Sandra Ruttan has come up with the gob-smackingly brilliant idea of designating March 12th as Ken Bruen Appreciation Day.

A bunch of us Bruen fans will be posting our own tributes to Ken, either here, or on our own blogs. Me included.

I can't think of a better or more loved personality and writer in the crime fiction world to dedicate a day such as this to. Having never personally met Ken, I don't have much to say other than what I've put up on my own blog.

But I'm wondering. Anyone have some cool Bruen tales to tell? Seems a fitting time to do so.

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When I met Ken it was one of those jaw-dropping moments for me. Ken Bruen was reading my blog?! I never assumed anyone knew who I was and I was completely blown away.

I am exceptionally spoiled. Almost half of my Ken Bruen collection is signed.

(Kevin just got called out to a house fire so I'm half asleep. And the other part of me is disoriented. I may be more coherent later.)
(Crossposted from my blog)

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.
What a lovely idea, Sandra.

I met Ken at Bouchercon and was an instant convert - and I use the term deliberately because that's about the kind of devotion Ken inspires, as an author and as a person. He's often called a poet, and it's true. But ir'a more than that. He's a religious experience.

Most of us walk around in masks, often full body armor, but Ken's soul is right there - on the page and in front of you. He's so unflinchingly honest, and so joyous while at the same time being completely familiar with and compassionate about human frailty and suffering, that you find yourself dropping your own mask and responding in kind. He makes you want to be a better writer and a better human being.

If you haven't read him, THE GUARDS is the one to start with.
And if you haven't read it yet, Russel's tribute is really fitting. Well, especially for me, because I just finished The Hackman Blues.
I started to read Ken's work after he was strongly recommended to me by Sandra and Angie. Some writers are a cut above. He's one of them. I put up a tribute.
Just bought my first yesterday, THE GUARDS. So I will begin my appreciation today!
Lucky girl. You get to read it for the first time.
I'm Ken Bruen's #1 Fan Girl - his writing is just phenomenal & he's one of the nicest people on the planet. Absolutely my very favoritest crime fiction writer and in my top 5 writers ever. Seriously. 'Nuff said.
If it doesn't dent my Titanium Manliness Shield too much, I gotta save I love the guy. We met for the first time at Love Is Murder 2007, and I took an instant liking--as so many of you did. It wasn't just an honor to hear his stories. It was like hearing Martin Luther King speak for the first time ... mesmerizing and forever memorable. I count him as a friend, which is amazing for someone I've only met once.

Plus he bought me a Jameson's, and he kills people in so many deliciously creative ways! (In literature, of course.) Hat's off to the true poet of noir.

Shane Gericke
I posted about Ken today at The Outfit Collective blog:
Well I'm a day late and I've never met Ken Bruen, but I still remember the first day I read The Guards - read it in an afternoon. Sat in a rocking chair in front of the open fire on a bitterly cold Sunday I inhaled that book.

Finished it and my other half asked how was the book. Came up with "bloody hell" and that was about all I can still say about it. It was astounding. Been a welded on fan ever since, which wasn't easy for a while because his books were hard to track down here.
I'm several days late weighing in on this thread, but I've got a tale to tell, so better late than never. I first met Ken Bruen (of whose writing I had only heard, not having actually read any at this point) in a pub, drinking with the PLOTS WITH GUNS fellows, just down the street from Bouchercon in Toronto in 2004. The fabulous Pat Lambe introduced us, mentioned Al Guthrie was also a mutual friend, and there we were.

A couple of days later, Lambe, Steve Hockensmith, John Schramm, Jim Winter and myself were ensconced in the Overdraught Pub (also the scene of Lee Child's one-hell-of-a-party that year), across the street from the Con, being entertained by the Master himself. We spent hours drinking with Ken that afternoon (something I'm sure no one else can claim), attended by Ashley the Uberwaitress.

At one point Otto Penzler and his lovely wife Lisa strolled in, strolled over and said "hello" and joined us for a round. For the most part, though, we had the place to ourselves.

And a damned good time was had by all. That was the scene of the birth of the so-called "Toronto Six," and gentlemen, we are long overdue for reconvening the entire lineup. I know that a full reunion at Anchorage is unlikely, since Winter said he's not going, and Lambe has been mum on the subject, but if we west coasties (Schramm, Hockensmith and myself) can make it to Baltimore (and I know *I* will be there), maybe 2008 will be our year.

Interestingly enough, aside from the male-bonding, the fond memories of the lovely Ashley stretching across our table to reach for something, and Winter getting red as a beet every time he started laughing (sometihng I'm sure no one else has ever seen), there were two other tangible by-products of this meeting of the so-called minds that afternoon:

First, Steve Hockensmith wrote a short-story loosely based on the situation. It's called "Blarney," and it's in the MWA anthology DEATH DO US PART, edited by Harlan Coben.

Second, to this very day, Pat Lambe still has a little bit of Ken Bruen in him.;)


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