Drop Dead Punk, by Rich Zahradnik: A City on the Skids and its Corrupt Defenders

drop_dead_punkDrop Dead Punk ($14.95, 254 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-209-2), by Rich Zahradnik is book two of a mystery/suspense series featuring newsman Coleridge Taylor and set on the mean streets of Manhattan and the surrounding boroughs in 1975. As New York City teeters on the edge of financial ruin, Taylor falls for a policewoman who is a key player in a crime story he is investigating.

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The first book in the series, Last Words, was a finalist in ForeWord Magazine’s 2014 Book of the Year Contest, a Bronze IPPY Award winner, and a finalist in the Next Generation Indie Awards (all in the mystery category).

4 Stars: “Drop Dead Punk provides hours of engrossing entertainment. The protagonist’s choices, both good and bad, illustrate the depth and complexity of this utterly relatable character. As the action develops and intensifies, the pace moves from moderate to fast. The 1970s New York City backdrop seems well researched. Book two of the Coleridge Taylor series is a thoroughly satisfying read that will keep readers guessing until the end.”

—RT Reviews

“The New York City financial crisis of 1975 provides the dramatic backdrop for Zahradnik’s frenetic sequel to 2014’s Last Words. When police officer Robert Dodd starts to chase a mugger in Greenwich Village, Dodd’s partner, Samantha Callahan, is unable to keep up. By the time Callahan catches up, Dodd and the mugger, who turns out to be punk rocker Johnny Mort, are both lying dead in the street after an apparent exchange of gunfire. Coleridge Taylor, an investigative reporter for the New York Messenger-Telegram, begins probing the oddities of the crime. When the newspaper folds and leaves Taylor without a job, he stays on the case. As he learns more about Mort, Dodd, and Callahan, he becomes convinced the shooting was a setup, but it’s unclear who may have been the target. Taylor, who lives for the big story, makes an appealingly single-minded hero.”

—Publishers Weekly

5 Stars: “As you follow the story and uncover the clues, finally reaching the end, you come up for air. It was the writing, how the author kept me curious and anxious for the characters, especially Taylor, and excited to get answers to my questions, plus how easily and quickly the story flowed, that got this a high recommendation from me. 5 Stars.”  Read more….

—Laura’s Ramblings and Reviews

5 Stars: “Author Rich Zahradnik has done an amazing job at creating characters that the reader will truly care about, and if that’s not a sign of a great writer, I don’t know what is. Any reader who enjoys mysteries, an exciting read, a little bit of romance, or simply a great read will love Drop Dead Punk. I highly recommend this novel, and am excited to read more from Rich Zahradnik as soon as possible.”  Read more…

—Tracy A. Fischer for Reader’s Favorite Reviews

“A well-written, fast-paced suspense thriller.”  Read more….

—Mallory Heart Reviews

Drop Dead Punk is a highly intriguing mystery. A cop and a street kid are dead but they did not kill each other. Possibly another cop is involved but Taylor doesn’t think so. Now the investigation is on. I think Coleridge Taylor not only has a highly interesting job, newspaper reporter, but is one of the most interesting characters to come along in quite a while. Mr. Zahradnik has written a story that will keep you going in circles as Taylor tries to sort through all the clues. Drop Dead Punk is quite an engrossing book. Don’t start this book late at night as it will cost you sleep as you try to finish it before you go to bed.”  Read more ….

—Vic’s Media Room

5 Stars: “I didn’t realize this was the second book in a series, it functions as a standalone novel very well. I was really rooting for Taylor the whole time, he is a very likable character. so is Samantha. The mystery wraps up well but is rather bittersweet. This is one book you won’t want to miss if you are a mystery fan, Rich Zahradnik is an excellent story teller, and I look forward to more from him in the future.”  Read more ….

—Tea and a Book

Drop Dead Punk is the second book in the Coleridge Taylor Mystery series and you definitely do not have to read the first to get sucked into this story. One recent rainy afternoon, I started reading and planned to just read a few chapters to get started. I wound up skipping dinner so I could finish the story as I needed to find out ‘who dunnit.’ There were plenty of twists and turns and unexpected connections (pay attention!) that are the cornerstones of a good crime mystery. The author’s description of the gritty world that was New York in the 70s, as well as his research into the near bankruptcy of New York in 1975 was spot on and really added to the character of the story. Callahan’s struggle with being one of the first woman cops in New York comes up repeatedly and gives the reader great insight into what must have been a very difficult time for women on the force. Add in the author’s real-life experiences as a reporter for over 30 years that seep through the pages, and you have a definite winner. I thoroughly enjoyed Drop Dead Punk and look forward to the next book in this new series.”  Read more….

—Ellen Feld, Feathered Quill Book Reviews

Coleridge Taylor is searching for his next scoop on the police beat. The Messenger-Telegram reporter has a lot to choose from on the crime-ridden streets of New York City in 1975. One story outside his beat is grabbing all the front page glory: New York teeters on the brink of bankruptcy, and President Ford just told the city, as the Daily News so aptly puts it, “Drop Dead.” Taylor’s situation is nearly as desperate. His home is a borrowed dry-docked houseboat, his newspaper may also be on the way out, and his drunk father keeps getting arrested.

A source sends Taylor down to Alphabet City, hang-out of the punks who gravitate to the rock club CBGB. There he finds the bloody fallout from a mugging. Two dead bodies: a punk named Johnny Mort and a cop named Robert Dodd. Each looks too messed up to have killed the other. Taylor starts asking around. The punk was a good kid, the peace-loving guardian angel of the neighborhood’s stray dogs. What led him to mug a woman at gunpoint? And why is Officer Samantha Callahan being accused of leaving her partner to die, even though she insists the police radio misled her? It’s hard enough being a female in the NYPD only five years after women were assigned to patrol. Now the department wants to throw her to the wolves. That’s not going to happen, not if Taylor can help it. As he falls for Samantha—a beautiful, dedicated second-generation cop—he realizes he’s too close to his story. Officer Callahan is a target, and Taylor’s standing between her and some mighty big guns.

Says Zahradnik, “When I wrote the first Coleridge Taylor novel, I touched on the pending New York City financial crisis. I wanted to set the next book during the critical weeks when the city almost collapsed—a period kicked off with the now famous Daily News headline ‘Ford to City: Drop Dead.’ Taylor being Taylor, he remains obsessively focused on his next crime story, a double murder with one of the victims a cop. He thinks the city will survive no matter what. Eventually he realizes the financial disaster could impact him in a big and personal way. It may even be wound up in the crime he’s trying to solve. Sometimes not even journalists are aware of the historical importance of certain current events as they unfold. The release of Drop Dead Punk coincides with the 40th anniversary of the financial crisis—a good time to remind the public how close NYC came to disaster and how badly it had deteriorated at that time.”

Rich Zahradnik has been a journalist for 30-plus years, working as a reporter and editor in all major news media, including online, newspaper, broadcast, magazine, and wire services. He lives with his wife, Sheri, and son, Patrick, in Pelham, New York, where he teaches elementary school kids how to publish online and print newspapers. For more information, click here.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

A tall, wiry guy with medium-length brown and gray hair sauntered over from his place at the other end of the bar. The guy might be plainclothes, but didn’t have to be. Some patrol cops looked pretty shaggy now. Gone were the days of neat and tidy. The man turned one of the chairs around and straddled it. “What’s up, Callahan?”

“Oh you know, the usual, Schmidt. Drinking to a fallen comrade. With no one else. Will you join me?”

“You already seem to have company.” Schmidt continued to stare with hungry gray eyes at Samantha. “We need to keep things in the family. Who’s your friend?”

As if on cue, the conversation in the bar slowly died to almost nothing. The off-duty men in Little Cindy’s watched Samantha’s table. Sinatra continued singing “Summer Wind.”

“He’s not a friend. He’s a newspaper reporter.”

Samantha’s eyes took on a dangerous glint that made Taylor want to be a lot more sober. He didn’t know enough yet to read what was going on.

“We’re worried about you. Things I’m hearing about what happened with Dodd—those things are a serious concern. Now this. Airing your dirty laundry with a fucking reporter.”

Our dirty laundry.”

Need to cool this down.

Taylor lifted the bottle of beer. “Just having a drink with Samantha here. That’s it. I know a lot of people on the force. Check me out.”

“I don’t give a shit who you know. I don’t know you. Nobody on this patch knows you. Nobody on this patch talks to any reporters.”

Taylor watched his hopes for the night go out the window. He’d needed to learn as much as he could from Samantha, even if he had to wait until later to get it all on the record. Tonight was supposed to be about figuring out what direction to go with the story. Have drinks with a source and get a handle on where to go next. That was how reporting worked. ’Course it didn’t usually involve multiple shots of whiskey. Or violence. How was he going to learn anything more? He needed a plan B.

“The only story I’m interested in is Officer Dodd. He’s a hero and I want to write a profile of a hero. Give me something for that.”

“Bullshit. We’re not heroes in your paper. Not any paper. You’re here looking for dirt. You’re going to leave here bloody.”

“Stop being such asshole.” Samantha stood, sliding her chair back with her calves. The wiry cords on Schmidt’s arms tightened. She went to the bar and brought back another round of shots and set all three down.

“I’m not drinking with the bitch who got Dodd killed.”

“I didn’t get him killed. But something’s going on. Any idea what?”

“Be careful, little girlie. Dodd’s gone and he’s about the only one round here who tolerated a meter maid.”

There would be no toast. Samantha’s whiskey went right in Schmidt’s face. He slid off his chair and slammed her into the wall with one hand on her throat.

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