Monday, March 12, 2007

Ken Bruen

Sandra Ruttan has declared today "International Ken Bruen Appreciation Day" and hey, why not?

You never forget your first Bruen, and my experience is no exception. Vicki at Books n' bytes sent me a copy of Ken's book The Guards to review. I sat down and opened it. A few hours later, I finally put the book down and went "Holy shit. That was AMAZING." The prose was as simple and direct as a punch in the face, shot through with dark Irish wit and flashes of poetry. After I was done with the review, Vicki gently reminded me that I needed to pass the book on to the next reviewer on the list. I didn't actually weep as I put it in the mail, but it was a damned close run thing. I proceeded to devour every Bruen book I could get my hands on.

Then, shortly after The Devil's Right Hand came out, the fine folks at Murder By the Book in Houston contacted me about doing a signing. I got on the phone with David Thompson to discuss dates, and he let it drop that they would be doing a Noir Night with some fellows named Duane Swierczynski, Jason Starr, Allan Guthrie, and oh, yes, Ken Bruen. Would I like to be on that? I think my response was something along the lines of "who do I have to kill?"

As I flew down to Houston, I got more and more nervous. The other participants were much more experienced and savvy at this book thing than I was, and they all seemed to know each other. Plus, you know, Ken Freakin' Bruen. I hoped I'd at least get to say hello and tell him how much I loved his work before I got stuck down at the end of the table, listening to the other guys talk.

Nothing could have been further from the truth. When I got to the store, Ken was signing stock. He got up, came over, hugged me, and let me know how much he'd liked The Devils' Right Hand. I was floored. One of my favorite writers had not only read my book, he liked it! He really liked it! (I wasn't nearly as cool and blase then as I am now.) And Ken and the other fellows could not have been more generous to the new guy, before, during, and especially after the panel. In fact, it's the after that sticks with me, where we all ended up at the home of MBTB's McKenna Jordan, listening to Ken read from his work--after which he insisted that the rest of us read from ours.

Since then, I've met Ken Bruen a half a dozen times at various functions, and he remains as he was the first time I met him: friendly, funny, open, and incredibly gracious. And his work keeps getting better and better.

Here's to you, Ken. Cheers.

5 comments:

Tasha Alexander said...

Ken is the best.

And of course he loved your book--he's also got fabulous taste....

Laura Lippman said...

NO ONE EVER TELLS ME ANYTHING.

(I thought every day was Ken Bruen Day. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.)

Regina Harvey said...

What? Those Irish already have St. Patrick's Day this week!!! I tell you people, they're taking over the world...

Kristy said...

I've never met Ken, but I hear raves about him at every turn in the publishing world. Clearly a talent as well as a gentleman (hmmm, much like our Dusty, no?), my favorite kind of guy.

Louise Ure said...

I just finished AMERICAN SKIN, and now have a whole new perspective on my home town, Tucson, thanks to Ken. Seriously, seeing America through Irish eyes is astounding. As is the rest of his work.