Happy New Year

Posted by Matt Kuhns on Jan 1, 2014

My book Brilliant Deduction has been around for about one year, at this point; there wasn’t really a single “release date” except for formal purposes. It’s been a gratifying year, as I’ve written already. One thing I haven’t noted, though, is the interesting geographic range that my little project has traveled.

Thanks to the marvelous worldcat.org site, one can find library copies of just about any title, sorted by proximity to wherever the site thinks you are. As of today, searching Brilliant Deduction turns up records in 16 libraries. This is not a lot, but it’s fascinating that my words have gone so many places, many of which I’ve never been personally. It can even be found, so the site claims at least, (approximately) 3,000 miles away from me in Wasilla, Alaska. How about that?

Presumably there are more library copies out there, too, as worldcat.org does not seem to list the Lakewood Public Library’s Brilliant Deduction holdings, and I know they have three.

Meanwhile, I have begun writing a second book. Completely different subject matter, but it will be good. Trust me. I completed Part One of Three the day before Christmas, and while it will certainly need a lot of work, I’m making real progress.

Have a great 2014.

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The Best Christmas Present Ever

Posted by Matt Kuhns on Dec 2, 2013

The concept of “Cyber Monday” as a calendar event is thoroughly silly by this point… but taking advantage of a timely sale is not. Starting today, Brilliant Deduction is available at 25% off the regular price in hardcover and paperback through the end of 2013. Brand-shiny-new copies direct from lulu.com, which will likely be offering additional promotions of its own throughout. For good measure, they have holiday shipping deadlines posted, too.

In addition to its many other great qualities praised by independent reviewers, Brilliant Deduction is a much much better gift than a car. Among various other reasons it’s much easier to fit under a typical Christmas tree.

If you really have to show off, for that matter, contact me about getting a personalized signed copy of my book. Also a much better gift than a car.

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William J. Burns returns (again)

Posted by Matt Kuhns on Nov 20, 2013

I don’t know whether there’s any kind of genuine “comeback” in progress, for the great real-life detectives, or I’m simply noticing mentions of them now and that’s all. But whatever the context, I was interested to see a familiar face at The Atlantic today, accompanying an article by Benjamin Welton titled The Man Arthur Conan Doyle Called ‘America’s Sherlock Holmes.’

Executive summary and disclosure of the obvious: 1) the story is basically a brief survey of Burns’s career and musing on how its derailing contrasts with the continued popularity of  great-detective fiction, 2) I wrote about all of this at somewhat greater length in a recent book you may have heard of, and 3) nowhere is anything mentioned about the previous point in Welton’s article.

It’s certainly plausible that despite having plainly done a good deal of reading about Bill Burns, Mr. Welton has never heard of my own book, and that I simply need a better publicist. (Self: as soon as I can find someone who will work cheaper, you’re fired.) That said, I shall trust that the same benefit of the doubt will apply to the following supplementary footnotes, and that any resemblance to irritable sniping will be understood as entirely coincidental.

Going down the article from the start, off the top of my head I would point out the following (possibly very reasonable and/or editorially imposed) simplifications or other points of contention: Read more…

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New look, old legacy for Pinkertons

Posted by Matt Kuhns on Nov 15, 2013

In the latest chapter of “interesting people and information find you after you publish a book,” I received an e-mail a little while back from today’s Pinkerton agency. This was actually my first contact with the firm; in researching my book there seemed little need to bother them given that 1) aside from a few brief notes about subsequent decades, my examination of the Pinkertons leaves off with William Pinkerton’s death 90 years ago, and 2) most of their surviving early archives have been donated to the Library of Congress.

Still, it’s always fun to receive feedback on my work, and the nice woman who contacted me was very generous in offering to answer questions I might have.

Perhaps the most interesting information I received from this exchange, though, was an indirect tip-off that Pinkerton has updated its web presence. For what my opinion as a designer and amateur historian is worth, the revised site appears highly polished and professional, as well as a more compelling portrait than the government-services-led version online when I was writing my book.

The new history page is an especially thoughtful addition, offering a quick scroll through significant events from Pinkerton’s century and a half story, as well as a selection of interesting photos. A number of these are familiar though a few were not; alas, one particular image of a woman with a highly tantalizing file name is not a genuine contemporary image of the elusive Kate Warne. The image does come with an interesting story, all the same, as it is most likely a sketch created (possibly by this gentleman?) some years ago as part of a television program pitch. Neat, eh?

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Happy birthday, Jack Whicher!

Posted by Matt Kuhns on Oct 1, 2013

On this day in 1814: Jonathan Whicher born in Camberwell, England. Happy birthday to “one of the most successful and most unlucky of detectives,” per Scotland Yard historian Douglas Browne.

Big one coming up next year, but, hey: 200 is only a number!

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Happy birthday, Ellis Parker!

Posted by Matt Kuhns on Sep 12, 2013

On this day, 142 years ago: Ellis H. Parker born near Wrightstown, New Jersey. Happy birthday, chief Parker! I don’t expect this will actually happen, but I certainly like to imagine that they might raise a toast down at the Elks Club in Mount Holly, this evening, in your honor.

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Happy birthday, Vidocq!

Posted by Matt Kuhns on Jul 23, 2013

On this day (probably), 238 years ago: Eugène François Vidocq born in Arras, France. Happy birthday to the inventor of the detective profession and the private detective agency, and the inspiration for countless detective stories real and fictional.

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Happy birthday, Allan Pinkerton!

Posted by Matt Kuhns on Jul 21, 2013

On this day, 194 years ago: Allan Pinkerton born in Glasgow, Scotland. Happy birthday to the most famous of many by that name; you may not have been the first Allan Pinkerton (even in your own family), but you’re definitely number one in the history books.

Anyone in Glasgow (or perhaps Chicago) who feels like a 200th birthday commemoration would be appropriate has six whole years to work on it.

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Thanks and have a great summer

Posted by Matt Kuhns on Jul 16, 2013

I would like to say a formal “thank you” to all who have visited this site, or may yet do so, or taken an interest in my modest little project here one way or another. As well as, of course, a special double extra “thank you” to those who have purchased my book and/or shared kind comments in one forum or another.

Thank you.

I am very close to 100 posts on this blog, now; if we guess that the average post is close to 600 words that’s a total of about 60,000. As my book is a bit more than 112,000 words, then even allowing for a lot of ballpark estimating, I have now posted around half as much additional material online for free as the entire content of the book I’m theoretically promoting.

I’m pleased with that. My main purpose in writing Brilliant Deduction was not making money, which is good because at the current pace it will be a long time before the project achieves even a modestly defined profit. Having committed myself to writing and then publishing this work, I decided nonetheless to make a go at promoting it, and in the process have tried a number of things I have rarely if ever done before. I’ve done a good deal of “warm” and even “cold” sales pitching. I’ve sent out a press release. I’ve walked into stores with wares to offer for stock. I’ve spoken to an audience of strangers in a double-bill with a retired FBI agent. I’ve literally set out my stall at an author fair and spent the day meeting and greeting all kinds of visitors (and thanks, too, to everyone who stopped at my table at Author Alley). I’ve even contacted the alumni association with genuinely exciting news about myself for the first time.

It’s been a great ride even though, yeah, sales numbers have been modest. Nice all the same, believe me; I have been thrilled at both the critical and commercial reaction to this out-of-nowhere self-published book!

Read more…

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Allan Pinkerton’s Civil War reputation

Posted by Matt Kuhns on Jul 10, 2013

Front cover of The Hour of PerilI recently finished reading Daniel Stashower’s recent work The Hour of Peril, about Allan Pinkerton and the “Baltimore Plot” against Lincoln. I quite enjoyed his examination of the murder of Mary Rogers in The Beautiful Cigar Girl, and was naturally intrigued by this new title; I’m happy to report that The Hour of Peril exceeded my expectations. Having gone over much of the same territory in my own research, I wasn’t certain how much I would be able to get out of the book but Stashower included an impressive amount of new detail, and not only on the Baltimore Plot. I was surprised and fascinated at how much was new to me about Pinkerton’s early life and first cases; admittedly it’s been a couple of years since I read them, but I made notes on the major studies of Allan Pinkerton and I’m certain that a number of points in The Hour of Peril were absent from all three. On that basis, alone, I can heartily recommend this new volume to anyone interested in learning more about the Pinkertons’ founder.

It’s also, as advertised, a tightly paced but very detailed examination of “The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War,” i.e. the Baltimore Plot.

The general outline of events in The Hour of Peril does, I found with some relief, essentially match up with the very condensed version in Brilliant Deduction. But this expanded account was well worth reading (and not only for Stashower’s effort at restoring a little bit of life to the figure of Kate Warne, commendable as that was). It provides much food for thought about how to interpret the much-debated questions of both the Plot, itself, and Allan Pinkerton’s service to his adopted country in the Civil War.

Read more…

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