Kat Stone

Created by Erica Wright

Poet Erica Wright’s first novel.The Red Chameleon (2014), introduced us to twenty-something private investigator KAT STONE, a former undercover superstar for the NYPD. She’s young, she’s hip and she has a thing about wigs.

It was while she was working for New York’s finest she mastered the fine art of disguise of simply blending into the background, although she had muses about whether, perhaps, it was predestined:

“My parents, God rest their souls, knew what they were doing when they named me Kathleen: a.k.a. Katie, Kat, Kitty, Kathy, Kate, Katya. It was if they knew that one day their daughter would need multiple personas and the driver licenses to go with them. My real name is Kathleen Stone, but that night I was Kathy Seasons. I think of Kathy as a young-looking thirty-five, which is the upper limit of my possible age range. She works in real estate and likes a drink or seven before heading back to her high-rise apartment where she lives with a goldfish.”

Kat can do do a variety of personas, from a slightly soused middle-aged real estate agents to a petulant teenage boys — the NYPD taught her well. But when a case went sideways, she was out on her ass. Now she picks off the low-hanging fruit of the private investigation racket: straying husbands and cheating wives.

Much has been made about the author being a well-respected poet, and Wright certainly has plenty of cred on that score — she’s an actual (not self-) published poet, whose poetry collections include Instructions for Killing the Jackal and All the Bayou Stories End with Drowned, and whose poems have appeared in Blackbird, Crazyhorse, Denver Quarterly, New Orleans Review, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. She is also the poetry editor at Guernica Magazine, as well as a former editorial board member for Alice James Books.  And I think it’s obvious she can write this stuff. She nails it, bringing a tough, sharp wit to things, a jaundiced eye for detail, a feel for people’s lives (quiet, desperate, etc.) and a gritty, you-are-there vibe that may make you want to wash your hands. Often.

But is it poetry? There have been plenty of poets and would-be poets knocking on the doors of hard-boiled detective fiction over the years, offering everything from the dry-bone snap of Hammett’s almost-Haiku like lines and Chandler’s lyrical flights of fancy to Robert Leslie Bellem’s bouncing ball colloquialisms and the world-weary workingman’s similes in Stephen Dobyn’s Charlie Bradshaw books and pretty muceverything in between; there’s even an entire novel written in poetic verse (ie: Dorothy Porter’s The Monkey’s Mask). But where does simply sharp writing end and poetry begin?

UNDER OATH

  • “Erica Wright, one of the most gifted poets today, brings as much lyricism into her writing as Chandler might have. Wright has an advantage: she’s younger and has a work ethic and undeniable talent for bringing the truth out in each of the Kat Stone novels. Kat can be wacky or poignant, depending on what page, paragraph, or even sentence you’re reading. Wright has a way to navigate through the books, maintaining her private investigator’s personality, needs, and duty just as she might a well written poem.  The structure in her novels is tight, with Kat a strong and determined woman who lives up to Wight’s potential.”
    — BookRiot (April 2019)
  • “Kathleen Stone is a private investigator well versed in the art of disguise. Her wigs, costumes and varied personae come in handy in the fight against a revenge-minded villain from her days in the NYPD.”
    O Magazine (featured in Killing It: The Summer’s Best Thrillers)
  • The Red Chameleon introduces us to a thrilling new hardboiled world. Wright has created a rich and nuanced protagonist, as well as a gripping plot, and she writes in a style agile enough to veer into surprising pockets of emotion.”
    — Justin Kramon
  • “(filled with) substance, entertainment, and chills-a-plenty”
    — The Seattle Review of Books
    on The Blue Kingfisher
  • “… brisk, dark, slinky”
    — USA Today on The Granite Moth

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Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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