own bad ideas. People who’re lost, for whom finding each other doesn’t mean finding themselves. In Coleman’s world, love does not redeem. Good intentions buy you nothing. Small mistakes have huge effects, and good deeds backfire. History, your personal history and history written before you were born, horns in on your life throws you around and leaves you bleeding. It’s not comforting. But it’s true.
Coleman writes about the shape of the world as it is. As it really is, and we know it. He puts it into high relief, makes it starker than it is in our everyday lives, but it’s the same stuff we’re living with and living through and we recognize it. That’s what art does, isn’t it? Not show us something new. “New” is just surprise. Fun, but not art. Art shows us what we’re deeply, intimately familiar with, blasting away everything nearby so we can really
see
what we’ve been looking at all along.
That’s what you get with Reed Farrel Coleman. You get the truth.
No BS.
 
S. J. Rozan is the multiple award-winning author of
On the Line
. She lives in Manhattan.
To the survivors
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
I would like to thank the late David Thompson for this new edition. His belief in me helped Moe to live on. It’s a debt I can never repay.
 
I would also like to thank Peter, Megan, Ken, and Ellen for being my first readers and listeners. And for their help with Chinese, a nod to Alice Wang and Dr. Fuh-Lin Wang. And a nod to Sara J. Henry.
 
None of this would have been possible or worth it without Rosanne, Kaitlin, and Dylan.
“I’m trying to escape. Escape to anywhere, but I’m not. I’m not going anywhere. There isn’t any anywhere, is there?”
—Daniel Woodrell from
Tomato Red
PROLOGUE
1984
THE MOURNER’S PRAYER
WE WALKED THROUGH
the cemetery, Mr. Roth’s arm looped through mine. The cane in his left hand tapped out a mournful meter on the ice-slicked gravel paths that wound their way through endless rows of gravestones. The crunch and scrape of our footfalls were swallowed up and forgotten as easily as the heartbeats and breaths of all the dead, ever. The swirling wind demanded we move along, biting hard at our skin, blowing yesterday’s fallen snow in our faces.
“Bernstein!” Mr. Roth defied the wind, pointing with his cane at a nearby hunk of polished granite. “You know what it means in English, Bernstein?”
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