A novel by
Washington Writers’ Publishing House
Winner of the 2023 WWPH Fiction Award
October 3, 2023
ISBN: 978-1-941551-35-6/$18.95 PURCHASE YOUR COPY at BOOKSHOP.ORG
“A remarkable job…Perhaps there are no good answers to bad questions — only a continuous ‘coming of age’ one granting small mercies to those we lose and to the teenager each of us leaves behind.—Washington Independent Review of Books, October 2023
“Novels that are funny and truly sad are rare, but Washington metro area writer Len Kruger’s Bad Questions is one…” –Washington City Paper, October 2023
Remember adolescence, when life was an alphabet soup of questions? Some goofy, some embarrassing and some so painful and profound that adults no longer dare to ask them. In Bad Questions, Len Kruger evokes that time perfectly with a story that is funny and deeply moving. I’ll never forget it. — Corey Flintoff, former foreign correspondent, National Public Radio
Tender and raw, intimate and universal, Len Kruger’s Bad Questions evokes a loss-haunted boyhood in a voice as warm-hearted as it is stark. I love this novel, and so will you: an unforgettable gift from a wonderful writer. — Joyce Kornblatt, novelist, author of Mother Tongue and The Reason for Wings
Insightful and poignant, Len Kruger’s writing glitters with keen observations of suburban Maryland in the early ‘70s. An adult’s story seen from a young boy’s point of view, Bad Questions rings with emotional truths that resonate vividly and viscerally today. — Suzanne Feldman, 2022 winner of the WWPH Fiction Award for The Witch Bottle and Other Stories
Humorous and heartbreaking, Bad Questions is a coming-of-age journey toward redemption and self-awareness, skirting the lines between spirituality, skepticism, and faith—and asking the big questions. From the light of the memorial candle back to 1971 in suburban Washington, DC, Bad Questions is the story of Billy Blumberg, who carries guilt over the recent death of his father, a Hebrew school principal. After Billy and his mother move across Montgomery County, he encounters Ms. Marvin, a former teacher notorious for her macabre eccentricity. A séance in her apartment veers out of control, leading to a deadly “hex list” and Billy’s discovery of his father’s fatal secret.
Len Kruger lives in Washington, D.C., and is a graduate of the MFA Program at the University of Maryland. His short fiction has appeared in Zoetrope-All Story, The Barcelona Review, Gargoyle, Potomac Review, and the anthology This is What America Looks Like. He was the fiction winner of the 2021 annual writing contest sponsored by the Inner Loop and District Fray Magazine.
Like Billy Blumberg, the main character in Bad Questions, Len grew up in Silver Spring and Rockville, Maryland in the 1960s and 70s. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Len worked for thirty-seven years at the Library of Congress where he did research for Congressional offices. In addition to writing fiction, Len is a storyteller and has performed on stage at many Washington, D.C. area storytelling venues, including The Moth DC, Story District, The Story Collider, and Better Said Than Done.
Bad Questions is his debut novel. Find out more at www.lenkruger.com.
A SHORT EXCERPT:
I’m not a believer.
I don’t believe in numerology or horoscopes or spiritual apparitions twisting our fates. I have no faith in psychics bending spoons or predicting the future. I reject the proposition that we can summon the dead and pester them with questions about the buried past.
Today is the 50th anniversary of my father’s suicide.
He was a believer. I can sense him within me, just as I can feel the presence of my twelve-and-a-half-year-old self wondering how the universe works, struggling to understand why bad things happen to the good and the not-so-good.
I light my father’s yahrzeit, the candle in memory of the dead. It will burn for twenty-four hours in the kitchen sink. My wife doesn’t understand — why put it there? You can’t be too careful, I always tell her. I make a joke about the imaginary headline in The Washington Post: “Woodley Park Man Dies in Fire Set by Memorial Candle.”
My father would find that funny. My mother would not.
My father was the believer, my mother the skeptic.
Somewhere, the battle is raging.
Join us at the Launch Readings for BAD QUESTIONS (Free and Open to All)
Saturday, October 14 at 3 pm – Politics & Prose -5015 Connecticut Avenue NW – Washington DC 20008
Sunday, October 22 at 3 pm (wine and cheese reception to follow) – Writer’s Center– 4508 Walsh Street, Bethesda, MD 20815
Each September 1-November 1, the Washington Writers’ Publishing House reads through over a hundred manuscripts from writers in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. Winners are selected (blind selection process) by past contest winners, who comprise both WWPH’s judging and editorial volunteer staff. Manuscript contests are open from September 1-November 1. We strongly encourage interested writers to read our recent past winners.