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Blauner, Peter 1959-

BLAUNER, Peter 1959-

PERSONAL:

Born October 29, 1959, in New York, NY; son of Richard Blauner and Sheila Paperny Druckman; married Peg Tyre (a crime reporter and novelist), June 24, 1989; children: two. Education: Wesleyan University, B.A., 1982.

ADDRESSES:

Home and office—11 Riverside Dr., Apt. 9 VE, New York, NY 10023 Agent—Richard Pine, 250 West 57th St., New York, NY 10019.

CAREER:

Norwich Bulletin, Norwich, CT, general assignment reporter, 1980; Newark Star-Ledger, Newark, NJ, general assignment reporter, 1981; New York, New York, NY, contributing editor, 1982-92.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Times Literary Supplement International Book of the Year, 1991, and Edgar Allan Poe Award for best first novel, Mystery Writers of America, 1992, both for Slow Motion Riot; Paul Horgan prize for best short fiction by a student.

WRITINGS:

Slow Motion Riot (novel), Morrow (New York, NY), 1991.

Casino Moon (novel), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1994.

The Intruder (novel), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1996.

Man of the Hour (novel), Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1999.

The Last Good Day (novel), Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2003.

Contributor to periodicals, including London Times, Chicago Tribune, New York Times Book Review, Premiere, and San Francisco Chronicle.

ADAPTATIONS:

Rights to a film version of The Intruder were bought by Mandalay Entertainment.

SIDELIGHTS:

Although Peter Blauner is considered by many to be a writer of thriller novels, his intent has always been to write social commentary in fiction form. As he commented on his Web site, "What I'm mainly interested in is trying to build a sense of character and place through detail.… To me, the moment when a book comes alive is not when I discover who killed Roger Ackroyd. It's when I find out the homicide detective is a part-time funeral director who once embalmed his old partner or when I see the suburban pot dealer standing on the front lawn in his Lakers jersey, making neat little piles with his Craftsman leaf blower."

Blauner has spent much of his life in New York City, which has become a rich source of material for his books. Encouraged in his writing by a teacher named Charles Stone, he aimed to become a published writer from a young age; and he decided to pursue journalism because some of his favorite writers, including Ernest Hemingway and Graham Greene, had gotten their start that way. He attended Wesleyan University, and wrote short fiction on the side, receiving significant encouragement when he won the Paul Horgan prize for best short fiction by a student. After college, Blauner worked in various newspaper jobs before being hired to write for New York magazine. Here, he related, "I eventually started reporting on crime, politics, and other forms of socially abhorrent behavior. I wrote about the crack kingpin 'Fat Cat' Nichols, the Russian mafia, the downtown skinhead scene, and the early rappers Run-DMC. But in truth, I was always hunting for a subject for my first novel."

That inspiration came with his research on parole officers at the New York Department of Probation. Here, Blauner learned about all sorts of seedy characters. Taking a temporary leave from his magazine, he turned this raw material into his first novel, Slow Motion Riot, in which a New York City probation officer pursues one of his clients, a fourteen-year-old enmeshed in the city's drug underworld. The probation officer, Steven Baum, lives out his dull existence without apparent regard for creature comforts or the more refined elements of life. He is unswerving in his commitment to his clients, convicts living in supervised freedom instead of outright incarceration. But then Baum meets Darryl King, a robber who has—unbeknownst to authorities—also murdered a police officer. King, who aspires to fame and power as a killer for a prosperous drug-dealing organization, plots further homicides. Baum learns of King's dangerous ways and personally stalks the killer. The resulting confrontation was described by a Washington Post Book World contributor as "harrowing." Selwyn Raab, writing in New York Times Book Review, noted the novel's "jackhammer pace" and added that "with gallows humor, [Blauner] vividly plumbs a neurotic criminal-justice system." Perhaps the ultimate indication that Blauner's first novel was a success, however, came when it was awarded the prestigious Edgar Allan Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America.

Blauner followed Slow Motion Riot with Casino Moon, the story of a beleaguered fellow determined to live free of any reliance on his stepfather's ties to organized crime. To support his family, protagonist Anthony Russo—who is already indebted to a local mob boss eager to recruit him into the fold—enters the boxing business, seemingly oblivious of the mob's extensive involvement in the sport. Meanwhile, Anthony's mobster stepfather conspires to lure Anthony into joining his criminal activities. While simultaneously dodging his stepfather and embarking on a career in boxing management, Anthony must endure both a failed marriage to an obnoxiously materialistic woman and an affair with a conniving female wrestler. Eventually, his boxing endeavors run him afoul of the scheming mob boss, who undertakes vicious measures to undermine Anthony's unlikely success.

Upon its publication in 1994, Casino Moon won recognition as a grim, convincing thriller. Louise Saylor, writing in Library Journal, proclaimed Blauner's book "bleak, violent," while Bharat Tandon, in a Times Literary Supplement assessment, deemed the novel "absorbing" and "the stuff of gangster myth." Tandon also called Blauner "a fine, tight crime writer, stylish rather than stylized"; and New York Times Book Review critic Marilyn Stasio hailed him as "a honey of a writer."

The Intruder, Blauner's third novel, is yet another suspense tale set in New York City. Here, prominent attorney Jake Schiff and his social-worker wife, Dana, have become the targets of obsessive abuse from a deranged indigent, John Gates, who believes himself to be the prior husband of Dana. When Gates begins making threats to the Schiffs, Jake engages the services of an untrustworthy contractor, who agrees to intimidate the unbalanced Gates. But this endeavor, conducted by the vicious contractor, results in a gruesome homicide, whereupon Jake finds himself charged with murder. Legal complications ensue, and Jake is eventually required to affirm the sanity of Gates, the very individual whose seemingly irrational attacks had provoked Jake into unlawful action. The novel culminates in a showdown that Harlan Megan, writing in Entertainment Weekly, deemed "disturbing, cathartic."

Like Blauner's preceding novels, The Intruder won widespread praise as a compelling feat of storytelling; the author also noted on his Web site that it "sold about four times as much as the previous two titles combined." Erika Taylor, writing in Los Angeles Times Book Review, acknowledged the novel's "great plot [and] believable characters." Booklist reviewer Emily Melton described Blauner's novel as "a fine thriller," while a Publishers Weekly critic found it "disturbing." Similarly, New York Times reviewer Christopher Lehmann-Haupt described The Intruder as a "gripping… urban thriller," concluding that it serves as "a harrowing, compelling read."

Blauner's next two novels, Man of the Hour and The Last Good Day, are both concerned with the impact of terrorism on American society. In Man of the Hour, an English teacher named David Fitzgerald is at first made out to be a hero when he rescues a number of children from a school bus that was the target of a terrorist's bomb. But when Fitzgerald comes under police suspicion, his fortunes quickly take a turn for the worse: he loses his job, his ability to see his son is threatened, and the media constantly harass him. The story is not really a thriller or a mystery, since the reader knows the guilty party is one of Fitzgerald's misguided students, but instead a commentary on how a person's life—even a heroic one—can be destroyed by the media and public opinion. Blauner's book, according to one Publishers Weekly critic, "looks unflinchingly at the aspects of contemporary American life that make morality a transient, relative principle." Library Journal contributor A. J. Anderson praised the author's writing, adding that his narrative skill "is only surpassed by the subtle and thorough interpretation of human motives."

The Last Good Day is also considered a very subtle work. Blauner started writing the novel before the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. But after the destruction of the World Trade Center he noticed, as he told Adam Dunn in a Publishers Weekly interview, that "When I looked at the manuscript shortly after 9/11, I found all these references to the World Trade Center I hadn't realized I'd put in." Set in a New York City suburb, The Last Good Day became all the more relevant when seen in the light of the tragedy of the attacks. The story takes place in what seems, on the surface, to be a safe and sane suburb. But tensions that have lain hidden among the residents emerge abruptly when the body of a decapitated woman is discovered. Blauner proceeds to show how the murder affects his characters, including Lynn Schulman, who is the friend of the victim; her husband, Barry, who not only discovers the body but is having problems at work (the dot-com company that hired him to be its attorney is going bankrupt); and Michael Fallon, a police officer assigned to the case and who is Lynn's old schoolmate. Fallon, it is revealed, still harbors a deep-seated love for her, and he also had a relationship with the victim. Furthermore, he resents the fact that Lynn and her husband live a more prosperous life than he does. Although a murder mystery is indeed a part of the story, Blauner is intent on showing tensions between social classes and how the abruptly changed economic atmosphere following 9/11 has struck a match over this pile of dry kindling. A Booklist writer further pointed out that Blauner tries "to illustrate how our dependence on technological stuff is rendering us increasingly incapable of dealing with life's subtleties." The Last Good Day was praised by many critics, including a Publishers Weekly reviewer who said: "Readers who can follow Blauner's intricate plot will be well rewarded." Roland Person, writing in Library Journal, added that the author "skillfully limns 9/11 unease to show how normalcy can be shattered in even a seemingly safe and secluded place."

As Blauner stated on his Web site, he tries to "write as honestly as I [can]… about the times we live in and hope something worthwhile [will]… come out of it."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, May 15, 1996, p. 157; May 1, 2003, David Pitt, review of The Last Good Day, p. 1534.

Entertainment Weekly, July 19, 1996, Megan Harlan, review of The Intruder, p. 70.

Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 1994, pp. 860-861; March 15, 1996.

Library Journal, August, 1994, p. 123; March 1, 1999, A. J. Anderson, review of Man of the Hour, p. 108; May 1, 2003, Roland Person, review of The Last Good Day, p. 153.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, June 2, 1996, p. 14.

New York Times Book Review, July 21, 1991, p. 19; December 13, 1992, p. 32; September 4, 1994; July 4, 1996, p. C17.

People Weekly, June 23, 2003, Ron Givens, review of The Last Good Day, p. 43.

Publishers Weekly, March 29, 1991, review of Slow Motion Riot, p. 76; August 8, 1994, review of Casino Moon, p. 386; August 7, 1995, "Road to Mandalay," p. 309; December 11, 1995, Paul Nathan, "Riding the Trend," p. 23; April 8, 1996, review of The Intruder, pp. 52-53; February 22, 1999, review of Man of the Hour, p. 62; March 24, 2003, "Liberation Day," p. 55, Adam Dunn, "Class Warfare in the Burbs," p. 56.

Times Literary Supplement, June 7, 1991, p. 23; September 30, 1994, p. 24.

Washington Post Book World, December 20, 1992, p. 12.

ONLINE

Peter Blauner Web site,http://www.peterblauner.com (September 26, 2003).*

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