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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Burying the Past

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Moe Prager is no stranger to cold cases. You might even say the former NYPD officer and protagonist of Reed Farrel Coleman’s award-winning P.I. series relishes the challenges they pose. He lives by Faulkner’s words, “The past is never dead,” the truth of which becomes unequivocally clear in Coleman’s fifth novel of the series, Empty Ever After.

When the grave of his deceased brother-in-law is desecrated and his bones go missing, Prager is forced to follow the trail of modern-day grave robbers, reliving the events of the past 20 years before he can finally put them to rest. This not only allows him to gain perspective on his own life, but it also allows new readers to familiarize themselves with the content of the past four novels.

“I make sure the reader has enough flavor and texture of the past books to make the current book understandable and enjoyable,” Coleman says of his new book. “On the other hand, all books, even one deep into a series, must stand on its own as a separate piece of art.”

The past shows that Prager isn’t perfect, but in many respects it’s his flaws that make him so compelling, Coleman notes. “It helps the reader identify with the protagonist, and helps draw the reader into the mystery and solution.” he says.

It’s for this reason that Coleman believes Sherlock Holmes is one of the most memorable personalities of the mystery genre. “Without those flaws, Holmes would be god-like, and it’s tough for us mere mortals to root for a god.”

Coleman comes to the Mystery One Bookstore, 2109 N. Prospect Ave., on March 13, 7 p.m. For many who’ve moved away from the city in search of a more secluded lifestyle, Brookfield has proven as fair an option as any. Local historian and MPS special-ed teacher Tom Ramstack goes as far as calling it A Fine and Fertile Land in his new two-volume history of the Brookfield and Elm Grove townships.

Having grown up enthralled by his father’s stories about his ancestors, Ramstack embarked on a research project on his family history that he had little idea would keep him occupied for more than two decades. He began in the 1980s and has now finally published what’s become something of a magnum opus on the town where he grew up. Using newspaper clippings, personal anecdotes, letters, photos and memoirs, he’s constructed a densely packed history of the town and its inhabitants since the mid-19th century. You can meet the author when he comes to the Brookfield Parks and Recreation Community Center, 2000 N. Calhoun Road, Brookfield, on March 17 at 7 p.m. to speak about and sign copies of his new book.

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