Student writes mystery novel

Graduate student Ken Kern’s experiences in student government did not just provide him with some practice in politics. It also gave him the backdrop for his first mystery novel.

As an undergraduate at the University of Florida, Kerns, a GW political management graduate student, saw an elitist student government that did not live up to its potential. Now, the 23-year-old has decided to turn his experiences as a senate minority leader at UF, and a brief tenure with the GW Student Association Senate, into “Reunion at University Avenue,” a mystery novel that focuses on student government stereotypes.

The novel, released Jan. 6, centers on Mike Adams, who pens a bestseller about his experiences in student government decades after he graduates from college. He gets an offer to make a movie based on his novel. But one of his former student government friends, who is still attached to his days in the organization, tries to sabotage his efforts.

Kerns, who lives in Northern Virginia and works as a pension processor for the coal mining industry, said he based much of the main character on himself. Both Adams and Kern are idealists who tried to make student government less elitist. Kerns said he wanted more students, not just fraternity and sorority members, to be involved in student government.

“I spent a lot of time trying to get people interested in student government, to get turnout,” Kerns said.

The novel satirizes the “secret leadership elite” that Kerns said dominates almost every student government. He said it is “very much like a co-ed fraternity” and is characterized by “the tendency of some people to put their student government ambitions ahead of where they want to go to college.”

He said the “bad guy” in the novel is a character who the reader would least expect.

Kerns said the SA is much less elitist and more informal than the student government at UF. He added that UF’s student government is a much larger institution that receives about twenty times as much money as GW’s because “it’s the only place to go for people to get political experience.” GW’s location in D.C., however, provides students with many other opportunities for gaining political experience, he said.

Kerns intended his novel for a specific readership niche.

“I’m definitely not the next John Grisham or any of those bestselling novelists,” he said. Kerns added that people who do not understand student government stereotypes will not “get” the novel.

Kerns said that although the book is mostly based on his experiences at UF, he got the inspiration for it while studying at GW. He said he had never written anything but a short story before; the novel “just came out.” “I pretty much wrote non-stop for three months,” he said. He worked on the novel in 2003, during the summer between his first and second years at GW.

“Reunion at University Avenue” is expected to hit and mainstream bookstores in mid-February.

Kerns said he has prepared the draft of a sequel to the novel, in which the main character runs for the U.S. Senate. A third book is also in the works.

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