Absolute Gentleman

An Absolute Gentleman

by RM Kinder

An audio file of this program is available in mp3 format; click to listen.

I’m Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation minute. The book is An Absolute Gentleman by RM Kinder.

You know how sometimes truth is stranger than fiction? Like, a lot of the time? The story of this book is as remarkable as the book itself. Let me see if I can explain.

An Absolute Gentleman, first off, is a book written from the first person viewpoint of a serial killer, a middle-aged English professor in a small college town. He’s nothing special, not much to look at, not a literary lion, not particularly charming or a maniacal genius — no Hannibal Lechter, certainly. But looking under the hood as it were, seeing the world through his eyes, it was almost like wearing the wrong glasses — everything was just slightly out of true. And then there were dead women. Don’t look to An Absolute Gentleman for a bloody mess; the murders occur at the edges and the borders. This book is cool, elegantly written, as clean and blameless as Arthur sees himself. The slow build of hysteria lies under the surface as the lies and truth shift, and the police get closer. If I didn’t know anything else about this book I would still highly recommend it, and call RM Kinder a fine writer. But there’s more, much more to this story.

You see, RM — Rose Marie — found out (through an episode of Unsolved Mysteries) that a man she had been involved with in the 80’s was in fact a serial killer (!!!), and she was ultimately instrumental in helping to send him to prison. I suppose as a form of therapy, RM first tried to turn this into a non-fiction novel, but after many years and false starts she realized she was maybe too close to the story. Her way of working through her fear eventually — finally — became An Absolute Gentleman, where the nightmare man is revealed to be small and broken. He may be a monster but as he himself says, “We may be spectacular in our dreams, but our actions diminish us.”


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