Thursday, July 27, 2023

Win (Earn) a Signed Copy of the New Penns River Book, The Spread

 Penns River Book 8, The Spread, drops next Monday (July 31) from Down & Out Books. In a break with all tradition, and everything I hold dear, I’m giving away a free, signed book to one lucky person. (Or unsigned, if you think my signature will decrease its value.)


It won’t be all luck; you’ll need some chops. Below are ten of my favorite movie quotes. Not the greatest quotes of all time. Not even the ten I think are the greatest of all time, Not even even necessarily my ten favorites. Ten of my favorites. To receive the book, reply in the comments with the following information about each:

·       The actor who speaks the line.

·       The name of the character played by that actor.

·       The film it is from.


There are ten quotes, so 30 possible points. The person who earns the most points by midnight Eastern Time on July 31 gets a book. It’s that simple. In case of a tie, the person whose comment has the earliest time stamp is the winner.


Sure, you could scour the internet and find all the right answers, but what fun would that be? Is it worth saving a few bucks to have to live with the gnawing guilt of knowing you violated the spirit of a friendly competition, one that may involve friends of yours, just to get ahead? Only you can judge that.


The winner will be announced in next Friday’s blog. Have at it.


1.) “They’re against the wall! Skip on down.”


2.) “Hold up your badge. So they’ll know you’re a policeman.”


3.) “I was misinformed.”


4.) “I like talking to a man who likes to talk.”


5.) “I can’t wait for you to be dead.”


6.) “Come on, you lazy bastards!”


7.) “In my case, an accident of birth. But you, sir, you’re a self-made man.”


8.) “Those guys are spending money like the Russians are in Jersey.”


9.) “In this world there's two kinds of people, my friend: Those with loaded guns and those who dig. You dig.”


10.) “That some bad hat, Harry.”


Thursday, July 20, 2023

The Spread Drops July 31


My eighth Penns River novel, The Spread, drops July 31 from Down & Out Books. (It’s currently available for pre-order.) The Spread sets up a bit of a new direction for the Penns River books, and the series will go dark for a while as I research what I need to know to make sure I don’t paint myself into a corner. That’s all I’m going to say about that now.


(It’s not like I won’t have anything going on. The next Nick Forte story, Off the Books, is ready to go, and I’m deep into research for a Western.)


Here’s a bit of what The Spread is about:


School is back in session in Penns River, which means it’s football season in Western Pennsylvania. The Penns River team is loaded after a few substandard campaigns and the town is so revved up a new gambling ring opens to allow PR supporters to put their money where their hearts are.


The “entrepreneur” responsible has no idea how to set point spreads and nowhere to look for help; it’s not like Vegas handles small town high school football games. The vast majority of money put down is on the locals—who bets against their own kid, or the one next door?—and the team covers all the spreads; the cash paid to winners far exceeds what the operation takes in. Only organized crime offers loans to cover the shortfall, which opens the door to a whole new world of problems, including murder.


If only this was the only problem facing detective Ben “Doc” Dougherty and his fellow police officers but

• A motorcycle gang is solidifying its position in town.

• A civilian ride-along sparks controversy and an official complaint that re-opens an old wound for the department.

• A baby shower turns violent.

• A routine investigation leads to signs of possible police corruption.

• Doc’s cousin, Chicago-based private investigator Nick Forte—a man not prone to leaving things as he found them—comes to town to visit his parents.


Welcome to Penns River, where incomes rarely increase and crime rarely decreases. This would be bad enough if it were the same old crimes, but the changing criminal landscape constantly demands more from a police department in transition.


Not to blow my own horn, but the pre-release comments have been beyond flattering.


“Dana King writes in a gritty crime noir style with a modern flair all his own. His books grab you from the first page and don’t let you go.” —Terrence McCauley, award-winning author of thrillers, crime and westerns

“Readers who like police procedurals will love Dana King’s The Spread—the latest in his Penns River Crime series—and they will have to know, page after page, what happens next! ” —G. Miki Hayden, Writers Digest mystery and thriller writing instructor and author of the how-to Writing the Mystery

“If Joseph Wambaugh and Ed McBain adopted a child and raised him in the 87th Precinct, that kid would grow up to be Dana King. The Spread is a joy for people who love to watch police work and hear cops talk.” —Tim O’Mara, author of the Raymond Donne series and creator of “Murder in Halifax”

“Dana King is an attentive student of the crime novel who knows the formula: how to end a chapter with a cliff hanger, how to write snappy, wise-cracking dialogue, when to introduce intriguing and quirky characters, and to surprise the reader with a plot twist. If you enjoy crime fiction, but want something a bit more challenging and, in my opinion, much more inventive and artful, this is the novel for you. The Spread will broaden your notion of what a crime novel can do.” —Ron Cooper, author of All My Sins Remembered

“Plot is king in The Spread. Sharp, crisp characters, and dialogue that snaps to a snare-drum cadence move the reader through this hard-rushing police procedural.” —Joe Ricker, author of All the Good in Evil

I have a few events scheduled around the release.

·       July 28 (next Friday) – I’ll go against every fiber of my nature and give away a book to the blog reader who correctly identifies the origin of several of my favorite movie lines. This once in a lifetime (probably) opportunity is available to everyone on the planet. (Those of you on the International Space Station will have to wait till you get home. I’m not paying Elon Musk to fly one up to you. I’m willing to give away a book, not blow it up.)

·       August 6 – My dear and long-time friend Elizabeth Bruce hosts a private event in her home to celebrate both the launch of The Spread and the new book of poetry by her husband, Michael Oliver. (Yes, this marks the first time a book of mine and “poetry” appear in the same sentence. I checked.)

·       August 26 – I’ll be interviewed by Jeffery James Higgins at Elaine’s Restaurant, 208 Queen St, Alexandria, VA at 1:00 EDT.


The Spread will be available at the Creatures, Crimes, and Creativity conference, September 8 – 10 in Columbia, MD, where I’ll be appearing.


Hope to see you soon.

Thursday, July 13, 2023

Sleuthfest 2023

 Last week The Beloved Spouse™ and I made our first trip to Sleuthfest. It’s an annual event put on by MWA’s Florida Chapter and their experience shows. I’ve never been to a better run conference.


Unlike readers’ conferences such as Bouchercon and Left Coast Crime, Sleuthfest is a writers’ conference, where craft is king. Craft discussions are what I enjoy most about such get-togethers, and I was not disappointed.


The agenda is a combination of presentations (essentially classes put on by a single individual), panels, and speeches by featured guests. To be frank, the presentations are probably of more benefit to less experienced writers. I’ve been writing seriously for over twenty years, so I already knew much of what was presented. Not all, but enough that the primary benefit I got was a reminder that I didn’t always know these things. Someone taught me. The less advanced authors are not necessarily less talented or less serious or not as smart; they’re just not as far along on the same journey. It’s an exercise in humility and a reminder that a conscientious practitioner of any craft has an obligation to steady the ladder for those on the way up.


(An exception to this was Bruce Robert Coffin’s police procedural presentation. I’ve read Bruce’s books, shared panels, and spent hours in bars with him. He can speak knowledgeably about this stuff for hours. The seventy minutes we got here barely scratched the surface. He’s also a laugh a minute. If you get a chance to hear him speak, jump on it.


The panels were as thorough as any I’ve experienced.



James D.F. Hannah, Terrence McCauley, Alan Orloff, Aggie Blum Thompson.

Micki Browning, moderator.


Key takeaways:

Aggie Blum Thompson – watch the video of Matt Stone and Trey Parker talking about “therefore…but” storytelling.


Micki Browning quoted an author whose name I can’t read in my notes. The Interwebs have differing opinions on who it is. Absent solid evidence to the contrary, I’m crediting Micki. Whoever said it first, the advice is solid: “Make them laugh, make them cry, make them wait.”


Aggie Blum Thompson tries to answer one question in each chapter and ask another.


James D.F. Hannah quoting Neil Gaiman: “The goal of the second draft is to make it look like you knew what you were doing in the first draft.”



Marty Ambrose, Lisa Black, M.E. Hilliard, Eliot Kleinberg, Alyssa Maxwell.

Rena Koontz, moderator


Alyssa Maxwell – Facebook has groups for everything.


Eliot Kleinberg – check into (Pay site.)


Eliot Kleinberg – a lot of expensive resources can be accessed for free at a public library.


Lisa Black – documentaries on streaming services are useful. Not just History Channel.


Eliot Kleinberg – jstore is a good source for well-sourced, academic writing.



Lynette Austin, Micki Browning, Bruce Robert Coffin, K.L. Murphy, Charles Todd.

Alan Orloff, moderator.


This was a well-paced panel that served mostly to reinforce things I’m already doing, so my notes are less than copious, as I was busy posting ideas that came to mind. A key takeaway was a reminder to do a light edit of yesterday’s work when writing the first draft. I’ve gotten away from that and returning will save me time in subsequent drafts.


I was a member of the other panels I attended, which tends to fully occupy my attention. Suffice to say the other panelists were well received and none of the fruit hurled my way made contact.


Other events included an excellent Noir at the Bar, speeches by Neil Nyren and Guest of Honor Melinda Leigh, interviews with Lori Rader-Day and Rachel Howzell Hall, and free food every evening. And it wasn’t good just because it was free. It would have been good even if I had to pay extra for it.


I’d like to talk a bit about the extended panel times. Conferences seem to be moving toward shorter panels with more authors, trying to get as many people as possible onstage. I appreciate the intent, but the effect on the audience is to dilute what the panelists can get into. Seventy-minute sessions are much more satisfying. I realize this could mean a large readers’ conference may have fewer writers on panels, but let’s be honest: if you want to be on a panel at Bouchercon or Left Coast or one of the big ones, you should have to show a little game first. Self-publishing a novel or two that sank faster than the Titanic may make you an author, but it doesn’t necessarily make you panelist material. I’d rather be passed over myself than see things diluted any kore than they are. Except here at Sleuthfest. Well done.


Having gone to conferences for 15 years now, my best memories will be of renewing friendships and making new ones. I’ll not name names here for fear of leaving anyone out, but rest assured, if we interacted last weekend, I have fond memories, and the more we interacted, the fonder the memories.


See you next year.



Thursday, July 6, 2023

An Interview With Reed Farrel Coleman, Author of Sleepless City

Reed Farrel Coleman has won more awards than Tom Brady. (See below.)  Called a hard-boiled poet by NPR's Maureen Corrigan and the "noir poet laureate" in the Huffington Post, Reed is the New York Times bestselling author of thirty-two novels including six in the Jesse Stone series for the late Robert B. Parker. He is a four-time recipient of the Shamus Award for Best PI Novel of the Year and a four-time Edgar Award nominee in three different categories. Reed has also received the Audie, Scribe, Macavity, Barry, and Anthony Awards. His latest novel, Sleepless City, will be published July 11 by Blackstone Publishing. He lives with his wife on Long Island, and it’s a real treat to have him on the blog.


One Bite at a Time: Reed, we’ve known each other quite a while, but this is the first time I’ve had

you on the blog. Welcome, and thanks for stopping by. Your new book, Sleepless City, drops July 11 from Blackstone. Tell us a little about it.

Reed Farrel Coleman: Thanks for having me, Dana. Ooh, “tell us a little bit about it.” Danger, Will Robinson!!!! That’s a trap for an author. Over the years I’ve found it best not to directly fall into that trap. I hope my answers to your other questions give the people reading this a better sense of the novel than I could with some pithy or longwinded response.


OBAAT: You’re best known for your Moe Prager books, though I like the Gus Murphys at least as much. How is Nick Ryan different from either Moe or Gus?

RFC: Nick is different from them in ways both latent and manifest. Neither Moe nor Gus ever made detective. Both spent their careers in uniform. So, when it came time, either out of choice or circumstance, to try their hands at PI work, they were ill-prepared for the task. Competent as they were at their jobs in uniform, they stumbled around as detectives, making all manner of missteps and mistakes. Nick on the other hand, is still on the job. Unlike Moe and Gus, he’s a detective and a damned good one. He’s superb at UC (undercover) work. The best on the NYPD. Furthermore, Nick, having spent two tours in Afghanistan, has a different sense of right, wrong, and justice from Gus and Moe. Nick is not afraid to act alone and to take matters into his own hands. Whereas Moe and Gus were stumbling about, Nick is a natural leader of men. He’s younger than Gus and Moe and he’s unattached. Well, at least he thinks he is. But when it comes to heart and protecting the lost and less fortunate, he’s not unlike them at all.   


OBAAT: Sleepless City is a departure for you. While it still has the same moral dilemmas that made your other books so compelling, Prager and Murphy often had to find ways to work with, or around, the system; Ryan has the juice to bend the system to his will when necessary. What sent you in that direction?

RFC: It grew out of a discussion with my agent, Shane Salerno. Shane, a famous screenwriter in his own right, and I were kicking around the idea of a different kind of protagonist. One who could both work within the system and outside the system. One who had the full power of the system behind him when he needed it, but who could still be a lone wolf when the situation called for it. You alluded to Moe Prager and Gus Murphy in your question. I loved writing those guys, but as I stated in my previous answer, they were both stumblers, sometimes barely able to tread water, guys almost always in over their heads. In Nick, I finally got the chance to write someone who wasn’t afraid to swim with the sharks, a character whom the sharks themselves might fear. It was a revelation to me to write a competent character, but one who still has the interest of the little guy at heart. That’s why the book works, I think. Nick may draw outside the lines, but he never forgets who’s important.


OBAAT: You’ve been called the “noir poet laureate” with good cause. While Sleepless City does not lack hard-boiled poetry, I sensed more of an edge to the writing than typical in your work. Was that deliberate for this book/series? Or is your style evolving in this direction?

RFC: I hope I never stop evolving as a writer and I hope I never stop being inspired and influenced by other writers. It’s impossible for me to state the importance or how much I have learned by reading other authors’ work. As to Sleepless City, I did make a conscious decision to be a bit more plot driven and action oriented. One of my early readers called Nick Ryan the love child of WB Yeats and John Wick. I think that sums it up perfectly. One of the challenges of taking this on was to see if I could write a Jack Reacher-ish novel and still maintain that lyrical quality of my style. Lee Child once said to me that if I left three words out of all my sentences, I’d be a bigger seller. He said it with a smile. I understood what he meant, but I write how I write.

         More importantly, I wrote a portion of this novel during the pandemic and in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death. Anyone reading Sleepless City will immediately recognize the influence outside events had on my work. I usually try to shut out the world when I’m working on a novel because the only world I want to think about is the one in my head, the one I’m creating. Only here that was impossible. During that period it seemed the entire world was all sharp edges and moral dilemmas. How could I ignore it?       


OBAAT: I mentioned earlier that you were best known for the Moe Prager books, as the list of awards and nominations earned by that series attests. In fact, you may well be better known to the general public for carrying on Robert B. Parker’s Jesse Stone series. As self-assured as your writing always reads, what was it like to have to write in someone else’s universe?

RFC: I love answering this question. To do what I did with Jesse Stone or what Ace Atkins did with Spenser, you have to do two things: find a way into someone else’s character, and, more importantly, find a way to make that character your own. My way into Jesse Stone was through struggle and disappointment. Jesse struggles with alcohol. We all struggle, some of us with weight, some with drugs, some with our emotions, our relationships. But struggle is a common and unifying human quality. So, it was easy for me to relate to Jesse’s struggles, though I’m not an alcoholic. Jesse was also one phone call away from being the starting shortstop for the Dodgers. But he hurt his shoulder in a meaningless exhibition game. Talk about disappointment! Again, like struggling, who hasn’t dealt with big disappointments in life? Who doesn’t carry around those “What if …” questions with them? It took me three books until I really felt as if Jesse were my character. Although I’d gotten inside him, it took a few books to feel as comfortable with him as a character as say, Moe or Gus.  


OBAAT: You’ve said your greatest influencer was your college poetry professor, David Lehman, in part for helping you to learn how to self-edit. Please talk a little about that. (Full disclosure: My first agent, the late Pam Strickler, did the same for me. I use her lessons every day, so it’s a topic, and skill, near and dear to me.)

RFC: Writing and reading poetry are perhaps the best teachers for future prose writers. Poetry teaches you several important lessons: economy, rhythm, power of language. Poets sweat each word that goes on the page. I have often wondered how many drafts it took William Carlos Williams to write “The Red Wheelbarrow”, a sixteen-word poem or how many drafts it took Ezra Pound to write “In a Station of the Metro”, a six-word title for a two line, fourteen-word poem. On the other hand, “Prufrock” was once almost twice as long as the version we all know. The most important thing David taught us was to think of ourselves as writers. He had us take an oath that from that day forward, regardless of what we did to earn a living, we would always think of ourselves as writers. When many years later I went to a book signing of David’s, he said he had totally forgotten the whole oath thing. 


OBAAT: What’s next for you?

RFC: I’ve already written Nick Ryan #2, Blind to Midnight. And the pandemic has given me ample time to complete Gus Murphy #3, All Buried Things and two other standalone novels. Where Gus and the other stuff gets published is yet to be determined.