New York, New Jersey D.J. now a Lowcountry novelist

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Richard Neer has been a full-time Southerner and a part-time islander for five years.

But make no mistake: "I'm a metropolitan New York-Jersey guy," he concedes.

Neer always has told stories professionally, whether it be as a disc jockey and a talk-show host at two of the biggest ground-breaking radio stations in the country in New York City, or as a novelist who has published five novels in his robust second career. There's a strong tilt of Hilton Head life, landmarks and familiarity in each of protagonist Riley King's mystery novels.

In Neer's book "The Last Resort" published last year, private investigator and former FBI agent King and his fictional radio host best friend appear on the first page as buddies on a golfing tour of Hilton Head courses. King reappears in Neer's latest offering, "The Punch List," which arrived at Amazon and book stores last month.

"When I was spending more time in Hilton Head, there was a lot of area to mine ... so I thought, 'here's a blank canvas,' " he said.

So he invented a Hilton Head police department to help solve crimes in a low-crime, low political intrigue community that stretches the reader's imagination. His next King mystery is based on real-life unsolved murders and disappearances that occurred on Hilton Head a decade ago. It will be published this fall. "I call Hilton Head paradise in the book," Neer said. "That's the way I see it. It's the most beautiful place I've ever been to."

Hilton Head is straight down I-95 from where he was making $1 an hour on a Long Island radio station after graduating from Adelphi College outside New York City. That gig morphed into a regular DJ slot in 1971 on WNEW-FM in the city, which was the first station in the country to play free-form progressive rock from the rack of thousands of vinyl records on a wall in the studio. The on-air vibe then was mellow and conversational, unlike today's classic rock stations that are super-charged by high-energy hosts, he said.

"Essentially, you could play whatever vinyl you wanted to play; there was no formatting," he said. "I had (New Jersey native) Bruce Springsteen a number of times in the studio, and we didn't play much music; we just talked... We could tell stories. I probably played more Springsteen on the air than anybody, depending on what he had out at the time."

Then he moved over to WFAN-AM, the nation's first all-sports radio network that launched in 1998 with "Mike and the Mad Dog" as co-hosts. He worked at both stations for 11 years in the 80s and 90s.

Today, he still broadcasts his call-in sports program on WFAN on the weekends. During the week, he writes every day on his novels.

When he and his wife, Vicky, are walking their dog Duncan, who appears on the back cover of each book, on the Hilton Head Plantation beach, he'll occasionally hear a fellow transplant from the Northeast say to him, "Oh yeah, I used to listen to you back in the day."

Dean Rowland is a veteran senior editor and freelance writer.

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