Richard R. Karlen, his wife Hiroko Karlen and his four children and three
Richard R. Karlen,
author of LOOKING FOR BERNIE, grew up in Newark, NJ, where he practiced
dentistry for thirty-five years. He currently lives in Scotch Plains, NJ
with his wife, daughter and twin grandchildren. His fourth novel MURDER AT
THE SEXI will be published by Ironbound Press in the winter of 2001.
While ANSWER MAN is a purely fictitious work, the
character of George Grossman, the protagonist of the novel, was in many
respects based upon an uncle whom I greatly admired and loved.
My uncle was trained as an architect (a graduate of
Cooper Union), but was unable to find employment in his chosen field during
the hard times of the depression era. Married to my father’s sister and
with two children to support, he found a job working at Kresge Department
store in downtown Newark in Women’s Shoes. He remained at Kresge’s for
twenty years until he opened a small shoe store in Union, NJ. The store
ultimately failed because of the fierce competition from the discount shoe
stores on the highways and in the malls that had begun to appear in
increasing numbers in the late Sixties and Seventies. Though bankruptcy was
always right around the corner, my uncle still managed to send his sons
through college and professional schools. In the last years of his life, he
and my aunt survived primarily on social security.
From this barest of biographical data, one might
conclude that my uncle’s life was wrought with economic hardship and
personal frustration. While there is some truth in such a conjecture, the
bigger truth is that he was a man of courage, one who never surrendered his
sense of fairness and decency no matter how difficult the circumstances. I
saw my uncle as a quiet man, one who understood what the words “personal
integrity” represented more than any other man I’ve ever known. If in
ANSWER MAN I have succeeded in portraying the essence of his character, I
will be satisfied.