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Lobanov-Rostovsky, Sergei


(Kenneth Abel)

PERSONAL: Married; children: one daughter. Education: Louisiana State University, B.A.; Stanford University, M.A.; Harvard University, Ph.D.

ADDRESSES: Office—Department of English, Sunset Cottage 107, Kenyon College, Gambier, OH 43022-9623. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Kenyon College, Gambier, OH, associate professor of English, 1993–.

AWARDS, HONORS: Junior Trustee Teaching Excellence Award, Kenyon College, 2000.



Bait, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 1994.

The Blue Wall, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 1996.

Cold Steel Rain ("Danny Chaisson" series), Putnam (New York, NY), 2000.

The Burying Field ("Danny Chaisson" series), Putnam (New York, NY), 2002.


Contributor to journals and to books by others, including The Body in Parts: Discourses and Anatomies in Early Modern Europe, Routledge, 1997.

SIDELIGHTS: Sergei Lobanov-Rostovsky has taught courses on the work of William Shakespeare, Renaissance poetry, film, and fiction writing, but as Kenneth Abel he is known for his mystery novels. His first book, Bait, is set in the Northeast and features Jack Walsh, a former detective on the Boston narcotics squad whose partner was gunned down. Walsh, who now has a drinking problem, is running from a number of ne'erdowells. Among these is local Mafia godfather Johnny D'Angelo, whose son was killed in an accident caused by Walsh, and for which Walsh served time. Even as D'Angelo hunts him down, U.S. Attorney Kate Haggerty wants to use Walsh as bait to snare the mob boss. A Kirkus Reviews contributor called Bait "a stunningly impressive debut with a twisty, existential tale of crime and punishment," and Chicago's Tribune Books reviewer Chris Petrakos felt that "there are not many debut novels that have the kind of style and focus" as Bait.

The Blue Wall is set in New York, where Detective Dave Moser is investigating the apparent murder of the daughter of Adelberto Cruz, a Guatemalan who was granted asylum in the 1980s. Unknown to Moser, Cruz has been laundering money for the mob through wiseguy Joey Tangliero, an aspiring standup comedian who has exposed corruption in the police department and is about to testify against mob bosses before the grand jury. Washington Post Book World contributor Bob Allen wrote that "the wacky but compelling cast of characters and Abel's sly, wiseacre topspin keep you both guffawing and glued to the page." A Kirkus Reviews critic called The Blue Wall "a bravura performance from the immensely talented Abel."

With Cold Steel Rain, Lobanov-Rostovsky sets his story in New Orleans and introduces Danny Chaisson, a lawyer and former assistant district attorney who is now on the payroll of a Louisiana politician to whom Chaisson owes a favor, and who uses him to deliver payoff money. When five people are murdered in a restaurant shooting, it seems that Chaisson may be the fall guy until he finds an ally in beautiful ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms) agent Mickie Vega. A Publishers Weekly contributor felt that "the New Orleans setting is well integrated into the story … and the duplicity of many of the characters' actions combine to create a dense miasma of sleaziness."

Chaisson is featured again in The Burying Field. In this story, he is hired by a real estate developer when it is discovered that the land upon which he is going to build a mall is an unrecorded historic slave burial ground. Michael Tournier wants Chaisson to determine the feelings of the local residents before he goes ahead with the project that would bring jobs and revenue to the area. What he discovers is dirty politics and racial attitudes that date back to the 1930s. When Caryl Jackson, an old black man, implores a group of white teens not to desecrate the graveyard, they attack him, leaving him near death, and Jackson's grandson is arrested on a false murder charge in an effort to sway voters. Chaisson contacts a state archeologist to survey the site, and her investigation uncovers the body of a black girl who was reported missing some twenty years earlier. Times-Picayune reviewer Diana Pinckley wrote that "this is the rare book that doesn's hit even one wrong note. Abel nails dialogue—black and white people's—so well that you keep going back and savoring the words and phrases…. And there's plenty of action."



Booklist, March 15, 1994, Joe Collins, review of Bait, p. 1325; June 1, 1996, Wes Lukowsky, review of The Blue Wall, p. 1678; August, 2000, Wes Lukowsky, review of Cold Steel Rain, p. 2119.

Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 1994, review of Bait, p. 80; March 15, 1996, review of The Blue Wall, p. 388; February 15, 2002, review of The Burying Field, p. 220.

Kliatt, September, 2003, Barbara Jo McKee, review of The Burying Field, p. 15.

Library Journal, March 15, 2002, Thomas L. Kilpatrick, review of The Burying Field, p. 106.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, September 17, 2000, Eugen Weber, review of Cold Steel Rain, p. 10.

Publishers Weekly, January 31, 1994, review of Bait, p. 74; April 22, 1996, review of The Blue Wall, p. 62; August 7, 2000, review of Cold Steel Rain, p. 78; April 8, 2002, review of The Burying Field, p. 207.

San Francisco Chronicle, July 7, 2002, David Lazarus, review of The Burying Field, p. 5.

Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA), July 14, 2002, Diana Pinckley, review of The Burying Field, Sunday Review section, p. 1.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), March 20, 1994, Chris Petrakos, review of Bait, p. 7.

Washington Post Book World, August 4, 1996, Bob Allen, review of The Blue Wall, p. 8.


Kenyon College Web site, (July 7, 2005), "Sergei Lobanov-Rostovsky."

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