That time 10 years ago I played a cop on Psychic Detectives.

Ten years ago, almost to the day, I played a cop in a reenactment scene on reality TV.

My wife edits TV shows. Sometimes she’s a combination editor-producer (called a “preditor”). Ten years ago, we were still living in Brooklyn, and my wife got a job preditor-ing to help revamp a previously aired episode of a show called Psychic Detectives, which aired on Court TV (now called TruTV).


My wife’s show includes interviews with Renier, Times Union reporter Carol DeMare, who covered the story when it broke, as well as retired Colonie Police Lt. Ray Krolak and Andy Zostant. The investigation led to the arrests and conviction of James Mariani, a grandson of the victims, along with Robert Skinner, the gunman, and Keith Snare, an accomplice. They’re all in jail now serving up to life in prison sentences.


The episode centers around the 1986 double-murder of Jacob and Dora Cohn in Colonie, NY. (The only Times Union story I could find that mentions it is online here.) During the investigation, Colonie police consulted psychic Noreen Renier from Orlando, Florida, who confirmed a lot of what the detectives were finding out using what I guess would be called non-psychic evidence.  A show called Sightings had covered the psychic angle in 1994, but you can never get enough psychic cop shows.

We shot Brooklyn for Colonie that day. My wife helmed the second unit, working with a special slow-motion camera for shots of the crash of a teacup and bullets hitting the kitchen floor. In the front room, I was outfitted in a late-80s Barney Miller-style suit and tie, an unfashionable detective’s jacket, and a notepad.
My role was to play a Colonie copy who was first at the scene.

I found a DVD of the episode I had gotten from the production company, and posted the first segment on YouTube.

Like the stars say, a lot of film work consists of hurrying up and waiting for one’s scene. The mood on-set was surprisingly upbeat, especially considering were about to re-enact a double-murder that had occurred 20 years ago.  I stood outside in front of the row homes, drinking coffee, shooting the bull with the two guys from the NYPD who were required to be on-site while they fired a gun with blanks.

I remember that I had to wear contacts, since what kind of a cop would wear artsy hipster horn-rims. I hate contact lenses. My eyes were dry and red by the end of the day.

The only people who weren’t cracking wise were the two actors hired to play the Cohns. They took the job seriously. They made the choice to act out their scenes, crying out for help as they lie on the ground. They did all this even though they were told there would be no sound recorded. Their method acting continued as dead people, both stone-silent as I walked through the crime scene, which made it a lot easier for me to get into character as the the hard-boiled, seen-it-all Colonie cop, placing those plastic number-markers besides pieces of evidence.

In the weeks after the shoot for this, my first and only TV acting job, in which I investigate a crime near Albany, I would visit Albany in real life to interview for what turned out to be my present job. I suppose this is all coincidence, but as I write this, I can’t help but think about the simulacrum of it all, the way I played Colonie in Brooklyn, then played Brooklyn in Albany. The reversal still spins around in my head as I watch the scene replay again.

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“The Handgun’s in the Mail”: an interview at The Fanzine.

FanzineInterviewPhilly poet Chris McCreary asked me some questions over at The Fanzine.

FANZINE: This book clearly had a long gestation period. At what point did you know that these various “notes” were becoming a single book as opposed to separate stand-alone essays, for instance, about your childhood and coming of age?

DANIEL NESTER: When my wife was pregnant with our first daughter, there was a sense of urgency to talk to my parents and ask them about my childhood, before I became a parent myself. Our oldest daughter was conceived through IVF, which was a long and strenuous process, especially for my wife. It worked, and there was this crazy nine-month period that I kept myself busy interviewing my mom, since I was anxious I might, you know, turn into my father. It makes no sense as I type this out to you, but I thought some genetic imprint would kick in once I got to be a dad, and I’d suddenly desert my kids like my dad eventually did with my sister and me. I compiled hours of recordings of my mom and me talking about growing up in Maple Shade, Catholic school, and whatever was going on with my dad. I regarded it as research, but I didn’t know why I was doing it for a very long time.

Read the whole interview here.

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Shader reviewed in Chronogram’s Holiday Gift Guide.

Chronogram Dec_CoverSHADER

Daniel Nester

99: The Press, 2015, $16

Not since Bruce Springsteen has a man so eloquently immortalized and rendered fascinating a subsection of New Jersey while also excavating his own soul. Maple Shade native Daniel Nester unspools his memoir in rock-and-roll bursts—brief, potent chapters grappling with Gen X coming-of-age and an alcoholic father, whose 2013 passing inspired this work. Extravagant love and devastating abandonment haunt Nester to this day, yet Shader offers hope and no small dose of hilarity. Appearing 12/12 at 7pm, Volume Reading Series at Spotty Dog Books & Ale, Hudson. —RBW

Check out the rest of Chronogram Books Holiday Gift Guide here.

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Shader Makes Philebrity’s Recommended Reading.

Photo by Dan Long, Minister of Information. Go to for more.

Photo by Dan Long, Minister of Information. Go to for more.

Other than knowing what we are getting absolutely everyone for the holidays now, Shader’s biggest impact upon us is how utterly relatable it is. The experiences with finding oneself amidst an environment that seems stifling and rich with characters all at once is well-worn literary territory that Nester manages to make seem completely new…and familiar to our own experiences.

Read here.

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“Professor’s book looks back with a punk perspective” in Daily Gazette.

DailyGazetteLogo.jpgDid you read that headline?

Read it again.


As Fear’s Lee Ving says in The Decline of Western Civilization, “yous all suck–who don’t think so?”

Neat little interview with Jeff Wilkin from Schenectady’s Daily Gazette. I will never like any photos of me, but I like the one that went with this because it’s in my office and it has my cherished “Daniel from Williamsburg has joined our staff” poster. Wilkin’s favorite New Wave band was XTC and we nerded out over music; I’m surprised an actual interview could be culled from our conversation.

The interview is behind a paywall, but here’s an excerpt:

Q: How did “Shader” come to life?

A: I decided a couple years ago I’d like to write a coming-of-age memoir. I just felt really compelled to tell the story of growing up in South Jersey as a blue collar kid in a blue collar town with a kind of a crazy dad who discovered record stores and figures out what he’s going to do with his life.

I found myself telling the small stories, little stories, writing little “memoirettes” and essays about that time. I guess maybe five or six years ago, they started to look like they made sense all together, so that’s how “Shader” came to be.

I think I figured out a couple of common themes. One is my father, who passed away a couple years ago — that’s sort of a moment when you realize there’s a bit of a bookend to part of your life. Another is becoming a father, another is thinking about growing up in this town Maple Shade.

Q: You were into the punk rock scene in those days?

A: I was a poser, I was a wannabe, I think, growing up in a town like Maple Shade where the posers and punkers were few and far between. I think it was pretty tribal. It was definitely a classic rock kind of town.

Q: What kinds of problems did you have? People chasing you down the street?

A: The book has a couple of fist fights that I got into, things like that, nothing terribly illegal. But yeah, it was a tough town and I was a sensitive kid. But it was also a town that was tight-knit, everybody knew each other.

Q: Did you have the punk rock hair? Black Flag buttons in your lapel?

A: I had like a Duran Duran mullet, with sun-in blond hair. I might have worn a fedora to look like a member of Duran Duran.

Q: C’mon, Duran Duran wasn’t a punk band!

A: Exactly. I was a poser.

Here’s the link to photo and the full thing in case it come out of the paywall someday.

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