Ken Bruen was born in 1951 in Galway, Ireland, to a middle-class family. During Bruen’s childhood, Galway, on the western coast of Ireland, was a small town in which everybody knew everybody else. It has since become one of Ireland’s largest cities, with its share of big-city problems. Raised in a bookless household, Bruen described himself as a quiet boy who stood out in a society in which high value is placed on the art of conversation. His father, an insurance salesman, did not encourage his reading or his quest for education. Bruen once stated that much of his life was spent trying to earn his father’s respect, even though his father was not impressed by the English degrees that he earned. Although his father did not outwardly approve of his writing career, Bruen once found a cache of clippings about his novels among his father’s effects, which he interpreted as a posthumous expression of paternal approval for his literary vocation.
After college and graduate school, Bruen spent many years traveling the world and holding a variety of jobs, including teaching positions in Kuwait and Vietnam, a position as a security guard in the World Trade Center, and acting jobs in low-budget films.
In 1978 Bruen accepted a teaching position in Brazil that led to a horrific experience that changed the course of his life. Arrested with four other foreigners in a Rio de Janeiro bar after a brawl, he was held without being charged for the next four months in a Brazilian cell where he experienced physical, psychological, and sexual abuse at the hands of his guards and fellow inmates. He retreated from these horrors into what he has described as a...
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