Last Words

Last Words

In March of 1975, as New York City hurtles toward bankruptcy and the Bronx burns, newsman Coleridge Taylor roams police precincts and ERs. He is looking 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 protect Voichek 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.

Last Words, the first book in the Coleridge Taylor mystery series, won honorable mention for mystery in Foreword Reviews’ IndieFab Book of the Year Awards and the Bronze Medal for mystery/thriller ebook in the 2015 Independent Publisher Awards. It was also a Finalist in the mystery category of the 2015 Next Generation Indie Book Awards.


"The tenacity of the main character will resonate as he fights against the barriers set up against him and reclaims his former life.... a fast-paced, deeply entertaining and engrossing novel. LAST WORDS is the first book in a mystery series featuring the intrepid investigative reporter. Readers will be glad these aren’t the last words from this talented author."

Robin Farrell Edmunds, ForeWord Magazine, Winter 2015

"This novel was wildly suspenseful & completely original. Zahradnik took a hold of me and ran, weaving an unforgettable tale... The final crescendo had me biting my nails, flying through the pages. It was fantastic."

Pure Jonel, Confessions of a Bibliofile

"If you like your mysteries on the gritty side, I’d say this one’s definitely for you… Mr. Zahradnik did a great job portraying the color and culture of the time. If you want to read about a slice of New York history during the 1970s, then you’d probably enjoy this mystery for that reason alone. It’s fast paced and the dialogue is natural sounding and I felt true to that era. With so many books now set during modern times with its cell phones and all the new gadgetry that can help a sleuth solve the crime, I found this one a refreshing change and will look for more in this series."

Long and Short Reviews

"The sights and sounds of the city in that day ring true to those of us old enough to have gone through the seventies. The author deftly uses the gritty landscape, the cops on the take who will do anything to those who even remotely consider crossing them, and the smell of fear that blanketed the city. From the very first sentence to the stunning end, readers will likely struggle to put the book down. It is fast-paced and riveting, and well worth the read."

Edie Dykeman, BellaOnline

"Set in the 1970’s, it is a fun return to the past and good crime fiction. You’ll enjoy LAST WORDS. RECOMMENDED. "

—I Love a Mystery Newsletter

"Author Rich Zahradnik has created richly drawn characters, both the major ones and the minor ones... I felt transported back to 1975, right to the streets of that time period. The political, economic and social climate of the era feels palatable. I saw parallels between now and then, particularly for the newspaper business... Last Words was an enjoyable mystery, atmospheric and suspenseful. This is one of those books I hope gets lots of attention. It deserves it."

Musings of Bookish Kitty

"LAST WORDS (A Coleridge Taylor Mystery) is a wonderful novel by Rich Zahradnik. He gives readers great visuals of New York City in the 1970s: how the Vietnam War changed social and economic conditions in the United States… The story is captivating, and it is obvious from his writing that Zahradnik is familiar with the setting he describes so well. Coleridge and Voichek are likeable, classic characters, and I enjoyed learning Voichek’s hobo language. LAST WORDS is not only entertaining, but also informative about a past era."

Michelle Stanley for Readers' Favorite

"The story has a lot of twists and turns, which kept this reader on the edge of her seat waiting to see where the next turn leads. It was an exciting story right up until the end, and what an ending! For everyone who likes mystery, this book is for you. "

Ann's Reading Corner

"I didn't realize how much I missed seedy gritty corrupt crime-ridden New York City of the 1970s till I read Zahradnik's debut thriller. LAST WORDS captures the palms-out politicians, the bully cops, the not-so-hapless homeless, the back-stabbing reporters of a city on the brink. The pace speeds up; the whispers and clues and leads all come together for a big empty-the-revolver and fling-the-vodka bottle finale. Well worth the trip back in time."

—Richard Zacks, author of "Island of Vice" and "Pirate Hunter."

"LAST WORDS sizzles like the fuse on a powder keg. Hero reporter Coleridge Taylor is gritty and unstoppable as he plumbs the mean streets of New York City during its darkest days."

—Paul D’Ambrosio, author of “Easy Squeezy,” winner of the Selden Ring investigation prize and a Pulitzer Prize gold medal finalist.

"LAST WORDS is as hard to put down as a grisly tabloid murder story. And indeed that's what the story is about. Despite his literary name, Coleridge Taylor is the Columbo of beat reporters, suffering no fools and pursuing the facts at all costs. Set in 1975, the discovery of a deceased kid, presumed homeless, sets in motion Taylor's chilling odyssey. "

—Claire Atkinson, senior media reporter, The New York Post

"Like any great crime thriller, LAST WORDS keeps the pace frenetic, dangerous, and surprising at every turn. Zahradnik delivers an intelligent, flawed hero in Coleridge Taylor while showcasing the darkness of New York in the 70s that devoured the weak and unsuspecting. A visual, visceral debut from both the author and his lead crime reporter. I’m looking forward to more pulpy chapters."

—Diane Becker, producer, FishBowl Films

"In 1975, as New York City collapses into a financial and violent sinkhole, journalist Coleridge Taylor dodges bullets and bounds from borough to borough to find the killer of a seemingly homeless boy, a crime that the NYPD can’t or won’t solve. 'The Bronx is Burning' meets 'The Poet' in Rich Zahradnik’s LAST WORDS, a taut debut novel that keeps you guessing until the very end."

—Vito J. Racanelli, author and journalist