Late last year, we lost a highly valued member of the Kirkus community. On Dec. 14, 2016, Robert Knight suffered a heart attack and died in his home in Freeport, Maine.
Not only was he one of my longest-tenured reviewers, Bob was also one of my most reliable and versatile, certainly among my top 5 most-trusted contributors (not that there are actual rankings). For more than 10 years, Bob crafted readable, insightful, authoritative reviews on subjects including, but by no means limited to, memoir, historical and literary biography, American history and politics, current affairs, popular science, sports, media and technology, and law.
That last subject aligned perfectly with his professional life. A graduate of Colby College who earned a master’s degree in English literature from the University of Maine and a J.D. from the University of Maine Law School (Bob was certainly a devoted Mainer), he was a practicing attorney for years. His experience with the law was indispensable to me, providing an expert’s perspective on a wide variety of books related to legal history and/or practice—but that was hardly the extent of his wide-ranging knowledge. As his obituary in the Portland Press Herald so aptly states, “an expert on subjects as varied as Ezra Pound and Major League Baseball, Bob could converse and expound with learned authority on myriad subjects.” He was undoubtedly learned in many disciplines, but he was also a skilled writer; none of his reviews required more than the lightest editorial hand.
It can be a curious thing, the relationship between an editor and a book reviewer. In our case, we never met in person, but we exchanged countless emails and occasional phone calls over the years, all in the service of maintaining Kirkus’ high standards of editorial excellence. Bob Knight did that, and more, and he will be greatly missed. Eric Liebetrau is the nonfiction and managing editor.