August Riordan

Created by Mark Coggins

San Francisco private eye AUGUST RIORDAN once walked the mean streets of Phoenix, Arizona, way back when he first appeared in a novella entitled “There’s No Such Thing as Private Eyes” in 1986. But when he returned twelve years later in his first novel, The Immortal Game (1999), he had relocated to San Francisco, living in an apartment on the corner of Post and Hyde, and working out of an office in the Flood building. He plays jazz bass on a semi-professional basis, and has this peculiar superstitious habit of knocking on the Samuel’s Jewelers clock on Market Street (a nod to Dashiell Hammett, if you didn’t know), on his way into and out of his office, and he can be pretty damn cynical and irreverent. And direct.

Riordan’s bio is more or less revealed in these two excerpts The Immortal Game. He’s being interviewed by a client:

“I’ve been in the biz now for fifteen years, working mostly down south and here in the Bay Area. Before that I covered the metro beat for the L. A. Times, and before that I attended UCLA. I’ve handled most kinds of jobs people hire investigators for, and I’ve typically given good service for the dollar. I’ve got a reference list made up of former clients and law enforcement officers that you can check out, but maybe Richie already covered that angle for you. Anyway, that’s the top line.”

“I’m curious why you moved from journalism to private investigations.”

“There’s no great mystery. I come from a long line of drunken Irish cops–on my mother’s side anyway. My mom’s dad, for instance, was chief of police in Santa Monica. When I made the switch to PI work it was just a matter of joining the family business.”

“I take it then your father was not in the ‘family business?'”

“We don’t talk about my father,” I said bluntly.

Later, he is questioned about the episode featured in “There’s No Such Thing as Private Eyes”:

“I heard from other sources that you retired from private investigations for a time after a run-in with the police in Phoenix, Arizona. It’s my understanding that you only recently returned to the business.”

“That’s correct as far as it goes. I was held for questioning in connection with an incident that occurred during an insurance investigation I was handling. But no charges were ever brought against me.”

“What was the exact nature of this incident?”

I grinned at him. “I think you know very well what the nature of the incident was. If you want me to say it to your face, I’ll oblige you: I shot and killed three people with a Colt Army .45.”

“And that was why you quit?”

“No, I quit because I ran out of bullets.”

And so it goes. Coggins has followed up The Immortal Game with six more novels, the latest being The Dead Beat Scroll in 2019, which partially involves the hunt for a previously unknown manuscript from Jack Kerouac, which makes the title one of the punnier word splatters of the year. Well played, Mark, well played.


Born in New Mexico in 1957, professional photographer and author Mark Coggins earned two degrees and a Phi Beta Kappa key from Stanford University. He has worked for a number of Silicon Valley computer and venture capital firms, including Netscape Communications and three (other) software start-ups. He lives in San Francisco.


A previous novel, 2007’s Runoff, was tagged as a “cautionary tale about a mayoral election in San Francisco where the security on e-voting machines is defeated to change the outcome of the race.” How timely? Mark kept a log of the domains of visitors to his my web site at the time, and when Runoff came out, one domain kept appearing consistently:, which manufactures voting machines.


  • “What you hope every P.I. novel will be.”
    — Megan Abbott
  • “Mark Coggins writes tight prose with a clean, unadorned style; he is a Hammett for the turn of the 21st century. The chess background of The Immortal Game would have pleased Raymond Chandler, and if I may be excused the hubris of placing myself in their company, the character of August Riordan interests me no end. I hope to see a good deal more from this fine writer.”
    — Loren D. Estleman
  • “Runoff… is a smart, funny, spooky … often touching, always entertaining romp through … San Francisco’s highways, byways, and alleys of corruption. (Hammett eat your hat and laugh.) It’s great fun and a must read.”
    — James Crumley
  • “[H]arrowing … exposes the dark underbelly of American politics.”
    — Publishers Weekly on Runoff
  • “Fast-paced excursion into the remnants of San Francisco’s lost bohemia…Alternately comic, sad, lurid, impossible, blasphemous, and just plain fun.”
    — Domenic Stansberry on The Dead Beat Scrolls


  • “There’s No Such Thing as Private Eyes” (1986, The New Black Mask Vol. 4)



  • Mark Coggins
    The official site for the author, done by computer whiz Mark himself, with plenty of interactive links, and some great photos. There are also several excerpts from the books.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. Thanks to Mark Coggins his ol’ bad self for the heads-up.

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