Bruce Hartman

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Bruce Hartman lives with his wife in Philadelphia. A graduate of Wesleyan University and Harvard Law School, he has worked as a music teacher, pianist, bookseller and attorney and has been writing fiction for many years. His first novel, PERFECTLY HEALTHY MAN DROPS DEAD, won the Salvo Press Mystery Novel Award and was published by Salvo Press in 2008.

His second book, THE RULES OF DREAMING, was published by Swallow Tail Press in May 2013. Kirkus Reviews, in awarding it the Kirkus Star for Books of Exceptional Merit, called it "a mind-bending marriage of ambitious literary theory and classic murder mystery." Kirkus selected the book as one of its "Top 100 Indie Books of 2013." Another mystery, THE MUSE OF VIOLENCE, was published in October 2013.

His most recent book is THE PHILOSOPHICAL DETECTIVE, published in June 2014, featuring the iconic Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges wrestling with an extraordinary series of crimes and the equally baffling conundrums of literature and philosophy, including Zeno's paradoxes, the mind/body problem, and the mysteries of destiny, personal identity and artistic creation. THE PHILOSOPHICAL DETECTIVE is a literary novel in the form of a mystery. Lighthearted but deeply serious, it is a unique journey into the visionary world of a genius.

Bruce Hartman's current goal is to diversify out of the mystery genre into literary fiction of a satirical and philosophical nature. He has recently completed a comic novel which he is interested in discussing with publishers and agents.



BY Bruce Hartman • POSTED ON June 1, 2014

A heady mystery for the literary set.

In his latest outing, Hartman (The Rules of Dreaming, 2013) delivers a suspenseful, pitch-perfect novel with an unlikely lead detective: a fictionalized version of iconic Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986). The story takes place outside Boston in 1967, as recollected by narrator Nick Martin—an ailing elderly man who once spent a semester as Borges’ graduate assistant and amateur gumshoe sidekick while the author was a visiting lecturer. Shortly after the eccentric Borges’ arrival, a murder within Nick’s department is revealed to have a surprise literary twist, and he and the author team up to solve the crime. The murder turns out to be the first in a series of strange tragedies in the area, all with some sort of connection to literature or philosophy. The crimes fit in well with Borges’ latest academic fascination, Thomas De Quincey’s 1827 satirical essay “On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts,” and Nick and Borges have long philosophic discourses at a local coffee shop, where they discuss the nature of reality as Nick pines for a beautiful waitress. “The world is crowded with illusionists,” Borges declares during one case, “trying to pass off an imperfect copy of something as the real thing.” Indeed, the world Hartman conjures certainly is crowded with illusionists. Although the prose is sometimes heavy with words that feel as if they were plucked from a thesaurus (“Inevitably the conversation gravitated to the purpose of our visit”), the author’s fine-tuned intellect and vivid reimagining of Borges make for a thought-provoking and compelling read. Plot points that might initially seem hard to believe are, more often than not, not quite what they seem, as Hartman’s story always stays two steps ahead of the reader. Enthusiasts of both philosophy and slick detective stories are sure to enjoy this probing inquiry into humanity’s darker impulses. Borges fans, in particular, will appreciate the book’s clever take on metafiction—not to mention the character’s sly quips: “Don’t the police in this country read Sherlock Holmes?”

An intelligent, original detective novel.

Pub Date: June 1, 2014

Publisher: Swallow Tail Press

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2014



BY Bruce Hartman • POSTED ON May 19, 2013

A mind-bending marriage of ambitious literary theory and classic murder mystery.

In this intricately plotted novel, Hartman (winner of the Salvo Press Mystery Novel Award for Perfectly Healthy Man Drops Dead, 2008) spins the familiar trappings of gothic mystery together with a fresh postmodern sensibility, producing a story that’s as rich and satisfying as it is difficult to categorize. The narrative begins with Dr. Ned Hoffmann, a new psychiatrist at a mental institution in a small town. Barely in control of his own instabilities, Dr. Hoffmann struggles with demanding bosses and baffling patients, including the schizophrenic grown children of an opera singer who died under suspicious circumstances. When one of Dr. Hoffmann’s recent patients, Nicole, an anxious literature grad student, finally finds a topic for her dissertation, she discovers that life in her town is beginning to mirror art—in some disconcerting ways. Alongside a professional blackmailer, a scrappy librarian and other assorted meddlers and madmen, Dr. Hoffmann and Nicole slowly unspool a mystery that extends all the way back to artists of the romantic era. Hartman impressively turns literary theory into something sexy and menacing, weaving the real-life works of writer E.T.A. Hoffmann and composers Robert Schumann and Jacques Offenbach, among others, into his characters’ increasingly muddled lives. Sometimes the writing is self-conscious, as when Nicole says, “If you asked me about what’s been going on around here lately, I’d have to classify it as Post-Modern Neo-Gothic Horror.” For the most part, Hartman brings a light touch to potentially weighty material. Though the novel’s philosophical twists and turns are fascinating, the story also succeeds as an old-fashioned whodunit, and the writing is full of descriptive gems. At one point, the librarian looks at someone “over the tops of her trifocals, as if in the suspicion that none of their refractions would reveal the truth about him.” As Hartman skillfully blurs the lines between fiction and reality, the book becomes a profound meditation on art, identity and their messy spheres of influence.

An exciting, original take on the literary mystery genre.

Pub Date: May 19, 2013

ISBN: 978-0988918108

Page count: 287pp

Publisher: Swallow Tail Press

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2013

Awards, Press & Interests

Favorite book

Huckleberry Finn



Passion in life

family, music, literature, outdoors

Unexpected skill or talent

jazz piano

Perfectly Healthy Man Drops Dead: Salvo Press Mystery Novel Award, 2008

THE RULES OF DREAMING: Kirkus "Top 100 Indie Books of 2013", 2013


THE RULES OF DREAMING: Named to Kirkus Reviews' Best Books, 2013


Perfectly Healthy Man Drops Dead

A down on his luck disbarred Philadelphia lawyer, working now as a bar piano player, must solve the murder of the managing partner of his former law firm. As he peels away layer after layer of intrigue, he finds himself pursued simultaneously by the police, the Mafia, and a psychopathic skinhead. Meanwhile, he continues his secret, unconsummated liaison with a judge whose husband becomes one of his prime suspects, while he carries on a real affair with a stripper. When he becomes the prime suspect in the murder, he must draw on all of his skills to find the real killer.
Published: June 30, 2008
ISBN: ISBN-10: 1930486812

The Muse of Violence

A chilling series of deaths strikes a writers' group in New York, leaving the remaining members to face the suspicion - and finally the certainty - that one of them is a psychopathic killer. Is a sequel to Agatha Christie's "And Then There Were None" being played out in their lives? Will Schaefer, a New Yorker transplanted from the Midwest, earns his living crafting press releases for a shady corporation. One night a week he hosts a writers' group in his apartment, to which the members--four women and two men besides himself--bring their stories and all the intense emotions that inspired them. Will is cast in the role of amateur therapist mediating among unreliable narrators, even as he falls in love with the elusive Sara. When one of the other women is brutally murdered, the group begins to turn on itself. The person who reads is always the next to die. Will anyone survive the deadly critiques that are handed out in this group?
Published: Oct. 21, 2013
ISBN: ISBN-10: 0988918110
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