Greenhall, Ken 1928-
GREENHALL, Ken 1928-
PERSONAL: Born August 1, 1928, in Detroit, MI; son of Kenneth M. and Jessie (Hamilton) Greenhall; married Agnes McKirdy, September 24, 1977. Education: Wayne State University, B.A., 1958.
CAREER: Novelist. Former editor of reference books and journals. Military service: U.S. Army, 1951-52.
Childgrave, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1982.
The Companion, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1988.
Deathchain, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1991.
Lenoir, Zoland Books (Cambridge, MA), 1998.
Under pseudonym Jessica Hamilton, also author of Elizabeth, 1976, and Baxter (also published as Hell Hound), 1977.
ADAPTATIONS: Baxter was released as a film in France in 1989, and worldwide in 1990.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Rumors of Sanctity, a novel "about goodness (which is harder to write about than evil)"; The Standing Man.
SIDELIGHTS: Several of Ken Greenhall's books feature fantastic plots about people who perform evil deeds. Childgrave, for instance, involves the sacrifice of girls aged six and younger. Joanne is the five-year-old daughter of New York photographer Jonathan Brewer. Joanne has an invisible friend who shows up in her father's photographs of her, along with a man dressed in black. Jonathan falls for harpist Sara Coleridge, whose disappearance leads him to Sara's hometown of Childgrave, where the population of artists and writers live without electricity and telephones. A Publishers Weekly reviewer dubbed Childgrave "a very well-orchestrated, eerie tale" and called the first-person narrative "quick, taut . . . [making] the story's more fantastic elements seem quite believable." Voice of Youth Advocates reviewer Sallie H. Roberts found the characters "well drawn" and the dialogue "smooth and interesting. . . . Not in the bloody, depressing category . . . this book causes the reader to ponder the delusions of 'good' people."
Greenhall's novel The Companion is the story of a woman companion who, unbeknownst to others, helps her elderly clients meet death prematurely. She moves to a new town with her blind father, who cures people by touching them. A photograph surfaces containing the images of the woman's victims, and she fears her acts will be discovered. Science Fiction Chronicle reviewer Donald D'Ammassa called The Companion "one very strange novel."
Lenoir is Greenhall's fictional autobiography of the model for Rubens' "Four Heads of a Negro." Vanessa Bush wrote in Booklist that the book "provides an outsider's view" of seventeenth-century Europe's "race prejudices, sexual mores, contentious religious and territorial politics, and the scourge of the plague." The narrator, Lenoir, is an African slave and healer sold to Dom Twee, a gay hustler who secures modeling jobs for him with Rembrandt and involves him in various schemes. Twee sells Lenoir's knowledge of voodoo to Padmos, an unethical doctor who is looking for a fresh pregnant corpse; but Lenoir falls in love with the intended victim, Katja, a prostitute. Before the doctor can do her in, someone else kills her. When Lenoir is accused of the murder, Rembrandt's influential friends intercede on his behalf. When Twee becomes involved in yet another murder, the pair flee to Antwerp, where they join a troupe of Italian actors. It is in Antwerp that Lenoir is discovered by Rubens, who asks him to model and be his assistant.
Lenoir's freedom has been bought by the father of Anna van Cott, a painter, but Lenoir's fortunes begin to change and his friends abandon him or die. "Cervantes casts a long shadow over this story, to be sure," said a reviewer for Kirkus Reviews, "but the pace is brisk and the wit abundant: a rare tale that's able both to entertain and enlighten." A Publishers Weekly reviewer said Lenoir "transcends its genre, becoming sharp social commentary. . . . Resilient and clear-eyed, Greenhall's Lenoir speaks from the margins of his society in a voice of supreme sanity and deep wit."
Ken Greenhall told CA: "My novel The Standing Man continues my concern with good and evil. Unlike my earlier works, which emphasized evil, this novel emphasizes the more ambiguous concept of goodness. In The Standing Man, the central character is a young man who, although he has few beliefs of his own, gets caught in the crossfire of other people's beliefs and is forced to adopt virtues he hasn't sought."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 1, 1998, Vanessa Bush, review of Lenoir, p. 65.
Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 1998, review of Lenoir.
Publishers Weekly, November 5, 1982, p. 66; August 3, 1998, review of Lenoir, p. 75.
Science Fiction Chronicle, November, 1988, p. 49.
Voice of Youth Advocates, October, 1983, p. 202.