Former Portland Police Detective Bruce Robert Coffin, spent 28 years doing research for his crime novels before publishing his first book last fall. “Among the Shadows” has been on many best seller lists and was named number one for fiction in the Maine Sunday Telegram since its release. The paperback copy has had three print runs and is ready to go back for a fourth run soon.
Last Wednesday, Coffin spoke at the Windham Public Library at its monthly author talk. He discussed his varied career working in counterterrorism for the FBI, as a detective for many years before returning to the bureau as the detective sergeant, where he worked solving violent crimes. In 2012, he realized it was “time to pull the plug,” so he retired.
As an award winning artist, he was no stranger to creative endeavors. “Writing was my passion in school,” he said. If it hadn’t been for a college professor that made him doubt his writing potential by giving him D pluses, his life might have taken a very different path, he said. “What would I have written about if I’d gotten what I wanted back in college?”
To him there is no difference between painting and writing. “It’s just a different medium. It’s all a creative effort. With painting it’s layers, contrasts, it’s lights and darks. There’s a story being told,” he said. “Writing is harder. I put my heart and soul into it.”
Coffin’s publishing career took off after he aligned himself with local writing mentors and found his agent at a conference called Crime Bake. In under a week he had his agent and within a month, he had a three book deal with HarperCollins.
Coffin was happy to have a minor league contract and not have the pressure to pay back a six figure advance at this point in his career.
At the same time he signed his contract on “Among the Shadows”, he found out that the first short story he’d written since college was picked as one of the top 20 mystery stories out of 35,000 that were in the running.
“That’s better than a D,” he told the crowd at the library.
The John Byron Mystery Series features a 20-year, second generation police veteran, raised by an Irish Catholic mom. He’s also battling alcohol addiction and is estranged from his wife. Coffin has created realistic plots for his characters to show the reality of police work. He tried to come up with a character that readers could relate to or be entertained by. Dexter and Monk had already been done, so Byron was born.
Having the stories set in Portland, Maine, allowed Coffin to bring in the history of the city through Byron’s recollections of growing up there, along with the present day city he works in. The book reeks of authenticity, and the characters are full of life.
Book two is already up for pre-sale on Amazon. The just released title is “Beneath the Depths” due out August 8, 2017. The third book, which Coffin is currently writing, has a working title of “Above the Fray.” All three books are a part of the Witness Impulse line at HarperCollins.
The library talk was Coffin’s 39th appearance since November.