Kuhlken, Ken 1945- (Kenneth Wayne Kuhlken)
Kuhlken, Ken 1945- (Kenneth Wayne Kuhlken)
Born September 4, 1945, in San Diego, CA; son of Charles Wayne (in business) and Ada (a teacher) Kuhlken; married Laura Lucille Steinhoff, October 7, 1967 (marriage dissolved); married; wife's name Pam; children: (first marriage) Darcy, Cody; (second marriage) Zoe. Education: San Diego State University, B.A., 1968, M.A., 1971; University of Iowa, M.F.A., 1977. Religion: Christian.
High school teacher of English in La Mesa, CA, 1971-73, and Athens, Greece, 1973-74; Department of Public Welfare, El Cajon, CA, welfare eligibility worker, 1974-78; San Diego State University, San Diego, CA, instructor in creative writing, 1978-79; University of Arizona, Tucson, visiting assistant professor of creative writing, 1979-81; California State University, Chico, assistant and associate professor of English, 1981-86; San Diego State University, academic advisor, 1987-2000; Christian Heritage College, associate professor of English, 1997-2000. Printer; operated import business.
Best First Private Eye Novel Award, St. Martin's Press, 1991, for The Loud Adios; San Diego Book Award for humor and satire (with Alan Russell), for No Cats, No Chocolate.
Midheaven (novel), Viking (New York, NY), 1980.
The Loud Adios, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1991, reprinted, Poisoned Pen Press (Scottsdale, AZ), 2006.
The Venus Deal, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1992, reprinted, Poisoned Pen Press (Scottsdale, AZ), 2007.
The Angel Gang, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1994, reprinted, Poisoned Pen Press (Scottsdale, AZ), 2007.
The Do-Re-Mi, Poisoned Pen Press (Scottsdale, AZ), 2006.
(With Alan Russell) Road Kill: Mystery Authors on the Book Signing Circuit (memoir), Hickey's Books (La Mesa, CA), 2003.
Also author, with Alan Russell, of memoir No Cats, No Chocolate. Contributor of stories to magazines, including Esquire, Fault, Virginia Quarterly Review, and Pacific Poetry and Fiction Review. Formerly weekly columnist for San Diego Reader.
Ken Kuhlken has written several mysteries featuring members of the fictional Hickey family. The first, The Loud Adios, won an award for the best debut novel in its genre from the publisher, St. Martin's Press. It is a "brooding, atmospheric tale," according to a Publishers Weekly writer. Set during World War II, it revolves around Tom Hickey. Tom is drafted into the armed forces while in his late thirties. He has more life experience than most soldiers, having been a nightclub owner and private detective. While stationed as a military policeman at the border between California and Mexico, he is asked by one of the younger soldiers for help in rescuing the soldier's somewhat dim-witted sister from the Tijuana bar where she works. This relatively simple mission is complicated when the girl, Wendy, is kidnapped by Nazis who want to use her as part of a nefarious plot.
By the time of The Angel Gang, Tom has married Wendy, and they are expecting a child. Tom undertakes an investigation involving a murder charge against an old girlfriend. His involvement seems to touch off a string of new crimes, putting many people in danger. Action and violence abound in the "gritty, brutal" plot, which is softened somewhat by Hickey's "near palpable devotion" to Wendy, stated another Publisher's Weekly writer. An earlier case of Hardy's is related in The Venus Deal, a book marked by "beautiful prose and a hopelessly convoluted plot," according to a reviewer for Publishers Weekly. The story has Hickey searching for the singer who works in his club, Cynthia Moon.
In The Do-Re-Mi, the author skips to the next generation. Tom Hickey's son Clifford is the central character. Coming of age during the 1960s and 1970s, Clifford hopes to make his way in the world as a folk singer. Instead, he becomes entangled with a mystery involving marijuana-growing hippies and outlaw bikers. Tom eventually shows up to help his son with the case. A Kirkus Reviews writer felt that this book is "as sensitive and heartfelt as it is action-packed," and rated it as "by far [Kuhlken's] best."
Kuhlken once told CA: "I began writing fiction late, compared to some, at age twenty-five. I have done forty-some other jobs, but writing is the only one that gives me much satisfaction. I traveled a lot as a youth, but am currently slowing down. Grandma was important to my career, also my friend Eric, who died young, but in a couple years gave me confidence, knowledge that there was more to be written about than is often recognized, that the world is a microcosm of the WORLD. Eric (as did Grandma) made me think that I was smart and unique, God bless them.
"I used to be a rock, folk, and blues musician, but a bad one. I like to read, like to try to do things well, like cars, boats, trains, things which move on the surface of the earth. Baseball, women, and Mexico fascinate me, as do Christian churches and the people who find sanctuary in them, so I'll be writing about all that for a while yet.
"I believe in families, Jesus, responsibility, moderation, tolerance, freedom, but find the attempt to make all these concepts work together a challenge."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Kuhlken, Kenneth, and Alan Russell, Road Kill: Mystery Authors on the Book Signing Circuit, Hickey's Books (La Mesa, CA), 2003.
Booklist, August 1, 2006, Barbara Bibel, review of The Do-Re-Mi, p. 51.
Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2006, review of The Do-Re-Mi, p. 879.
Publishers Weekly, June 28, 1991, review of The Loud Adios, p. 90; March 1, 1993, review of The Venus Deal, p. 42; July 11, 1994, review of The Angel Gang, p. 67; August 21, 2006, review of The Do-Re-Mi, p. 52.
Ken Kuhlken's Home Page,http://www.kenkuhlken.net (June 28, 2007).