INTERVIEW WITH RICHARD NEER

Richard Neer

Intro: I grew up listening to one of the greatest FM radio stations in the country, WNEW FM in New York City. The station was renowned not only for the free form, album oriented rock that it rightfully laid claim to, but for an amazing lineup of DJs. One of those DJs was Richard Neer. But even after WNEW.FM went the way of most great rock stations, Richard’s career continued as a sports talk host on WFAN AM in New York City. WFAN was the first all sports talk station in the nation and thirty years later it’s still going strong. Richard now hosts on weekend mornings. Aside from fielding calls from Lee Child to talk Yankees baseball or from yours truly to talk Mets and Jets, Richard is a mystery writer. For the last few years, I’ve been itching to introduce him to the wider mystery community. Here we go.

Reed Farrel Coleman: You worked at one of the most iconic radio stations in the country for more than two decades. What was that about? What was it like?

Richard Neer: It was the thrill of a lifetime. Getting to work with legends like Scott Muni and Alison Steele, meeting every rock star on the planet. Great seats to concerts and sporting events in New York. Having the freedom to play the music I like, regardless of genre sometimes. Talk about politics, sports, music, comedy, whatever. I wrote a book about it, FM THE RISE AND FALL OF ROCK RADIO.

RFC: In Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography BORN TO RUN, he does more than give you a passing mention. How did you and the Boss get to be pals?

RN: He used to call me when I worked overnights at WNEW FM. Living in New Jersey, he grew up listening to the station and being a rocker, he was often up late. We’d talk for hours and became friends. When BORN TO RUN came out, I was amazed at the parallels in our respective childhoods, Catholic kids growing up in the suburbs.

For some time now you’ve been the weekend morning host at WFAN. How does one transition from iconic rock DJ to sports talk radio to talking Mets, Yankees, Jets, Giants, Knicks, Nets, Rangers, Islanders, Devils …

RN: I actually started in radio doing sports, but back then, there were no real sports talk stations, just isolated shows here and there. I always loved sports, but doing it professionally presented challenges. You think you know sports, but when you do it for a living, that knowledge must grow exponentially, even into areas you’re not really interested in.

RFC: And then how does one transform oneself from FM DJ to sports talk host to PI mystery writer?

RN: I always wanted to write, and after five decades in radio, I finally have the time to devote myself to it. I guess it might be because I grew up as a big fan of the old Warner Brothers detective series. 77 Sunset Strip, Hawaiian Eye, Surfside Six, etc. They were the coolest guys around and if I couldn’t live their lives, I could do so vicariously by writing about them. And of course, I became a fan of the written word detectives, from people like Robert B Parker, John D. MacDonald and Reed Farrel Coleman.

RFC: Tell us about Riley and the folks that populate the series.

RN: Riley is a former college basketball player who hurt his knee in his senior year at Georgetown, wound up working for the FBI. Couldn’t stomach the bureaucracy so he hung a shingle on his own at the Jersey shore. As he got older he migrated to Charlotte and finally Hilton Head, which he considers paradise. His best friend is a sports talk host named Rick Stone, who works for a brilliant but crazy radio station owner named Ted McCarver. Riley has cop friends — Flint McCullough in Jersey and Pete Shabielski down south. His love life is complicated, alternating between rock steady Hollywood talent agent Jaime Johansen and the mercurial country music star Charlene Jones.

RFC: Why indie publish and not go the traditional route?

RN: FM was traditionally published and Riley was shopped around. Almost every editor loved the books but said that the world didn’t need another PI series from an unfamiliar author. I found that indie publishing gives me freedom to make decisions about editorial control, marketing and release dates that I wouldn’t otherwise have. The biggest problem is getting the word out. I use social media, but the main venue is my radio show. Therefore, the books sell really well in NY but I need to get them exposed to a wider audience.

RFC: What’s up next for Riley?

RN: THE PUNCH LIST is out now. I have another completed Riley King novel in the hopper and am halfway through a third. That will make seven altogether at which time, I may do a one off or develop another character.

RFC: Have you ever considered creating a new protagonist? If so, why? If not, why not?

RN: I’m very comfortable in King’s world and the recurring supporting characters. It took me a while to find his true voice and I think I have it down really well by now. I may start a new series featuring Derek Davis, who is a builder by trade and Riley’s first buddy down South.

RFC: For many years, you did author interviews. That was how we became friends. Who was your favorite interview? Least favorite?

RN: Aside from present company, my favorite was Bob Parker. We talked for long periods even as his publicists urged him to move on to the next interview. He was everything his Spenser character was —smart, gruff, funny, old school. I miss him greatly. The worst had to be the late Tom Clancy. He clearly did not like the media and even though I threw him a few softballs to warm him up, he never did. Gave me one sentence, cliched answers and didn’t respond to followups. Maybe I caught him on a bad day.

RFC: What authors do you read on a regular basis?

RN: I read a lot of crime fiction. You, Harlan Coben, Michael Connelly, Jeffrey Deaver, Nelson DeMille. Legal drama from Grisham and Lescroart and Turow. Dennis Lehane. Greg Iles, David Baldacci. Richard Russo. Historical fiction from Follett and David Liss. Adventure stuff from early Clive Cussler and of course, Lee Child. Some non fiction too, when the subject strikes me.

Thanks, Richard. If you’d like to talk to Richard, you can reach him at Richardneer.com, on Facebook, and, if you’re in New York City at 877.337. 6666 on WFAN.