In March of 1975, as New York City hurtles toward bankruptcy and the Bronx burns, newsman Coleridge Taylor roams police precincts and ERs. In LAST WORDS by Rich Zahradnik, Taylor searches for the story that will deliver him from obits, his place of exile at the Messenger-Telegram. Ever since he was demoted from the police beat for inventing sources, the 34-year-old has been a lost soul. A break comes at Bellevue, where Taylor views the body of a homeless teen picked up in the Meatpacking District. Taylor smells a rat: the dead boy looks too clean and he’s wearing a distinctive Army field jacket. A little digging reveals that the jacket belonged to a hobo named Mark Voichek and that the teen was a spoiled society kid up to no good, the son of a city official. Taylor’s efforts to learn Voichek’s secret put him on the hit list of three goons who are willing to kill any number of street people to cover tracks that just might lead to City Hall. Taylor has only one ally in the newsroom, young and lovely reporter Laura Wheeler. Time is not on his side. If he doesn’t wrap this story up soon, he’ll be back on the obits page—as a headline, not a byline, in Rich Zahradnik’s LAST WORDS.
Q &A with Rich Zahradnik
- What inspired you to write LAST WORDS?
- The main character, Coleridge Taylor, mentions music often, are you a fan of the same bands Taylor references? What are your top 3 favorite songs from the 60s and 70s?
I like most of what Taylor likes, though found out about a lot of the groups later than he did. I was in high school from 1974-78. My group of friends and I thought we were mired in a musical wasteland, disco on the one side and hair bands (Styx, Foreigner, Kansas) on the other. Punk had not reached Poughkeepsie, so I did not become a fan of that music until I reached college, when I discovered the Talking Heads, the Police, and the Ramones. I also became a huge fan of Bruce Springsteen, who was neither punk, nor hair band, just real. My three favorite songs:
- Thunder Road
- Pyscho Killer
- Sweet Jane (with the Intro)
- Taylor carries a hefty literary name being named after the English Romantic poet Samuel Coleridge. What inspired you to connect Taylor to the English Romantic poet?
Taylor has a poor relationship with his father, an alcoholic English professor. His father gave him that name, and Taylor hates the ornamentation of it. Doesn’t much like his father either. Journalism is pretty much the opposite of poetry. I liked the name for all the contradictions it implies. I’m a huge fan of Morse and really wanted to go the one-last-name-only route, but didn’t want to be too much of copycat. This was my compromise.
- Taylor works as a journalist in LAST WORDS. What was one of your favorite stories you covered as a journalist?
Covering the Cannes Film Festival. Stars. Glitter. Movies. Business. All wrapped into one two-week long party. At another time, I co-owned a weekly newspaper. Being the news outlet and voice for a community was a real kick, though there were a lot of different stories in there.
- What makes 1975 so unique? What characteristics and traits define that time period in your perspective?
The year 1975 and the city of New York intrigued me because of the very striking parallels to America today. Then as now, an unpopular war was finally coming to its sad end. A major institution, the city itself, tumbled toward bankruptcy, threatening a cataclysm on the entire financial system. This as banks and ratings agencies ignored the warning signs or willfully misled the public. I chose this time period for the differences as well as the similarities. Solving a mystery in 1975 required good old-fashioned legwork and serious brainwork, rather than science fiction-like instant DNA typing and surveillance video available from any and every angle. Taylor has to find a pay phone when he needs to call someone. There’s something satisfying in that for me.
You can buy Last Words HERE
By Rich Zahradnik
October 1, 2014; $12.49 paperback; $4.95 Kindle