I want to thank Tom Piccirilli for letting me reprint this interview from his blog The Big Adios
Ken Bruen is the author of the popular Jack Taylor series and Brant series. He has over twenty novels to his credit, including THE GUARDS, PRIEST, CROSS, BLITZ, AMMUNITION, AMERICAN SKIN, LONDON BOULEVARD. Oscar-winning screenwriter William Monahan (The Departed) has teamed with Quentin Curtis to film the Ken Bruen novel LONDON BOULEVARD. Stay up to date with Ken's work at www.kenbruen.com.
Reed Farrel Coleman is the former executive vice president of MWA. He's published eleven novels, two under his pen name Tony Spinosa and one with multiple award-winning Irish author Ken Bruen. He's been nominated for the Edgar Award twice and for the Shamus Award three times. He's been honored with the Shamus twice and has won both the Barry and Anthony Awards as well. He was the editor of the anthology Hardboiled Brooklyn and his short fiction and essays have appeared in several anthologies and magazines. Reed is an adjunct lecturer in creative writing at Hofstra University and he lives with his family on Long Island. www.reedcoleman.com
PIC: Ken, you mentioned that halfway through with your opening of the novel, you knew it was going to be a "two-hander." What was it that made you decide that? Was it just not working?
KB: TOM, IT JUST SEEMED IT NEEDED ANOTHER WAY OF SEEING THE STORY, OUTSIDE OF ME
PIC: How long after you finished the fragment was it before Reed came into the project?
KB: ONLY A FEW MONTHS
PIC: Despite the eighth anniversary of 9/11 coming up, the subject is still rather taboo. But here's a novel that uses the Twin Towers as a metaphor both before the fall and after. It was a ballsy move, brother. What made you give it a whirl?
KB: AS ALWAYS WITH ME, BECAUSE THEY SAID, IT'S NOT A GOOD IDEA......THAT IS ALWAYS ME FUEL
PIC: Reed, as a native New Yorker, how did you feel about coming in a project that dealt with the Towers? Was there any trepidation or did you find yourself eager to tackle such a subject?
RFC: I have to say that Tower is a story about two Brooklyn friends who have always gotten-as we say in Brooklyn-the shit end of the stick in their lives. That's what the book is about and I would hate for people to think that the book is about 9/11. As you astutely mentioned in a previous question, we use the Twin Towers as a metaphor, but a quiet metaphor. Yet, I think the time has come for us, as authors and artists, to begin to explore the small tragedies, the personal tragedies of that day. For eight years it's been the elephant in the room no one could write about because it was such an enormous event, such a horrible event, that we all struggled with how to make sense of it. Well, it's a writer's job to make sense of the senseless and the way to do that is on the small scale, on the personal scale. I have always admired my friends SJ Rozan and Jim Fusilli for trying to take this on immediately in the wake of those awful days.
PIC: Since Ken's voice is so distinctive you must've thought about emulating it. What stopped you?
RFC: Well, I have twice, in short stories-"Requiem For Jack" and Requiem For Moe"-done a fairly good job of imitating Ken's voice in the form of Jack Taylor. I've always been good at imitating voices both actually and in my writing. However, it's much more easily done for a few pages than for a few hundred pages. I think me doing Ken's voice in Tower would have been a huge misstep. First, why would Ken have needed a co-author to write in a voice he does better than his would-be co-author? The whole notion of the book is that it's done in distinctive parallel narratives. Ergo you have narratives from two different characters with different points of view. It would have been very bizarre to have two characters writing in one voice, no? But I didn't feel my normal writing voice was appropriate to the book, so I took an ax to my usual style. This way my narrative has a similar meter to Ken's so that it's not jarring to read.
PIC Ken, having collaborated with you on a short story myself, I know you're a very easy partner to work with. By your own admission you didn't change a single word of Reed's portions of the novel. Why aren't you a control freak like just about every writer I know?
KB: TRULY, I'M BLESSED, LIKE WORKING WITH YOU, JASON, REED, THE STUFF YOU GUY'S WRITE NEVER NEEDS CHANGING, NOW LESS THAT SOUND LIKE BLARNEY, JUST READ THE BOOKS OF THOSE GUYS AND ASK............WHAT'S TO IMPROVE?
PIC: Even as a two-man effort TOWER is a lean, mean slice of noir. Was there any pressure, either internally or from publishers, to lengthen it?
RFC: One party who was interested very early on in the process wanted us to lengthen the book, but Ken wisely made the choice not to go in that direction. One of the reasons the book is as effective as it is in terms of darkness is that it is sparse and laser-like. We dispensed with frills and subplots and went for the jugular. If the book aches and bleeds, it's because we kept the knife sharp and focused.
KB: BUT WE DID GET LOTS OF SUGGESTIONS AS TO IT NOT SEEMING QUITE DONE, THUS AL CAME ON BOARD AND DID SOME TERRIFIC EDITING AND THEN REED ADDED PROLOGUE AND EPILOGUE AND WE KNEW IT WAS DONE, GOD BLESS REED AND AL
PIC: Reed, your section of the novel really takes a wild left hand turn. You reinterpret the opening section and come at it from a whole new angle. Why put yourself through that? Did it feel natural to you or did you just feel that it might be boring to follow along in an expected fashion?
RFC: I didn't see the point in simply rehashing what Ken had written. I knew Ken was challenging me to do better, to make hard choices, to stretch the book and, as he might say, me own self. I felt I had to rise to the occasion and that just doing a fair job would have meant letting Ken down, the book down and me down. SJ Rozan and I went to dinner soon after she read the book and, after praising the book to the rafters, she asked me, "Are you crazy?" I know I took a big chance with Todd's narrative, but I don't think Ken would have wanted it any other way nor would I. It was the hardest work I've ever done, but the best work.
PIC: Ken, now that Hollywood has come knocking and you've got two novels (BLITZ and LONDON BOULEVARD) currently being filmed, do you feel you can relax where the writing is concerned? You started off because you had gnawing demons driving you on. Can you finally just kick back and enjoy a well-deserved rest?
KB: I'M INVOLVED IN A MAJOR NEW PROJECT THAT IS AS RISKY AS IT IS SO FAR OUT THERE, 2 MORE MOVIES READY TO ROCK N ROLL, THE DEMONS SEEM TO DEMAND MORE , GREEDY BASTARDS, AS SOON AS I FINISH A PROJECT, I'M FRETTING ABOUT THE NEW ONE, UNCURLING IN ME HEAD, THE DEMONS CHANGE IN THAT THEY DEMAND HIGHER LEVELS, AND KEEP REPEATING, 'WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO WRITE A BOOK THAT WILL SHUT US UP. NO SIGN OF THAT YET
What's next for the both of you?
KB: GETTING THE CHILDRENS BOOK OUT THERE AND FINISHING BOOK ONE OF A NEW SERIES TITLED MERRICK
RFC: I'm doing about a three week tour in support of Tower. I've just finished a new novel that my agent is about to send out. I'm working on a new Moe Prager book. I've just had a short story accepted in Indian Country Noir and I'm getting ready to go back to this "big" novel I've been working on for years. Other than that…
PIC: Thanks so much for your time, gents, much appreciated.
[Bruen and Coleman interviewed by Tom Piccirilli 08/29/09]