Russell, Kirk 1954–

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Russell, Kirk 1954–

PERSONAL: Born 1954, in CA; married Judy Rogers (a chef and restaurant owner); children: two daughters. Education: University of California at Berkeley, B.A., 1978. Hobbies and other interests: Hang gliding, mountain biking, skiing, cycling, backpacking.

ADDRESSES: Home—Berkeley, CA. Agent—Philip G. Spitzer Literary Agency, 50 Talmage Farm Ln., East Hampton, NY 11937. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Novel and entrepreneur. Founder of construction company, until c. 1995.

WRITINGS:

"JOHN MARQUEZ" SERIES; NOVELS

Shell Games, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 2003.

Night Game, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 2004.

Dead Game, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 2005.

WORK IN PROGRESS: A stand-alone crime novel.

SIDELIGHTS: Kirk Russell earned a living as a builder and owner of a construction company in his native California until the mid-1990s, when he began to devote himself to fiction writing. His breakthrough as a crime novelist came when he learned of an undercover unit of state agents who work in the wilderness finding game poachers and other criminals who exploit natural resources. The protagonist in Russell's first three novels is the fictitious John Marquez, a former Drug Enforcement Agency detective who has joined the California Department of Fish and Game's elite Special Operations Unit. In an online interview with Tracy Farnsworth for Roundtable Reviews, Russell said that, while he does not want to preach conservation in his thrillers, "We've got some very dedicated, very genuine good people out there fighting a quiet war for wildlife."

In Russell's debut work, Shell Games, Marquez and his unit search for poachers who illegally harvest abalones off the shores of California. Prized for its meat, abalone has been driven to the brink of extinction by over-harvesting. As Marquez tries to find the poachers, he discovers that a former drug dealer seeking revenge is tracking him. In Booklist Connie Fletcher described Marquez as "far and away the most inventive new detective hero," based on his worthy but unusual occupation. A Kirkus Reviews critic noted that the book does not follow the usual patterns of debut thrillers. "This is not a cliché fest," the critic noted. "The story is loaded with atmosphere."

Marquez continues fighting for wildlife in Night Game. In this outing the detective must find and stop a ruthless gang that kills bears for bile and paws—both prized on the alternative-medicine market. A Kirkus Reviews contributor styled the novel a "splendid second outing in a procedural series" and concluded that the thriller demonstrates "superb suspense, culminating in an exhausting but satisfying series of chases." Fletcher, writing again for Booklist, emphasized that Russell reveals the California wilderness with an insight that makes his work "achingly credible." In her All Readers online piece, Harriet Klausner suggested that the wild California mountains "come across as sinister and dangerous as any urban noir scene."

The third Marquez procedural, Dead Game, finds Marquez tracking sturgeon poachers who value the endangered fish for its caviar. Russell told Jenna Glatzer on AbsoluteWrite.com that his books would not have been as plausible had the real California Fish and Game detectives not allowed him to accompany them on busts. "When I met the Fish and Game team something happened inside," he said. "I knew immediately this was a character I could truly care about, write, and believe in. I wanted to make a kind of modern-day hero and I saw the possibility in what this team was doing and the way they did it."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, July, 2003, Connie Fletcher, review of Shell Games, p. 1871; September 15, 2004, Connie Fletcher, review of Night Game, p. 214.

Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2003, review of Shell Games, p. 933; August 15, 2004, review of Night Game, p. 773; July 1, 2005, review of Dead Game, p. 711.

Library Journal, October 1, 2004, Teresa L. Jacobson, review of Night Game, p. 65.

ONLINE

AbsoluteWrite.com, http://www.absolutewrite.com/ (October 17, 2005), Jenna Glatzer, "Interview with Kirk Russell."

All Readers, http://www.allreaders.com/ (October 17, 2005), Harriet Klausner, review of Night Game.

Kirk Russell Home Page, http://www.kirk-russell.com (October 17, 2005).

Roundtable Reviews Online, http://www.roundtablereviews.com/ (October 17, 2005), Tracy Farnsworth, "A Roundtable Interview with Kirk Russell."

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