PERSONAL: Married; children: two daughters.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, DK Publishing Publicity, 375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014.
CAREER: Locksmith. Has appeared frequently on National Public Radio to read his stories.
Keys to the City: Tales of a New York City Locksmith, DK Ink (New York, NY), 1997.
SIDELIGHTS: Joel Kostman came to New York City to become a singer/songwriter but ended up working as a locksmith. Over the years, he acquired numerous anecdotes on the job, and he would often recount them to friends and at parties. He eventually gathered his stories together for his first book, Keys to the City: Tales of a New York City Locksmith. "One of the reasons there's a lot of detail is that I told them a lot," Kostman said in an interview with Brian Howard on Philadelphia's Citypaper.net. "I didn't walk around with a notepad."
Kostman's fourteen stories reveal tales of his coming face-to-face with a wide range of interesting and sometimes incredibly strange people. For example, he answers one call only to find five elderly men sitting around naked in a steamy apartment. Although he is immediately on his guard, Kostman ends up having coffee and cake with them and discussing families and music. In another instance, he encounters a man who has him try on what he claims are the clothes of the late entertainer Eddie Cantor. In addition to the strange and funny, Kostman relates sad and poignant encounters, such as the young boy who has a crack-addicted father and a young girl who is caring for her senile grandfather.
Writing in Booklist, GraceAnne A. DeCandido noted that "Kostman has a sure hand with language and a steady eye for description." Eric P. Nash, writing in the New York Times Book Review, commented that "Kostman's great insight is that once we open the locks of the preconceived categories that keep us apart, we can see each other face to face for the first time." In a review on GenerationJ.com, Amanda Blythe Krotki wrote that the author "narrates in an impressively honest manner," and added: "Perhaps the great-est aspect to Keys to the City is not the fly-on-the-wall curiosity it satiates, but the honest and touching manner in which Mr. Kostman unlocks—or discovers—good stories in the otherwise mundane."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 1, 1997, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of Keys to the City: Tales of a New York City Locksmith, p. 52.
Entertainment Weekly, November 14, 1997, Alexandra Jacobs, review of Keys to the City, p. 52.
Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 1997, review of Keys to the City, p. 1087.
New York Times Book Review, December 28, 1997, Eric P. Nash, review of Keys to the City, p. 13.
Publishers Weekly, July 28, 1997, review of Keys to the City, p. 60.
School Library Journal, September, 1997, Frances Reiher, review of Keys to the City, p. 240.
Citypaper.net/ (Philadelphia, PA), http://www.citypaper.net/ (March 41, 1999), Brian Howard, interview with Kostman.
GenerationJ.com, http://www.generationj.com/ (February 16, 2005), Amanda Blythe Krotki, review of Keys to the City.
WeeklyWire.com, http://www.weeklywire.com/ (February 16, 2005), review of Keys to the City.