Nebraska Center for Writers

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About Eric Konigsberg


Blood Relation
Copyright © 2005
by Eric Konigsberg

Journalist Konigsberg embarks on a lengthy odyssey when he discovers, by chance, a dark secret that has haunted his respectable Midwestern Jewish family: his great-uncle has spent most of the past four decades in jail for a series of brutal crimes. Great-uncle Heshy "Kayo" Konigsberg eventually calls the author from prison (he wants to fictionalize his life) and sets in motion a series of bizarre visits during which the criminal attempts to manipulate the younger man's sympathies. Despite the author's clear-eyed awareness of his relative's misdeeds, which include vicious gangland murders that will remind many of the career of Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, he has a hard time staying away from the prison. Though "nasty, brutish, and short-tempered," Kayo is also oddly "ingratiating." But while Konigsberg succeeds at introducing touches of humor and deftly brings his family members to life, too much remains cryptic — particularly what led Kayo to his career path — to make the narrative fully satisfying. The author's determination to continue his quest becomes even more puzzling when Kayo's reaction to his planned piece for The New Yorker leads him to fear for his life. Nonetheless, this debut, with its atypical perspective on organized crime, will intrigue many readers. — Publishers Weekly

In 1985, while writing an article for his school newspaper, the author learned something extraordinary. His granduncle, his grandfather's brother, was an infamous criminal. Harold "Kayo" Konigsberg was in prison for murder, and, as a Mob hit man, he was suspected of committing as many as 20 murders for hire. So began a quest to learn all about the relative he never knew he had and about the family who had disowned its black sheep. There are two Kayo Konigsbergs in this book: the young, tough, hardened criminal the author learned about from interviews and historical records, and the elderly man who was like "an apparition of Harold Konigsberg," whom the author got to know during his prison visits. True-crime memoirs are a dime a dozen, but this one is different: a chronicle of criminal behavior, yes, but also a moving story of coming to terms with one's roots. — David Pitt, Booklist

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