Male; married; children: Amanda, John. Hobbies and other interests: Outdoors activities, including angling.
Worked in advertising as a creative director and writer for more than twenty years.
The Hundredth Man, Dutton (New York, NY), 2004.
The Death Collectors, Dutton (New York, NY), 2005.
A Garden of Vipers, Dutton (New York, NY), 2006.
After working for many years in the advertising field, Jack Kerley decided he had had enough of corporate life. He quit his job to write a novel, earning an income by freelancing while he spent three years completing his first book. This initial attempt was rejected by every publisher he tried, but Kerley did not give up. Writing off the novel as a learning experience, he began a detective thriller that was accepted by Dutton and published as The Hundredth Man. Bearing, in some respects, similarities to the Thomas Harris novel The Silence of the Lambs, the story features a police detective named Carson Ryder who gets some of his best insights into the criminal mind with help from his brother, who is in an asylum for killing their father and five women. After solving a big case, Ryder is promoted to detective and placed on the Psychopathological and Sociopathological Investigative Team, a specially created department of the Mobile, Alabama, police department assigned to the city's most heinous crimes. Ryder and his partner, Harry Nautilus, are soon assigned to find a serial killer who is beheading victims and then writing apparently nonsensical messages on their pubic areas.
While working on the case, Ryder struggles with his own personal demons and also becomes involved with a coroner who is battling alcoholism. Politics in the police department complicate matters even further, as Ryder and Nautilus inch closer to a solution to a puzzle that concludes with what a Publishers Weekly critic called a "nail-biter takedown scene … as exciting as any in the business." Although Booklist reviewer Bill Ott felt that the plot at times "nearly zooms out of control," especially at the climax, he praised the narrative and "compelling forensic and psychological detail." In Library Journal writer Ronnie H. Terpening called The Hundredth Man "a pitch-perfect psychological thriller, notable for its wit, depth of characterization, gripping plot, [and] highly effective back-stories."
Kerley has said that he believes characterization to be one of his strengths. As he told Robert Dahlin in a Publishers Weekly interview: "I write character-driven books." He related to Dahlin: "I think the characters are malleable enough to go for a good distance."
In The Death Collectors, the detectives find themselves investigating the creepy subculture of "death collectors," an underground network of people who collect serial murderers' memorabilia. In this case, a murder at the Cozy Cabins suggest the involvement of Marsden Hexcamp, a self-proclaimed artist who painted scenes of the murders he committed. The only problem is that Hexcamp was tried and convicted years before, and escaped the electric chair only because one of his devoted followers shot and killed him first. Before the case is solved, more bodies turn up, a small oil painting attached to each one; the clues lead Carson and Nautilus toward some of the city's most respected citizens. Kerley, according to a Kirkus Reviews contributor, "writes like a house afire" and "has a boundless and truly ghastly imagination that'll keep you awake long after you turn the last page." A writer for Publishers Weekly expressed similar admiration for the book, concluding that The Death Collectors is "another winner from a writer moving toward the top of the thriller heap."
Carson and Nautilus's third outing, A Garden of Vipers, features the torture of a young television reporter, a blind woman, and an expensive call-girl; two of the victims die. Though the crime details are dissimilar, the detectives are convinced that the cases are connected. As they investigate, they are led closer and closer to the Kincannon family, one of Mobile's most powerful and ruthless clans. Wes Lukowsky, writing in Booklist, deemed the novel an "excellent" thriller, observing that Kerley's "plotting is cleverly believable, his protagonists realistically flawed, and his villains utterly but all-too-humanly evil." Roland Person commented in a Library Journal review that Kersey skillfully avoids melodramatic excess in the book, adding that the novel's "vivid scenery, bizarre characters, and multiple plot twists keep us turning pages ever faster."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 1, 2004, Bill Ott, review of The Hundredth Man, p. 1101; May 1, 2005, Wes Lukowsky, review of The Death Collectors, p. 1526; May 1, 2006, Wes Lukowsky, review of A Garden of Vipers, p. 34.
Entertainment Weekly, June 25, 2004, David Koeppel, review of The Hundredth Man, p. 173.
Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2004, review of The Hundredth Man, p. 364; May 1, 2005, review of The Death Collectors, p. 513; April 15, 2006, review of A Garden of Vipers, p. 382.
Library Journal, April 15, 2004, Ronnie H. Terpening, review of The Hundredth Man, p. 124; June 15, 2005, Roland Person, review of The Death Collectors, p. 58; June 15, 2006, Roland Person, review of A Garden of Vipers, p. 64.
Publishers Weekly, January 26, 2004, Robert Dahlin, "First Fiction: This Season's Debut Novelists Come from Wildly Divergent Backgrounds and Careers," p. 111; May 10, 2004, review of The Hundredth Man, p. 36; May 30, 2005, review of The Death Collectors, p. 37; April 24, 2006, review of A Garden of Vipers, p. 37.
AllReaders.com,http://www.allreaders.com/ (October 25, 2004), Harriet Klausner, review of The Hundredth Man.
BookReporter.com,http://www.bookreporter.com/ (October 25, 2004), Joe Hartlaub, review of The Hundredth Man and interview with Kerley; (June 24, 2005) Carol Fitzgerald, Joe Hartlaub, and Wiley Saichek, interview with Kerley and review of The Death Collectors.
Jack Kerley Home Page,http://www.jackkerley.com (August 2, 2007).
Mostly Fiction,http://www.mostlyfiction.com/ (August 2, 2007), Eleanor Bukowsky, review of A Garden of Vipers.