Kenneth Wishnia


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Kenneth Wishnia’s novels include 23 Shades of Black, an Edgar and Anthony Award finalist; Soft Money, a Library Journal Best Mystery of the Year; and Red House, a Washington Post Book World “Rave” Book of the Year. His short stories have appeared in Ellery Queen, Alfred Hitchcock, Queens Noir, Politics Noir, and elsewhere. His latest novel, The Fifth Servant, has been nominated for the “Premio Letterario Adei-Wizo” by the Italian chapter of the Woman’s International Zionist Organization.  He teaches writing, literature and other deviant forms of thought at Suffolk Community College on Long Island.

Check out Ken Wishina's new book trailer for the third Novel in the Filomena Buscarsela series, The Glass Factory!

Join Ken Wishnia at Bluestockings Bookstore Wednesday August 7th, 2013 at 7pm for the release of The Glass Factory, the third novel in the Filomena Buscarsela series! The evening & event are titled: "Environmental Fact and Fiction: Crime Novelists Take On the Polluters of Bodies and Souls". Check out Ken's trailer below!


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Blood Lake
Author: Kenneth Wishnia • Introduction by Liz Martínez
Publisher: PM Press
ISBN: 978-1-60486-430-4
Published: 08/14
Format: Paperback
Size: 8 x 5
Page Count: 384
Subjects: Fiction/Mystery

“The Ecuadorian Andes is one of the few places on earth where you can get a sunburn and freeze to death at the same time.“

When New York City PI Filomena Buscarsela takes her teenaged daughter, Antonia, to see their extended family in Ecuador, it’s more than a homecoming. Filomena hasn’t been back in years, and the trip brings back memories of her previous life as a revolutionary.

Before she’s even had time to adjust to her new surroundings, a priest is murdered, a man who, years ago, saved her life and helped her escape to the United States. She owed him her life; now it’s time for the debt to be repaid, and she vows to find his killer. It’s an election year, and the dirty hands of politics seem to be everywhere, perhaps even in this senseless death. Filomena’s investigation promises to lead her back to the very people she escaped, all those years ago.

As the country is wracked by natural and man-made disasters—landslides, floods, food shortages, protests, crackdowns—Filomena becomes a fugitive from the law, racing across the country toward a climactic confrontation in the Amazon jungle. Wishnia provides a novel rich with the sights, sounds—and dangers—of Ecuador, and a compelling look at the provenance of one of mystery fiction’s most dynamic heroines.


“In a stunning portrait of a country just over the line between law and chaos, Blood Lake gives the reader urgent, pulse-pounding prose, an unstoppable, appealing narrator, and a sense that the veneer of civilization may be, in places, very thin indeed.
—S.J. Rozan, author of Ghost Hero

“The first page of Blood Lakeis strong, on a dead run; and the rest of the book ain’t too dusty, neither.“
—Harlan Ellison, winner of the Edgar, Hugo, Nebula, and Emmy Awards

“Wishnia’s brand of gritty surrealism jolts the reader with startling images and jarring contrasts. [He] evokes a country and a culture vividly and unforgettably.“
Publishers Weekly

“Successfully serves up exotic atmosphere, complex family relations, social unrest, and dazzling characterization.“

“Enormously engaging. It’s as if Wishnia were attempting to rescue the thriller from the bloat and preposterousness of Ludlumization in order to return it to its more Graham Greene-like roots in a recognizably mean real world—just as Chandler and Hammett rescued detective fiction from drawing-room gentility and yanked it down to the mean streets that had always been its natural habitat.“
The Washington Post

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The Red House
Author: Ken Wishnia
Introduction by Alison Gaylin
Publisher: PM Press
ISBN: 978-1-60486-402-1
Published: 03/01/2014
Format: Paperback
Size: 8x5
Page count: 288 Pages
Subjects: Fiction/Mystery

First she was a beat cop, then she was unemployed. Now, Kenneth Wishnia’s dynamic Filomena Buscarsela has apprenticed herself to a New York City PI firm to put in the three years necessary to get her own PI license, which she needs to earn enough money to support herself and her daughter. Trouble is, she often agrees to take on sticky neighborhood cases pro bono—like the group of squatters restoring an abandoned building in the neighborhood—rather than handle the big-bucks clients her bosses would prefer.

While helping out her more “senior” colleagues with her own superior investigative techniques bred from years on the beat, Fil agrees to look into the disappearance of a young immigrant. Then, witnessing the arrest of a neighbor on marijuana-possession charges that nearly turns into a shoot-out with the police, Fil is roped into finding out what went wrong. Trying to balance charity cases like these with bread-and-butter cases, not to mention single motherhood, Fil is quickly in over her head dodging bullish cops, aggressive businessmen, and corrupt landlords in their working-class Queens neighborhood.

After years of policing and backstreet bloodhounding, Filomena Buscarsela is apprenticing to earn her own private investigator’s license. She pours on her Spanish, her clever tricks, and her battle-tested charms to uncover a labyrinth of deceit, racial prejudice, and impenetrable bureaucracy that not only rocks her neighborhood but also threatens the foundation of the big red house that is this PI’s America.


A Washington Post “Rave” Book of the Year

“Smart dialogue, a realistic and gritty depiction of New York, and the sensitive exploration of environmental, racial, and economic issues make this another great read in an energetic series.”

“An engaging character with a wry sense of humor. The jam-packed plot makes for an exciting story.”
Publishers Weekly

“[Wishnia’s] word play is as sharp as his social conscience, and he has created a wonderfully intelligent and human voice for his protagonist. She can move from angry to funny to obscene in a handful of sentences, then climb back out of the gutter to take on the big boys again without hesitation. If only Buscarsela were real, the world would be a better place.”
Washington Post

“Wishnia delivers well-developed characters with sharp, realistic dialogue. Red House shines when it depicts the gritty, uncaring urban jungle.”
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

“She puts [other] female sleuths way in the shade.”
The Times (St. Petersburg, FL)

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The Glass Factory
Author: Kenneth Wishnia with an introduction by Reed Farrel Coleman
Publisher: PM Press
ISBN: 978-1-60486-762-6
Published: August 2013
Format: PDF, Mobi, ePUB
Size: 8 by 5
Page count: 256 Pages
Subjects: Fiction, Mystery

Ex-NYPD cop Filomena Buscarsela—the irrepressible urban crime fighter of 23 Shades of Black and Soft Money—is back. This time, the tough-talking, street-smart Latina heroine sets her sights on seemingly idyllic suburbia, where an endless sea of green lawns hides a toxic trail of money...and murder.

But something is rotten on Long Island. When Filomena discovers that a high-tech Long Island factory is spewing poisons into the water supply, she’s sure that the contaminator is none other than her nemesis, a cutthroat industrial polluter with an airtight financial empire. Armed only with an ax to grind, the gutsy Filomena knows she’ll have to play dirty to clean up the neighborhood.

Her search for justice introduces her to the unfamiliar scent of privilege—from the state-of-the-art chemistry lab of a local university to the crumbling ruins of a beachfront estate, from a glittering high-society party to an intimidating high-security chemical plant—and immerses her in the all-too-familiar stench of political corruption and personal greed. Once again, Filomena’s nose for trouble has drawn her into a case that’s more than a little hazardous to her health. As the action heats up, she must juggle the dangers of the investigation with the demands of her adorable three-year-old daughter and the delights of a surprising new romance.


“Wishnia writes with brio, energy, rage, passion, and humor. Brash, sassy, smart, and indomitable, Filomena is purely a force of nature, and The Glass Factory is another winner.” —Booklist

“Riveting circumstances, a strongly focused plot, and ably described settings make this essential reading.” —Library Journal

“Mother and daughter are so appealing, and the case against an unscrupulous businessman is put together so compellingly, the tale keeps one reading to its bittersweet end.” —Boston Globe

“Filomena Buscarsela [is] an irreverent, intrepid, Ecuadorian-born, former New York City cop with the savvy of Erin Brockovich and the stamina of Wonder Woman.” —Newsday

“Filomena Buscarsela [is] a Latina heroine with the epic appeal of Everywoman. The world’s a mess, but Filomena’s still fighting. It’s that perspective that sets Wishnia apart—there’s nothing else out there remotely like his books.” —Rocky Mountain News

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Soft Money
Author: Ken Wishnia
Introduction by Gary Phillips
Publisher: PM Press
ISBN: 978-1-60486-680-3
Published March 2013
Format: Paperback
Size: 8 by 5
Page count: 288 Pages
Subjects: Fiction/Mystery

Even the best cops burn out. 23 Shades of Black’s Filomena Buscarsela returns, having traded in her uniform for the trials of single motherhood. Once a cop, always a cop. She may have left the department, but Filomena’s passion for justice burns as hot as ever. And when the owner of her neighborhood bodega is murdered—just another “ethnic” crime that will probably go unsolved and unavenged—Filomena doesn’t need much prodding from the dead man’s grieving sister to step in. Secretly partnered with a rookie cop, she hits the Washington Heights streets to smoke out the trigger-happy punks who ended an innocent life as callously as if they were blowing out a match.

From the labyrinthine subway tunnels of upper Broadway to the upscale enclaves that house the rich and beautiful, from local barrio hangouts to high-priced seats of power, Filomena follows a trail of dirty secrets and dirtier politics, with some unexpected stops in between. In a town big enough to hold every kind of criminal, crackpot, liar, and thief, from ruthless gangsters to corporate executives drunk on greed and power, she tracks a killer through the city’s danger zones.


“Great fun…Fil is a hyperbolic character, spewing enough acerbic opinions to fill half a dozen average mysteries. A spirited sequel.”
Publishers Weekly

“Wishnia’s world is like a New York subway train—fast, loud, dirty, and dangerous—but it’s well worth the ride with Filomena Buscarsela in the driver’s seat. A hard-edged story gracefully told.”

“Sharp and sexy... Hilarious and exciting... [Wishnia] has a perfect ear for female urban angst.”
Chicago Tribune

“Nonstop activity, wry humor, mordant characterizations, and a solid dollop of police procedure make this a hugely appealing follow-up to 23 Shades of Black.”
Library Journal

“Sizzling...memorable characters, genuine surprises, and fine writing... 23 Shades of Black took the mystery world by storm. Soft Money keeps the winds in full swirl.”
Book Page

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23 Shades of Black
Author: Ken Wishnia
Introduction by: Barbara D’Amato
Publisher: PM Press
ISBN: 978-1-60486-587-5
Published June 2012
Format: Paperback
Size: 8 by 5
Page count: 300 Pages
Subjects: Fiction/Mystery


23 Shades of Black is socially conscious crime fiction. It takes place in New York City in the early 1980s, i.e., the Reagan years, and was written partly in response to the reactionary discourse of the time, when the current thirty-year assault on the rights of working people began in earnest, and the divide between rich and poor deepened with the blessing of the political and corporate elites. But it is not a political tract, it’s a kick-ass novel that was nominated for the Edgar and the Anthony Awards, and made Booklist’s Best First Mysteries of the Year.

The heroine, Filomena Buscarsela, is an immigrant who experienced tremendous poverty and injustice in her native Ecuador, and who grew up determined to devote her life to helping others. She tells us that she really should have been a priest, but since that avenue was closed to her, she chose to become a cop instead. The problem is that as one of the first Latinas on the NYPD, she is not just a woman in a man’s world, she is a woman of color in a white man’s world. And it’s hell. Filomena is mistreated and betrayed by her fellow officers, which leads her to pursue a case independently in the hopes of being promoted to detective for the Rape Crisis Unit.

Along the way, she is required to enforce unjust drug laws that she disagrees with, and to betray her own community (which ostracizes her as a result) in an undercover operation to round up undocumented immigrants. Several scenes are set in the East Village art and punk rock scene of the time, and the murder case eventually turns into an investigation of corporate environmental crime from a working class perspective that is all-too-rare in the genre.

And yet this thing is damn funny, too.


“Packed with enough mayhem and atmosphere for two novels.” 

“From page-turning thriller to mystery story to social investigation, 23 Shades of Black works on all levels. It’s clear from the start that Wishnia is charting a unique path in crime fiction. Sign me up for the full ride!” 
—Michael Connelly, author of Lost Light

“Wishnia cuts a different path with his stories and novels, choosing subjects, settings, and characters of a sort the reader is unlikely to encounter in the mainstream of mystery and crime fiction. His fine sensibility and skillful prose will appeal to discriminating readers.”
—Janet Hutchings, editor of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine

“With her sharp tongue, quick mind, and stubborn will, Filomena Buscarseal is the ultimate New Yorker: a cop, a woman, an immigrant who has made the city her own.”
—Linda Landrigan, editor of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine

“Ken Wishnia’s Filomena Buscarsela is one hell of a woman fighting the good fight in politicized bad-to-the-bone stories where the point is not merely to interpret the world, but to change it... one goddamn block at a time.”
—Gary Phillips, author of Monkology

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Send My Love and a Molotov Cocktail: Stories of Crime, Love and Rebellion
Editors: Gary Phillips and Andrea Gibbons
Publisher: PM Press
ISBN: 978-1-60486-096-2
Published August 2011
Format: Paperback
Size: 8 by 5.5
Page count: 256 Pages
Subjects: Anthology

Burn, Baby, Burn.

An incendiary mixture of genres and voices, this collection of short stories compiles a unique set of work that revolves around riots, revolts, and revolution. From the turbulent days of unionism in the streets of New York City during the Great Depression to a group of old women who meet at their local café to plan a radical act that will change the world forever, these original and once out-of-print stories capture the various ways people rise up to challenge the status quo and change up the relationships of power. Ideal for any fan of noir, science fiction, and revolution and mayhem, this collection includes works from Sara Paretsky, Paco Ignacio Taibo II, Cory Doctorow, Kim Stanley Robinson, and Summer Brenner.

Samples from the Table of Contents:

I Love Paree” by Cory Doctorow & Michael Skeet: The story of a business consultant living in revolutionary Paris during an anti-corporatist uprising, and what he does after he's conscripted into the Communard Army.

One Dark Berkeley Night” by Tim Wohlforth: In a story spanning decades, the ambush shooting of a cop one lonely night in Berkeley in the ‘70s echoes into the present for several people who have a lot to lose should the truth come out.

Orange Alert” by Summer Brenner: A disparate group of elderly women get together at their local café, and plan a radical act the world won’t soon forget.

Poster Child” by Sara Paretsky: Is a murder mystery where the sides are archly drawn when an anti-abortion activist is beaten to death near a pro choice fundraiser.

Two Days in June” by Rick Dakan: A young internet salesman on his rounds in today’s Berlin is drawn into a clouded past via personal and cyber memories when East Berlin wasn’t just a geographic designation.

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For a calendar of speaking events, please click here


  • Ten Great Crime Fiction Characters on Film
    Like many crime writers, I was profoundly influenced by the great crime novels of the traditional British and hardboiled American schools. But like so many of my generation, I first encountered these canonical detective stories in film and televis...
  • Marx and Marlowe:Humor as a Weapon
    Humor is the weapon of the powerless. Being the child of intellectual Jews gave me many advantages as a kid (bagels, Woody Allen movies, skepticism of political power), but when we moved to suburban Long Island in the late 1960s, I discovered the...
  • Environmental crime fiction
    Nobody wants to read a political tract disguised as a novel, especially a crime novel. But one of the major reasons I was attracted to the crime genre in the first place is its long history of social commentary, going back to Hammett in the 1920s...

What Others are Saying





blood lakeCrime Fiction and Political Activism: Where They Meet and How

October 17th, 2014

When New York City private investigator Filomena Buscarsela takes her teenaged daughter, Antonia, to see their extended family in Ecuador, it’s more than a homecoming. Filomena hasn’t been back in years, and the trip brings back memories of her previous life as a revolutionary. Before she’s even had time to adjust to her new surroundings, though, a priest is murdered—a man who, years ago, saved her life and helped her escape to the United States. Filomena owed him her life, and she vows to find his killer...

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blood lakeCrime Fiction and Political Activism: Where They Meet and How
By Peter Handel
October 4th, 2014

Peter Handel for Truthout: You have an academic background – you're a professor of English at Suffolk Community College with a doctorate in Comparative Literature. You also write crime novels. Can you connect the dots for us?

Ken Wishnia:
Yeah - I needed a day job. Next question.

Oh, you want more, eh? OK. A couple of years in soulless office cubicles convinced me to go back to graduate school while I did my writing on the side. So I wasn't that moderately pathetic cliché - the graduate student in English who wants to write a novel. I was a novelist who went to graduate school.

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glass factoryThe Glass Factory: A Review
By Marsali Taylor
Promoting Crime Fiction
July 31st, 2014

Filomena Buscarella is an ex-cop latina who left Ecuador for the bright lights of the US.  Now she’s a woman on a mission: to get the big boss who’s poisoning all the land in his area...

From the first sentence, this book was a delight.  Filomena is smart and sassy, and totally believable, from her tussles with her three-year-old daughter Antonia (an extra in this book is a fun story told by Antonia aged 12) through sorting out unpleasant thugs and hitting the worst news ever, to the joys of a surprising new romance.  She’s the superwoman we women would all like to be, taking everything in her stride – she’s the fastest improviser around, and there’s no situation she can’t get out of somehow, but in a way that you feel ordinarywoman could too, if she just had Filomena’s pazzazz.

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red houseA Conversation with Mystery Author Ken Wishnia
OmniMystery News
March 14th, 2014

Omnimystery News: How has Filomena Buscarsela changed over the course of four books?

Kenneth Wishnia: I can't imagine writing one of those series in which the character never ages or changes (she's a human being, for God's sake, not Superwoman). So my character, Filomena Buscarsela, goes from a wild and crazy female cop in the first novel, 23 Shades of Black (set during the Reagan era), to an ex-cop and single mom in Soft Money (George H. W. Bush era). She's unemployed and desperate in The Glass Factory (Clinton era), and in Red House, she's working for a private investigator (and some guy named George W. Bush is president).

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23 shadesSoft Money: A Starred Review
By Teresa L. Jacobsen
Library Journal
August 2013

Ex-detective Filomena Buscarsela quit the NYPD when she became a single mother, but she's still investigating with a passion-for free. In this outing, first published in 1999, she's helping friends figure out who murdered a favorite local shopkeeper. Meanwhile, at her day job, a clerical position at an environmental-issues nonprofit, Filomena has uncovered an embezzlement scheme that merits the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) attention. Before long, Fil and her ragtag team (a couple of independent-minded cops, a neighborhood shaman, and an EPA insider, among others) close in on both cases but not before some exciting moments. At some point, Fil is going to acknowledge she's still a cop.

VERDICT: We liked it in 1999, and we still like it. Social issues may have changed slightly, but Wishnia's tone is timely, his voices authentic, and his pacing superb. This is the second title in a series (after 23 Shades of Black ) that PM Press is in the process of re-releasing, and it includes a new introduction by author Gary Phillips.

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23 shades23 Shades of Black: A Review
Thinking about books
By David Marshall
July 1st, 2012

One of the perks of reviewing is I get to read the work of many writers I’ve never heard of. Even at my advanced age, it’s actually fun to add new “persons of interest” to the Ten Most Wanted posters on my walls. So imagine my joy in picking up 23 Shades of Black by Kenneth Wishnia (PM Press, 2012). I read the title verso (doesn’t everyone) and discover this presumptuous author has included the words of the Tenth Psalm “Reprinted by permission of God”. This is auspicious and suggests we share the same world view. The introduction by the redoubtable Barbara D’Amato fills in the gaps in my knowledge (ask me about science fiction, fantasy and horror and I’m reasonably encyclopaedic, but American police procedurals are a relatively new territory for me). It seems our author grew tired of rejections and self-published this book in 1997. It was immediately shortlisted for both the Edgar Allan Poe Award and the Anthony Award. Which just goes to show that, sometimes, authors are an excellent judge of the quality of the work they produce and know more than the agents and publishers. Indeed, within ten pages, I’m hooked and sad that I’ve missed out on the four books in the series that have followed this.

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23 shades23 Shades of Black: Mystery Preview 2012
By Kristi Chadwick, Director, Emily Williston Memorial Library, Easthampton
Library Journal
April 13, 2012

While events of 30 years ago may not seem particularly “historical,” PM Press cofounder/publisher Ramsey Kannan disagrees. The early 1980s of Reagan’s America, he explains, were “the beginning of the ‘take back what’s ours’ trickle up economic onslaught of the neocons, the Rockefeller Drug Laws, and the assault on the social gains (from trade unions to welfare) ushered in from the New Deal through civil rights.”

The socially conscious press highlights this era with the republication of Kenneth Wishnia’s 1998 Edgar and Anthony Award–nominated debut, 23 Shades of Black (Jun.). Set in 1980s New York City, it introduces Latina police officer Filomena Buscarsela. An immigrant single mother stepping into a white man’s world, Buscarsela must not only deal with betrayal from her fellow cops but also enforce unjust laws relating to drugs and undocumented immigrants in her own community.

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23 shades23 Shades of Black: A Review
by Bruce De Silva
Bruce De
April 4th, 2012

Who wants to read a novel about a Hispanic female police officer who spends half of her time high on drugs and alcohol, the other half fending off fellow cops who want to play grab-ass, and all of it in a left-wing-politics-fueled assault on a conglomerate that is hell-bent on committing environmental and cultural genocide?

Me, that’s who.

For one thing, this guy can write. The prose is as tight as my favorite band, the humor bites like a Great White, and the mood is as angry and bitter as The New Black Panther Party on a bad day.