An Absolute Gentleman: A Novel

An Absolute Gentleman: A Novel

4.3 4
by R. M. Kinder
     
 

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A spine-chilling first novel loosely based on the author's real-life relationship with a convicted murderer, An Absolute Gentleman delves, with subtlety and tremendous psychological insight, into a serial killer's mind.

Meet Arthur Bloom: charming guy, small-town English professor, struggling writer, and occasional murderer. In this beautifully…  See more details below

Overview

A spine-chilling first novel loosely based on the author's real-life relationship with a convicted murderer, An Absolute Gentleman delves, with subtlety and tremendous psychological insight, into a serial killer's mind.

Meet Arthur Bloom: charming guy, small-town English professor, struggling writer, and occasional murderer. In this beautifully articulated debut novel, R. M. Kinder brilliantly channels Arthur's voice to reveal the aberrant thought processes of a surprisingly sympathetic serial killer. Horror arises as it does in real life, in brief hints and disclosures that gradually reveal the complex nature of an all-too-human narrator.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

You may never look quite the same way at that punctilious little man down the street after reading this chilling first novel from Kinder, author of two well-received short story collections (A Near-Perfect Giftand Sweet Angel Band). Inspired by her own brush with a serial killer-back in the late '80s her neighbor Robert Weeks was sentenced to life in prison for two murders and suspected of more-Kinder deftly limns the deadly odyssey of Arthur Blume, a middle-aged creative writing professor who manages to be both the most ordinary and the most monstrous of creatures. The well-paced action cuts between Blume's Missouri present and horrific past in Georgia as the child of a psychotic teenage mother (which forms his view of treachery as the natural order and women as innately deceptive). Along the way, his slyly dropped clues-or are they red herrings?-add to the intrigue. Though one wishes that Kinder had gone lighter on some of the Southern-fried Freud, this artfully told tale of psychological suspense is as gripping as the spider webs Blume is so fond of studying. (Oct.)

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Library Journal

In this absorbing study of a serial killer, told in the first person, Kinder offers a rather sympathetic view of a man who outwardly possesses the characteristics of a highly functional citizen. In fact, it's difficult not to like Arthur Blume: He's even-tempered, bright, and a well-respected teacher of creative writing. In fact, for a novel featuring a murderer, very little violence takes place. Instead, Kinder relates the latest chapter in Arthur's peripatetic life, which has him searching for elusive tenure and hoping to rekindle the creative magic he exhibited in his only novel, published 20 years ago. Besides his being remarkably laid-back, Arthur's dominant character trait is his insistence that everyone be treated fairly. This philosophy, and Arthur's reluctance to offer the smallest bit of information about himself, both frustrates and fascinates his new lover, Grace, a fellow professor who ultimately learns more than she wants to know. Kinder based much of this first novel on her experiences with a real-life serial killer named Robert Weeks, and her handling of her fictional character shows a sophisticated understanding of a madman's thought processes. For most general fiction collections.
—Kevin Greczek

Kirkus Reviews
A creative-writing instructor must choose between his serial killer instinct and the tenure track. In a chilling afterword, Kinder (A Near-Perfect Gift, 2005, etc.) says she intended to write about Robert Weeks, whom she actually identified "from an episode of Unsolved Mysteries" and whom her ex-husband, a homicide detective, arrested. The fictional Arthur Blume, whose persona she inhabits instead, has many standard serial-killer traits. He trained by abusing animals. He had an inventively cruel, sporadically psychotic mother, alternately nurturing and withholding of love and (despite her wealth) financial support. Blume, now 50, has gotten a job at a second-rate university in Mason, Mo. His initially innocuous-seeming ruminations on departmental politics alternate with memories of his childhood and adolescence on his mother's farm in Georgia. Occasionally, always in detached, offhand fashion, he mentions women that, years after the alleged slight, he had to dispatch because they had offended, in some trivial way, another male. Blume is immediately attuned to female turmoil in the English department. Queen-bee secretary Margaret has it in for Nada, an elderly woman who works as an underpaid factotum, den mother and gofer to the professors, yearning for mentorship. (Nada's written stacks of unpublished and mostly unread manuscripts-fiction, songs and poetry.) Grace, a faculty colleague, comes on to Blume as does Justinia, a student and part-time stripper. Grace hopes to enlist him as a fellow bourgeois bohemian, but he's an isolate who prefers his Victoriana-cozy apartment, where he obsessively massages the long-overdue successor to his "one-hit-wonder" first novel. Nada, althoughpestering him for validation (she crashes his advanced-writing seminar) is the closest thing he has to a true friend, until one icy day during spring break when the beast within must be fed. Blume's personality disorder makes him a prissy, fastidious monster, critical of other serial killers' cruder methods, but a monster nonetheless. The juxtaposition of the marginal "adjunct nomad" experience with the casuistry of the sociopathic mind will genteelly horrify even non-English majors.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781582439624
Publisher:
Counterpoint Press
Publication date:
03/01/2009
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
304
File size:
357 KB

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Meet the Author

Rose Marie Kinder, who writes under the pen name R.M. Kinder, won the 2005 University of Michigan prize for A Near-Perfect Gift, a collection of short stories. Another collection, Sweet Angel Band, was awarded the Willa Cather Award in 1991. R.M. Kinder's prose has also appeared in Other Voices, Short Story, and the New York Times. The author holds an M.F.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Arizona. She currently resides in Warrensburg, Missouri.

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