Brooks, Kevin M. 1959-
BROOKS, Kevin M. 1959-
Born March 30, 1959, in Exeter, England; married, wife's name Susan (an editor). Education: Attended Aston University, 1980; North East London Polytechnic, B.A., 1983.
Worked various jobs in England, including musician, gasoline station attendant, crematorium handyman, civil service clerk, hot dog vendor at the London Zoo, post office clerk, and railway ticket office clerk. Writer.
White Raven Award, Branford Boase Award, Sheffield Children's Book Award, Lancashire Children's Book Award, South Lanarkshire Book Award, and shortlisted for Carnegie medal, all 2003, and Salford Children's Book Award, 2004, all for Martyn Pig; Lucas was short-listed for Guardian Children's Book Award and Teenage Booktrust Prize, 2003.
Martyn Pig, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2002.
Lucas, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2003.
Kissing the Rain, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2004.
After a long apprenticeship in which he taught himself the discipline to write, Kevin M. Brooks has achieved international success with his young adult novels. A poet and musician, Brooks pays careful attention to the prose in his stories, but he also crafts tight plots with a nod to the dark themes of American detective fiction. Brooks won Britain's prestigious Branford Boase Award for his first novel, Martyn Pig, and his subsequent books have earned warm reviews on both sides of the Atlantic. As for Brooks, being a full-time writer is a dream come true. In an online interview with Push, he remarked: "Being a writer is absolutely wonderful. I love writing, it's what I DO—thinking, writing, creating new worlds, it's fantastic."
Brooks drifted through a number of less-than-ideal jobs in his early post-college years. He sieved ashes in a crematorium and sold stamps in a post office, all the while trying to break through as a musician or artist. Brooks also wrote poetry and read widely, especially enjoying the works of American detective novelists such as Raymond Chandler and Lawrence Block. With age came discipline, not only to write novels but also to persist in trying to sell them. Martyn Pig, the author's first published work, is actually the third novel he wrote. Since shortly before it was published, Brooks has been a full-time writer, working six or more hours a day on his fiction.
The hero of Martyn Pig faces more than just the dilemma of going through life with a ghastly name. Over Christmas holiday, Martyn witnesses the accidental death of his alcoholic, abusive father—and then, for a multitude of reasons, tries to keep the death secret. He seeks help from a would-be girlfriend named Alex, and together they craft a plan to dispose of the corpse. Despite its grisly subject matter, Martyn Pig abounds in humor, as the young narrator tries to come to terms with the strange twists his life takes.
Brooks placed Martyn Pig with Chicken House Publishers, a British firm with ties to Scholastic. The novel was released in England and America in 2002 and drew critical praise for its poetic language, darkly funny plot, and engaging hero. School Library Journal correspondent Connie Tyrrell Burns felt that the book would have "tremendous teen appeal" due to its unconventional subject matter and Martyn's "distinctive voice." A Publishers Weekly reviewer praised Brooks's "self-assured debut" as "at once hard-boiled … and … laugh-aloud funny."
Lucas is set on fictitious Hale Island, a small community separated from the mainland by a causeway that sometimes floods at high tide. The story's narrator, Caitlin McCann, recalls a previous summer when a strange, almost mystical loner named Lucas wanders onto the island. Adèle Geras described Lucas in a review for the Guardian: "He is wild. He is gifted. He is enigmatic. Also, he is deeply hated by the boorish, drug-fuelled, bored and jealous oafs in the community and their unpleasant and sinister female sidekicks." Unjustly accused of assaulting a girl, Lucas finds himself falling victim to vigilante justice, even as Caitlin sees his ultimate goodness and falls in love with him.
Geras called Lucas "the sort of novel that prize-awarding juries like, but which will also appeal to readers." Other critics offered similar praise. Awarding the work a starred review, a Publishers Weekly contributor concluded: "Its powerful combination of big ideas and forthright narrative make this novel likely to linger in readers' minds." Booklist correspondent Ilene Cooper liked the "purity" of Brooks's style, calling the narrative "by turns sweet, taut, and terrifying." In School Library Journal, Sharon Rawlins likewise observed that the writing "is extraordinarily lyrical" and that Lucas is "a powerful book to be savored."
In an interview with Push, Brooks said: "I am interested in asking the questions which we think about a lot as kids, but get so used to when we grow up that we stop asking them. As adults we forget about the sky, and where we come from, and time, and pain, and all of those things; we just accept them…. Sometimes I get problems with American publishers who say they don't want to include this kind of thing because children aren't used to it or they won't understand it. But if you just keep avoiding difficult questions children won't learn to understand them."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, May 1, 2003, Ilene Cooper, review of Lucas, p. 1595.
Guardian, January 11, 2003, Adèle Geras, "Stand and Deliver."
Horn Book, March-April, 2003, Lauren Adams, review of Lucas, p. 210.
Publishers Weekly, May 27, 2002, review of Martyn Pig, p. 61; June 24, 2002, "Flying Tarts: Four First-Time Authors and Illustrators Talk about Their Spring Debuts," p. 27; February 10, 2003, review of Lucas, p. 188.
School Library Journal, May, 2002, Connie Tyrrell Burns, review of Martyn Pig, p. 147; May, 2003, Sharon Rawlins, review of Lucas, p. 148.
Guardian Online, http://books.guardian.co.uk/ (June 26, 2003), interview with Brooks, information about Bran-ford Boase Award, link to review of Lucas.
Jubilee Books, http://www.jubileebooks.co.uk/ (December 3, 2003), fact file and interview with Brooks.
Push, http://www.thisispush.com/ (June 3, 2004), "An Interview with Kevin Brooks."