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Ken Kuhlken

Sixty seconds with Ken Kuhlken...

Ken Kuhlken's stories have appeared in Esquire and numerous other magazines and anthologies, been honorably mentioned in Best American Short Stories and earned a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. His crime novels include the Hickey family mysteries, a saga that concludes with his current novel, THE GOOD KNOW NOTHING.

RTE: Describe yourself in a sentence?

Kuhlken: I’m an introvert who tries to love people and act somewhat civilized.

RTE: What's the one record you'd take to a desert island?

Kuhlken: Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” on account of the irony between the lyric and the setting, and for the Mike Bloomfield guitar riffs.

RTE: What did you want to be when you were growing up?

Kuhlken: Grown up

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Ken Bruen

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December 13, 2014

So we come to the final issue for 2014. We at RTE are settling down for a long winter's nap and no clatter of little feet on my roof is going to get me to go outside in the snow; I figure they'll go away on their own. I plan to pull up a duvet, a warm cat, and a good book, and I recommend you do the same. Here are some books you might like to consider.

When you think Christmas, you think Dickens (do you have a choice?) and there seems to me to be a bit of Dickens about Andrew Taylor's latest historical novel, THE SILENT BOY, which I enjoyed immensely. Quite different, but also enjoyable in Anne Corey's view, is Michael Connelly's THE BURNING ROOM, starring Harry Bosch, though there's nothing at all seasonal about this one.

Like Dickens, Sherlock Holmes seems appropriate to the season, though I'm not at all sure why. Tradition, maybe? If you are of the same mind, there are two new Holmes-inspired volumes to consider.Anthony Horowitz, who scored with the estate-authorized HOUSE OF SILK, is back with MORIARTY, which Meredith Frazier found "disturbingly dark on the one hand and great fun on the other." The short stories in the collection edited by Laurie King and Leslie S. Klinger, IN THE COMPANY OF SHERLOCK HOLMES, derive from the original canon. Though a few of the stories misfire, Ben Neal does recommend the anthology to Holmesians of all persuasions.

One of the joys of crime fiction is the development of lengthy series by which readers can learn more about their favourite protagonists over a period of time. It's a practice that has its drawbacks, however, for readers new to the series, who may be made to feel a bit like an outsider at a class reunion. While PERFECT SINS, by Jo Bannister, avoids that particular pitfall, Christine Zibas suggests that readers familiar with earlier books starring Gabriel Ash will have a richer experience than those starting here for the first time. Diana Bourse came to a similar conclusion about RISKY UNDERTAKING by Mark de Castrique, which she did enjoy, but she did feel that a little more explanatory back story would have helped. Caryn St Clair is familiar with other cosy series by Laura Childs, but the Cackleberry Club is new to her. She enjoyed it, though she had a few unanswered questions that she might have known the answers to had she read the earlier entries.

No such problem for Ben Neal reading THE MURDER MAN, by Tony Parsons, a debut crime novel for this established author. Ben says the book scores high both as a brilliant crime novel and as an affecting story of family bonds.

Two other protagonists with long track records make their reappearance, much to the pleasure of their reviewers. In NONE SO BLIND, Barbara Fradkin's Detective Michael Green has to confront possible mistakes he may have made years ago when he was still learning the detective trade. Ann Pearson says that it is not only the wonderfully complex plots that account for the success of this long-running Canadian series, but also Fradkin's talent with dialogue and character development. Joe Sandilands has been around a long time too, and Megan Sweeney enjoyed her visit to an English country house in 1933 in ENTER PALE DEATH by Barbara Cleverly.

Nothing, alas can go one forever, and so it is with fictional detectives as well as real ones. John Harvey brings his Charlie Resnick series to an end in DARKNESS, DARKNESS, prompting some bittersweet reflections on Jim Napier's part, who will miss Charlie (and so will I), but sees his departure as a prompt to reread the whole set once again. One solution to the demise of a protagonist is the prequel that resurrects the character at an earlier and till now unrecorded stage in his development. That's the route taken by Arnaldur Indriđason in REYKJAVÍK NIGHTS, where Erlendur is just twenty-eight and still on the beat. But like the last book in a series, prequels ought not to be read before the main series. That said, I've read the lot and I was very happy that Arnaldur decided to revive his dour detective.

Two more translations, one German, one Swedish, to consider. FIVE, is by Austrian Ursula Archer, best known for her books for young adults. This grim and gripping thriller is decidedly not for children, says Deb Shoss. Fredrik T. Olsson's CHAIN OF EVENTS concerns a hemorrhagic plague and was released coincidentally with recent Ebola breakouts, which the reader may see as either timely or tasteless. On the whole, however, Barbara Fister found the whole enterprise preposterous.

Finally, Karen Chisholm was pushed well outside her comfort zone by THE GIRL IN 6E, by A.R. Torre, a successful self-published erotic novelist. In the end, however, she found it "engaging, compelling, and inventive."

Our interviewee this week is Ken Kuhlken and you can read what he has to say for himself in the "Sixty Seconds With..." feature to your left.

And don't forget to check out what our former colleagues are saying at CRIMEREVIEW about what's new in crime fiction in the UK.

Well, as I said at the beginning, that's it for 2014. But don't despair. We will be back early next year and hope you will all join us once again. Thank you all for your support. Until next time, we wish you all a lovely holiday and a very happy New Year.



P.S. If you wish to submit a book for review, please check here before contacting us. Please note that we do not review self-published books.

Our mascot and masthead is Smokey the Cat. Smokey the cat went to the great playground in the sky on April 29, 2008, at 3:30 p.m. He was about 13 years old, had diabetes and only 11 teeth left. He is much happier now. He will remain as our masthead and mascot.

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Since RTE first appeared, some twelve years ago, the business of books has changed out of all recognition. Then, books were reviewed in the print media for the most part, though Amazon was encouraging readers to post their reviews of the books they read. Now, newspapers across North America have reduced or eliminated the space they allot to books and, with certain notable exceptions, only best-selling authors are likely to get noticed. As a result, electronic reviewing has become increasingly important and, due to the somewhat slippery question of online authorship, occasionally problematic.

For this reason and in view of a recent article in the NY Times detailing a reviews-for-hire enterprise, it's probably wise for RTE to reiterate its position on reviewing. While our reviewers receive galleys, ARCs, or finished copies of books for review, they are otherwise unpaid. Furthermore, they are asked to disclose any special interest they might have in a book or an author they are reviewing. No one, including the editors, receives any compensation for the work they do. All our reviewers are encouraged to express their honest opinions, whether positive or negative, about the books they are reviewing. None of our reviewers uses a pseudonym and all are who they say they are. Nor do we employ rating systems (stars, grades, "highly recommended," or the like) in the belief that our reviews deserve to be read in their entirety. Since RTE does not review self-published or digital-only releases, we are perhaps less vulnerable to offers to pay for reviews, but it seems a good idea to make our policy clear. Finally, in the years that I've been editing RTE, I have never once been approached by a press or a publicist to violate this principle in any way.

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