NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Longtime WFAN host Richard Neer last week released “The Last Resort,” the fourth novel in his mystery series about a private detective named Riley King.
We recently spoke to Neer about his latest book.
Q: Without giving too much away, what is ‘The Last Resort’ about?
A: It’s funny, I wrote “FM,” my story on FM radio on how progressive radio was destroyed back in 2001, and people have been saying: ‘Write a sequel. Write a sequel about sports talk.’ And since I’m still working at the FAN and still involved in it, I certainly couldn’t write a tell-all or a history of it, and it’s still thriving, it’s still going very well, so there was no ending for the book. I could just write a gossipy thing about ‘yeah, Mike Francesa did this’ or whatever. It doesn’t make any sense to me.
So what I did was I decided to do a ficitionalized version of a sports talk station, which is located in Toms River, New Jersey, as opposed to New York City. And I talk about the Fan in the book as sort of the competition, but not really. And I based a character — kind of a shock jock-type sports guy who is very, very popular, based on a lot of people I’ve worked with, kind of a combined character. And the fact that this guy, with his mouth, gets himself into trouble all the time, and it reached a point where somebody tried to kill him. And the whole mystery is who wanted to kill him, and he didn’t want to get the police involved because he thought they might have been involved. He was the type of guy that is a multiple addict — a sex addict, a drug addict, a gambler. He had all these weaknesses. There are a lot of people to choose from as to who might have tried to kill him, including one of the main characters, Rick Stone, who had just been fired from the station and kind of resented this guy called Wally Josephs.
Q: This is the fourth installment of your series about private detective Riley King, right?
A: It was actually going to be the fifth, but a good friend of mine, the writer Reed Farrel Coleman … he said: “If you really want a book to be really good, it should be about something you’re deeply involved in, something you really know. And you’ve never been a private detective, but you have been in radio your whole life, so write a book about radio.” And that’s what I did basically. This is really more about radio than private detective, and it’s about all the ins and outs.
Q: How would you say this series has evolved over these four books?
A: Well, hopefully I’m becoming a better writer because they tell you the way to be a better writer is to keep writing, and so I’ve learned a lot in terms of building character and keeping everybody’s voice different and interesting. I’m not sacrificing plot for character so much, but understanding that people read these books because they like the characters in these books. Because if you ask them a year later if you remember the plot of the book, they probably don’t, but hopefully they remember Riley King and they remember Rick Stone and they know who those people are and they like those people. Even if those people are flawed, they find a way to like them.
Q: I understand there’s some sort of Mike and the Mad Dog reference. Explain that.
A: Early on, it’s the “Allie and Wally” show, and it’s a female sports talk host and this guy Wally Josephs, who’s the antagonist in the book, and she’s a veteran who’s been in radio a long time, has had a long career and really knows her stuff. And Wally is kind of a loose cannon. But he’s not modeled on Christopher (“Mad Dog”) Russo because Chris is nothing really like Wally. But Wally is Chris taken the N’th degree. If Chris was totally irresponsible and nuts and a multiple addict, then that would be the dynamic there. So there is a little bit of a Mike and the Mad Dog dynamic, but I also make it clear that it’s not Chris, it’s not Mike (Francesa). In fact, we even talk about Mike in one of the chapters when one of the characters says, “Well, you know at FAN they thought that when Russo left, the show would go downhill, but Mike has actually done better in the ratings than they did when they were together.” So there are some references to real people and real events.
Q: How many books do you see yourself writing in this series?
A: I’ve got another one that I actually had written before this one called ‘The Punch List,” and as I said earlier, I was convinced to do this one and release it before that one. So that one’s finished, but I have to go through and re-edit it because it’s out of sequence. … And I’m about three-quarters of the way through one called “The American Storm,” which is about a man who’s impersonating Jesus basically. He’s doing miracles and he’s trying to do all these things, and he’s getting a huge following amongst people, and he’s raising money, and people are kind of buying his act that he might be the second coming of the Messiah.
For more information on “The Last Resort” and Neer’s other books, visit RichardNeer.com.