An Absolute Gentleman: A Novel
by R. M. Kinder

Published: 2007-10-01
Paperback : 288 pages
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Based on the authors real-life relationship with a convicted murderer, this gripping first novel delves with subtlety and nuance--rather than violence and sensationalism--into the mind of a serial ...
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Based on the authors real-life relationship with a convicted murderer, this gripping first novel delves with subtlety and nuance--rather than violence and sensationalism--into the mind of a serial killer.

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Chapter 1

Missouri 1994

Some time ago, two reporters visited me and I was as open with them as I could humanly be. They came every day for about two weeks and asked maybe a thousand questions. They seemed like nice guys, but just a little edgy. One sloshed coffee around as if I might be somewhere in the dregs. I'm no fool, so I knew they were searching for something no one else had—a slip on my part, an odd phrasing, a gesture, name. I could have toyed with them, made up corpses buried here and there. But I just answered straight. I try always to tell the truth. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

1. Do specific traits in Arthur’s victims seem to account for his violence or are his acts truly random?

2. Arthur believes patterns underlie everything we do. What patterns does he see? What patterns do we see that he doesn’t?

3. Although the book is in Arthur’s point of view, we can see discrepancies. What clues might have been picked up by those around him? Or is he truly an absolute gentleman on the surface?

4. Do names have any particular significance to you in interpreting the story? Might they have any meaning to Arthur? “Nada” means “nothing” in Spanish. Other main characters’ names are Grace, Mary, Arthur. The Sheriff’s deputy who arrests Arthur is named Shirley Dyer. Are any of these significant?

5. Arthur makes many observations about the animal kingdom. What prompts his interest? Do his occasional interpretations seem accurate and normal?

6. Is Arthur being as truthful as he promises to be? In what passages do you feel Arthur is playing games with the reader?

7. Does Arthur kill the “apple” girl at the beginning of the work? What supports your belief?

8. What traits are, to your understanding, common to many serial killers? Does Arthur seem an accurate portrayal? In what ways does he fit or not fit your concept?

9. Why does Arthur have difficulty speaking Grace’s name?

10. Arthur insists that he really cares for Grace and Nada. Is this true? What suggests yes or no?

11. The work suggests that Arthur’s madness could be from heredity, environment, or both. Do you feel the work slants the evidence toward one cause more than the other? Which? Why?

12. What does Arthur teach us about nature vs. nurture?

13. Why does Arthur take Nada’s fiction? One level of interpretation is that the novel explores the difference between realism and romance and the literary value of one type of writing over the other. What does the theft say about Arthur as a writer, particularly his assessment of his own work?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

A] pitch-perfect rendition of the cunning malevolence that can lie hidden beneath the guise of refined civility. Booklist

It’s been nearly two centuries since Jack the Ripper stalked the night, but his successors still live among us, sometimes disguised as perfect gentlemen. Arthur Blume is such a man. “How can I be evil and not know it,” he asks, “since I recognize it when I see it?” Like many serial killers, he wants his story told, and relishes the telling himself, dropping chilling details like old bones.

I’ve known two murderers, one of them Robert Weeks (revealed on Unsolved Mysteries), and have researched many others. The challenge and obligation here was to accurately portray the deviant mind without either glorifying a murderer or exploiting violence against women. Jonathan Kellerman says it’s a “terrifying look into the darkest corners of deviance. Beautifully written and all the more chilling for that.”

I’d like to know your reaction to the book and to answer any questions you might have.

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Member Reviews

Overall rating:
  "read if you are interested in serial killers"by stasha (see profile) 01/27/09

  "worst book I have read"by crviator (see profile) 01/27/09

glorifying serial killlers is never a good book.

  "Intriguing, haunting, memorable"by AliceB (see profile) 01/24/09

An intriguing read. By using an intimate tone, the author graphically creates haunting images while only alluding to some of the most disturbing and violent scenes. Definitely a memorable story...it... (read more)

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