The Urgency of Shadows

By Ken Bruen

The title of today’s blog is from an email by Louise Ure.

Yes, our very own.

Louise was home in Tucson, on book tour and letting me know how it was going.

Describing being back in Arizona, she mentioned she’d forgotten the urgency of shadows. Apart from it making a hell of a title for a book, it describes her new book, The Fault Tree, too.

Rarely has blindness been better described.

It’s three years since I lived in Tucson, we’d brought my daughter there and she was entranced by the desert and cowboys.

The only cowboy she’d ever known was me, and in Ireland a cowboy is not
am … flattering.

The locals were mesmerized by this tiny wee thing with an Irish accent who had a mouth on her like Bart Simpson. Like me, she loved America and it never ceased to surprise her.

Our very first meal, in a steak house, when they brought the food, we were stunned.

Enough on the plates to feed Galway for a week.

We did our best but there was a mighty pile of food still remaining when we
cried … we’re done.

The waitress, asked if we’d like a doggy bag.

Grace said

“We don’t have our dog with us.”

I explained to Grace that you can bring the food home and she asked


I said you could have it later or even the following day.

Her look was beyond skepticism.

Took her a week to realize that chips were called French Fries.

Mostly, she was taken with the dry heat and not having to wear coats, jackets or search for umbrellas.

Paul Theroux gave what I think is the best advice to writers

“Leave home.”

In every sense of the term.

My previous visit to Arizona had been on tour, and in Scottsdale I finally got to meet Craig Mc Donald. We were staying in a hotel that was closing in two days. When we ordered a beer, we were asked what brand and we rattled off various fine ones only to be told

“You can have Miller or Miller Lite.”

I did a reading at the wondrous Poison Pen and got to have dinner with Patrick Milliken, Dennis McMillan, James Sallis, Craig and Debbie. We didn’t drink Miller.

It was one of those magical evenings where the company is as fine as it could be, the weather was amazing and I thought … all of this bounty because I sat down and wrote.

Craig told me he was planning a book titled Head Games.

If you’d told us then it would be nominated for the Edgar, we’d have drank a crate of Miller.

I have been truly graced with the writers I’ve met and mystery writers are the best of all.

See the sheer volume of care and warmth extended to Patry Francis on January 29th.

As writers, we might work in the shadows but when we come out in the light, watch the glow.

Which brings me to The Legacy

A poem, for Judy, Bill Crider’s wife, the way I see Bill talk not only to her but with her.

Bill’s blog, despite the harsh shadows on their lives, remains upbeat and yes, life-affirming, no matter what comes down the Texas pike.

They are usually on my mind with the urgency of shadows

… leave you
   The leavings of

… an inarticulated thanks
   Will to you

… the echoes of the lines
    As yet unwrit

… term you the keeper of my conciliatory heart

    That heart

… as mortgage


I heard my daughter say her prayers in Irish last night.

She began, as we do, with Mhuire an Gras (Mary of Grace) and then she prayed for all the ones I’ve asked her to pray for and I’m just about to go answer the phone when I hear her add

“And God, will you let Dad get me a Big Mac today and no doggy bag.”

I’m thinking of three wondrous ladies I have the blessing to know

Susan Smiley

Honora Finkelstein

And Lisa from Delaware

All three have sent me warm and warmest emails just after I’d been castigated on a German mystery site for not responding to fan emails or readers queries.

As Honora expresses it, Hands on a healing heart.

What else do I need to know?

On Elaine Flinn’s blog, I’m laughing out loud at her responses to the comments to her Edgar remarks and she is all I love best in women



And oh so full of true grit.

Louise Ure adds a terrific line, which applies not only to depression but to the insecurity most writers I know undergo

I have a black belt in self-recrimination.

C.J Carpenter sends me a piece about an English coin I’d given her and mentions St. Jude, Patron of Hopeless cases and I want to phone the priest I know and tell him.

But like the true Irish he is, he’d ask

“Are you saying I need to pray to St. Jude?”

Lou Boxer reminds me of the wondrous question posed by Merton

“What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves?’

I’m about to end this entry when Bukowski’s collection, "Poems Written Before Jumping Out of an 8 Story Window", catches my eye and I open at random and light on this fitting end line.

… the only thing needed

    Is a little more strength

    Visions on bad film seldom

… repeat.



13 thoughts on “The Urgency of Shadows

  1. Zoe Sharp

    Ken, you are the poet among us and it shows. A wonderful lyrical blog, as always.

    Whenever I’m asked about my favourite writers, which seems to be the one question you can count on at events, your name inevitably comes up. I describe you as a prose poet, with a unique style you either love or hate, with nothing in between.

    But as one who’s had her character described as ‘feisty’ on more than one occasion, I can’t hold my tongue on this one. ‘Feisty’ comes from the Middle English word fisten, which means to break wind. And also from the old US dialect word fist, meaning a small aggressive dog.

    And when I say ‘her character’ perhaps I should have phrased it ‘her fictional protagonist’, rather than my actual personal character.

    Although, now I come to think about it …

  2. D.A. Davenport

    Great post, Ken and cool reply, Zoe. I had no idea of the origins of feisty!

    So,the old American usage is tied to a small, aggressive dog. That dovetails very nicely with “bitch”, doesn’t it?

    Having been called both, especially as I age and rarely watch my tongue anymore, I’m glad to wear either as a badge of honor.

    It’s usually used as the last resort from people so stymied they can think of nothing else to fling out from the losing end of a verbal bloodbath.

    I once heard it from a retired priest I had confronted after he emotionally blackmailed my mother into caring for the mother of a close friend of his! It was one of my finer moments.SIDE NOTE- The friend was lately convicted of sexual abuse of a child and will not see the light of day for the next decade or two. Oh, the company some people keep!

    I think Feisty, Funny Female applies to most of the women who populate the crime, mystery and thriller world.

    To fill out the alliteration I’d probably add Fearless as well.

  3. Louise URe

    Ken, that title gains an Irish brogue when it comes from your keyboard, and it seems very fitting.

    Thanks for the kind words on The Fault Tree. I hold them close to my heart.

    And I think you deserve to become an honorary Arizonan. Cowboy looks good on you.

  4. toni

    Ken, as always, you inspire me. I love reading how you see the world, the play of light and shadows.

    Louise, you are a poet, too–there’s too much beauty in your words for you not to see this.

  5. pari noskin taichert

    What a glorious journey, Ken. Thank you.

    I was just in Alabama this weekend and was amazed all over again with the generosity and love in our mystery community. What an honor to be part of it.

    What an honor and joy to know you all.


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