Gormanston, Co. Meath, Ireland
Bruen was educated at Gormanston College, County Meath.
College Green, Dublin 2, Ireland
Bruen was educated at Trinity College Dublin, where he earned a Ph.D. in metaphysics.
(Still stinging from his unceremonious ouster from the Gar...)
Still stinging from his unceremonious ouster from the Garda Síochána - the Guards, Ireland's police force - and staring at the world through the smoky bottom of his beer mug, Jack Taylor is stuck in Galway with nothing to look forward to. In his sober moments, Jack aspires to become Ireland's best private investigator, not to mention its first - Irish history, full of betrayal and espionage, discourages any profession so closely related to informing. But in truth, Jack is teetering on the brink of his life's sharpest edges, his memories of the past cutting deep into his soul and his prospects for the future nonexistent. Nonexistent, that is until a dazzling woman walks into the bar with a strange request and a rumor about Jack's talent for finding things. Odds are he won't be able to climb off his barstool long enough to get involved with his radiant new client, but when he surprises himself by getting hired, Jack has little idea of what he's getting into. Stark, violent, sharp, and funny, The Guards is an exceptional novel, one that leaves you stunned and breathless, flipping back to the beginning in a mad dash to find Jack Taylor and enter his world all over again. It's an unforgettable story that's gritty, absorbing, and saturated with the rough-edged rhythms of the Galway streets. Praised by authors and critics around the globe, The Guards heralds the arrival of an essential new novelist in contemporary crime fiction. Ken Bruen's The Guards is a 2004 Edgar Award Nominee for Best Novel.
(When Mitchell is released from prison after serving three...)
When Mitchell is released from prison after serving three years for a vicious attack he doesn't even remember, Billy Norton is there to pick him up. But Norton works for Tommy Logan, a ruthless loan shark lowlife with plans Mitchell wants nothing to do with. Attempting to stay out of Logan's way, he finds work at the Holland Park mansion of a faded movie actress, Lillian Palmer, where he has to deal with her mysterious butler, Jordan. It isn't long before Mitchell's violent past catches up with him and people start getting hurt. When his disturbed sister Briony is threatened, Mitchell is forced to act. Now a major motion picture starring Colin Farrell and Keira Knightley, written and directed by Oscar-winning screenwriter William Monahan of The Departed. Ken Bruen's London Boulevard is a masterful work of double-dealing and suspense from one of the great crime writers of our time.
(When Jack Taylor blew town at the end of The Guards his a...)
When Jack Taylor blew town at the end of The Guards his alcoholism was a distant memory and sober dreams of a new life in London were shining in his eyes. In the opening pages of The Killing of the Tinkers, Jack's back in Galway a year later with a new leather jacket on his back, a pack of smokes in his pocket, a few grams of coke in his waistband, and a pint of Guinness on his mind. So much for new beginnings. Before long he's sunk into his old patterns, lifting his head from the bar only every few days, appraising his surroundings for mere minutes and then descending deep into the alcoholic, drug-induced fugue he prefers to the real world. But a big gypsy walks into the bar one day during a moment of Jack's clarity and changes all that with a simple request. Jack knows the look in this man's eyes, a look of hopelessness mixed with resolve topped off with a quietly simmering rage; he's seen it in the mirror. Recognizing a kindred soul, Jack agrees to help him, knowing but not admitting that getting involved is going to lead to more bad than good. But in Jack Taylor's world bad and good are part and parcel of the same lost cause, and besides, no one ever accused Jack of having good sense. Ken Bruen wowed critics and readers alike when he introduced Jack Taylor in The Guards; he'll blow them away with The Killing of the Tinkers, a novel of gritty brilliance that cements Bruen's place among the greats of modern crime fiction.
(The South East London police squad are down and out: Dete...)
The South East London police squad are down and out: Detective Sergeant Brant is in hot water for assaulting a police shrink, Chief Inspector Roberts' wife has died in a horrific car accident, and WPC Falls is still figuring out how to navigate her job as a black female investigator in the notorious unit. When a serial killer takes his show on the road, things get worse for all three. Nicknamed "The Blitz" by the rabid London media, the killer is aiming for tabloid immortality by killing cops in different beats around the city. Blitz represents Ken Bruen at his edgy, lethal, and sharp-tongued best, and will reward fans of his Jack Taylor novels with another astonishing, smart, and brutal vision from a writer rapidly becoming one of the best of his generation.
(Jack Taylor is walking the delicate edge of a sobriety he...)
Jack Taylor is walking the delicate edge of a sobriety he doesn't trust when his phone rings. He's in debt to a Galway tough named Bill Cassell, what the locals call a "hard man." Bill did Jack a big favor a while back; the trouble is, he never lets a favor go unreturned. Jack is amazed when Cassell simply asks him to track down a woman, now either dead or very old, who long ago helped his mother escape from the notorious Magdalen laundry, where young wayward girls were imprisoned and abused. Jack doesn't like the odds of finding the woman but counts himself lucky that the task is at least on the right side of the law. Until he spends a few days spinning his wheels and is dragged in front of Cassell for a quick reminder of his priorities. Bill's goons do a little spinning of their own, playing a game of Russian roulette a little too close to the back of Jack's head. It's only blind luck and the mercy of a god he no longer trusts that land Jack back on the street rather than face down in a cellar with a bullet in his skull. He's got one chance to stay alive: find this woman. Unfortunately, he can't escape his own curiosity, and an unnerving hunch quickly turns into a solid fact: just who Jack's looking for, and why, aren't nearly what they seem. The Magdalen Martyrs, the third Galway-set novel by Edgar, Barry, and Macavity finalist and Shamus Award-winner Ken Bruen, is a gripping, dazzling story that takes the Jack Taylor series to explosive new heights of suspense.
(Seems impossible, but Jack Taylor is sober - off booze, p...)
Seems impossible, but Jack Taylor is sober - off booze, pills, powder, and nearly off cigarettes, too. The main reason he's been able to keep clean: his dealer's in jail, which leaves Jack without a source. When that dealer calls him to Dublin and asks a favor in the soiled, sordid visiting room of Mountjoy Prison, Jack wants to tell him to take a flying leap. But he doesn't, can't, because the dealer's sister is dead, and the guards have called it "death by misadventure." The dealer knows that can't be true and begs Jack to have a look, check around, see what he can find out. It's exactly what Jack does, with varying levels of success, to make a living. But he's reluctant, maybe because of who's asking or maybe because of the bad feeling growing in his gut. Never one to give in to bad feelings or common sense, Jack agrees to the favor, though he can't possibly know the shocking, deadly consequences he has set in motion. But he and everyone he holds dear will find out soon, sooner than anyone knows, in The Dramatist, the lean and lethal fourth entry in Ken Bruen's award-winning Jack Taylor series.
(Ireland, awash with cash and greed, no longer turns to th...)
Ireland, awash with cash and greed, no longer turns to the Church for solace or comfort. But the decapitation of Father Joyce in a Galway confessional horrifies even the most jaded citizen. Jack Taylor, devastated by the recent trauma of personal loss, has always believed himself to be beyond salvation. But a new job offers a fresh start, and an unexpected partnership provides hope that his one desperate vision - of family - might yet be fulfilled. An eerie mix of exorcism, a predatory stalker, and unlikely attraction conspires to lure him into a murderous web of dark conspiracies. The specter of a child haunts every waking moment.
(Michael O'Shea is a member of Ireland's police force, kno...)
Michael O'Shea is a member of Ireland's police force, known as The Guards. He's also a sociopath who walks a knife-edge between sanity and all-out mayhem. When an exchange program is initiated and twenty Guards come to America and twenty cops from the States go to Ireland, Shay, as he's known, has his lifelong dream come true - he becomes a member of the New York City Police Department. But Shay's dream is about to become New York's nightmare. Paired with an unstable cop nicknamed Kebar for his liberal use of a short, lethal metal stick called a K-bar, the two unlikely partners become a devastatingly effective force in the war against crime. But Kebar harbors a dangerous secret: he's sold out to the mob to help his sister. Her rape and beating leaves her in a coma and pushes an already unstable Kebar over the edge just as Shea's dark secrets threaten boil over and into the streets of New York. Once Were Cops melds the street poetry of Brooklyn and Dublin into a fast-paced, incomparable hard-boiled novel. This is Ken Bruen at his best.
Bruen was educated at Franciscan College Gormanston, County Meath and later at Trinity College Dublin, where he earned a Ph.D. in metaphysics.
Bruen has worked as an English teacher in Africa, Japan, Southeast Asia, and South America. In 1979 he took a teaching position in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Soon after he arrived there he was arrested for his involvement in a fight that occurred in a bar. His captors tortured and sexually assaulted him. When he was released and returned to London, Bruen was so traumatized by his experience that he contemplated suicide. Instead, he said in his Justin, Charles, & Company Web site author biography, "I decided to write books, just to prove to myself that I was still alive if nothing else." Thus, his writing career was launched.
Bruen's first book, Rilke on Black, elicited praise for its rendering of the dregs of contemporary popular culture. The well-regarded debut was followed by The Hackman Blues, in which Tony Brady is hired by Jack Dunphy, who happens to resemble the actor Gene Hackman, to find his daughter, Roz. Tony easily finds Roz, who is being held by club owner Leon in a rough London neighborhood. Jack instructs Tony to pay off Leon in order to get his daughter back, but Tony has a plan of his own. He decides to kidnap Roz himself, keep Jack's money, and then get more cash from Leon. Tony's plan backfires, however, and he soon finds his life in danger. "Readers of hard-boiled British mysteries such as those by Quintin Jardine and Ian Rankin should enjoy this gritty page-turner," predicted Library Journal contributor Bob Lunn.
In The McDead Chief Inspector James Roberts's brother is found beaten to death. Even though he has not seen or talked to his brother in ten years, Roberts vows to get revenge. The killer is Tommy Logan, and soon Inspector Roberts and Detective Tom Brant are on his trail. At the same time, other detectives are trying to capture a rapist who preys on black women. Booklist contributor Wes Lukowsky believed that "fans of British procedurals and noir novels will savor every speck of grit in this unrelenting crime novel." In London Boulevard a man named Mitchell is freed from jail, where he was serving time for a crime he committed while in a drunken stupor. Determined to make a change in his life, Mitchell finds an honest job as a handyman and also starts dating a nice woman. Something happens, however, that throws Mitchell back into a shady past he cannot escape.
In The Guards Bruen's series character Jack Taylor makes his debut when he is kicked out of the Guards, Ireland's police force. Now he spends most of his time at a Galway bar getting drunk and making a meager living as a private investigator. When Ann Henderson's daughter Sarah is found dead in Galway, the Guards claim she is one of several recent suicide cases involving young girls. Ann strongly feels that her daughter would not commit suicide and that she was murdered. She hires Jack to find out who murdered her daughter and why. Jack takes the job, and along the way he falls in love with Ann.
Bruen continued the adventures of Taylor in several other installments. The author explained the origin of the character to Publishers Weekly contributor Patrick Millikin: "Jack Taylor is a tribute to the American private eye, but like myself, his greatest gift was a library ticket as a child. To go to the library in the old days, you had to go to the courthouse and pass all these huge [police] Guards and it lodged in my mind: Guards and books." In The Killing of the Tinkers, Taylor, still struggling with his addictions, returns to Galway only to be caught up in an investigation of the deaths of several young tinkers. Taylor continues his unorthodox investigation methods in this "strong piece of crime writing," as Booklist contributor Graff described the novel.
Taylor next appears in The Magdalen Martyrs, which is, according to Booklist contributor David Wright, a "stiff shot of evil chased with heartbreaking irony." Here Taylor, battling with alcohol and cocaine, is summoned by a Galway criminal to find a missing woman. Taylor's search leads him to several other mistreated women, as well, who are all connected to a Catholic laundry where unwed mothers have been sent. Wright noted that it was not the procedural bits that were the book's strength, but rather the "the eclectic, lyrical screeds pouring forth from the narrator's ruined heart." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly felt this "noir mystery-thriller crackles with his trademark tough-guy bravado."
In The Dramatist, Taylor is off alcohol and drugs and is trying to put his life back in order. His next commission comes from his former drug dealer who is now in prison and anxious to have his sister's killer brought to justice. This young woman was the first of several dead women found with a copy of the works of Irish playwright J.M. Synge near their bodies.
In addition to the works featuring Taylor, Bruen has also continued the adventures of the team of London detectives from The McDead, including Detective Sergeant Brant and Chief Inspector Roberts. On the Things I'd Rather Be Doing blog, Bruen explained: "I write Brant to chill me out and Taylor to torment myself…. Brant is pure fun, Taylor is me disgusted with our new rich Ireland." The early adventures of Brant and company, including A White Arrest, Taming the Alien, and The McDead, are collected in The White Trilogy. This is a book filled with violence and clipped dialogue that inspired Booklist writer Graff to conclude: "This stuff smokes like cordite, but it blows a hole in your stomach instead of filling your belly." The series featuring Brant has often been likened to American author Ed McBain's "87th Precinct" series, and Bruen has said in interviews that he much admires McBain's work.
Bruen carries the series forward with Blitz, which finds the team of South East London police chasing a cop killer who dubs himself The Blitz. Meanwhile, each of the main characters struggles with his or her own personal difficulties.
Bruen is equally at home with stand-alone titles. Taking to the road, he delivers a "dark tribute to the Irish fascination with the American dream" with his American Skin, according to a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Here an Irish bank robber and his girlfriend are trying to lose themselves in the American Southwest, only to be pursued by an
Irish Republican Army hitman who wants part of their takings. A Kirkus Reviews critic felt that "this is Bruen beyond noir into full-out stygian." The same writer called Bruen the "poster boy for Irish noir." Collaborating with American crime writer Jason Starr, Bruen wrote Bust, a "terse, sometimes brutal, often funny caper," according to Ken Tucker in Entertainment Weekly.
Bruen, who continues to teach English, while writing in the early morning hours of each day and churning out sometimes several novels per year.
(The South East London police squad are down and out: Dete...)2002
(Still stinging from his unceremonious ouster from the Gar...)2001
(When Jack Taylor blew town at the end of The Guards his a...)2002
(When Mitchell is released from prison after serving three...)2001
(Seems impossible, but Jack Taylor is sober - off booze, p...)2004
(Jack Taylor is walking the delicate edge of a sobriety he...)2003
(Ireland, awash with cash and greed, no longer turns to th...)2006
(Michael O'Shea is a member of Ireland's police force, kno...)2008
Bruen is married and has a daughter, Grace.