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About J.R.

Baltimore City

J.R. Angelella is the author of the adult literary debut Zombie: A Novel (Soho Press, 2012) that Barnes & Noble described as “simultaneously a bildungsroman à la Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, an homage to zombies in pop culture and a twisted mystery all wrapped up into one utterly original—and darkly delightful—novel” and Matthew Quick (author of The Silver Linings Playbook) called “an irreverent and twisted coming-of-age story with one of the most shocking endings I’ve ever read.” His... more

Zombie: A Novel (Soho Press: 2012)

ZOMBIE: A NOVEL was published by Soho Press in 2012.

SYNOPSIS:

A zombie movie-obsessed teen is forced to face a dark family secret in this shocking debut literary novel.

Fourteen-year-old Jeremy Barker attends an all-boys Catholic high school in Baltimore where roving gangs of bullies make his days a living hell. His mother is an absentee pillhead, his older brother a self-diagnosed sex-addict, and his father disappears night after night without explanation. Jeremy navigates it all with a code cobbled together from the zombie movies he's obsessed with: Night of the Living Dead, 28 Days Later, Planet Terror, Zombieland, and Dawn of the Dead among others.

• Avoid Contact
• Keep Quiet
• Forget the Past
• Lock-and-load
• Fight to Survive

The code is put to the test when he discovers in his father's closet a bizarre homemade video of a man strapped to a bed, being prepped for some sort of surgical procedure. As Jeremy attempts to trace the origin of the video, this remarkable debut moves from its sharp, precocious beginnings to a climax of almost unthinkable violence, testing him, and the reader, to the core.

BLURBS:

“If you want to know how teenagers feel and what they say when adults aren’t around, Zombie— a funny and very authentic, well-written first novel by J. R. Angelella—should definitely be the next book you read.”
—John Waters, author of Role Models, and writer/director of Hairspray and Pink Flamingos.

“Wow! A crazy, wicked, knock-out of a book!”
—Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain

“An irreverent and twisted coming-of-age story with one of the most shocking endings I’ve ever read.”
—Matthew Quick, author of The Silver Linings Playbook

“J.R. Angelella has created a bracing tale of a fractured mind. Zombie will make you laugh, shake your head in recognition, and go for the aluminum bat in your basement.”
—Ned Vizzini, author of It’s Kind of a Funny Story and The Other Normals

“J.R. Angelella is a truly gifted writer. Zombie is one of the smartest, strangest, and most beautifully crafted coming-of-age stories you will ever encounter.”
—Donald Ray Pollock, author of The Devil All the Time

“Your home life’s an apocalypse, school’s the plague, and you’re growing up in a wasteland. To survive this zombie movie of a life is probably going to take more than you’ve got. But a world where the dead walk is also a world with miracles. Have faith. Read this book.”
—Stephen Graham Jones, author of Growing Up Dead in Texas

QUOTES

“Angelella’s debut novel crackles with energy and attitude.” —Publishers Weekly

“A breathless, white-knuckle experiment in pure terror.” —Booklist

"A superb debut." —Zouch Magazine

"A brass-knuckle book, reminiscent in tone to Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club.... A great choice for readers who are excited by stories with offbeat characters."
—School Library Journal

"Zombie basically starts at 10 mph and ends at 100.... The book got better and better as I read." —Hello Giggles (Zooey Deschanel's website)

"A coming-of-age tale—angry and violent but full of heart—with stellar prose, first-rate dialogue and a cinematic eye for detail." —Shelf Awareness

"Dark and unforgettable." —Horror News Net

“Zombie is fierce, brave and entertaining literature.” —Opinionless Reviews

"You won’t forget these characters, or the Zombie Survival Code quickly."
—Bookshelf Bombshells

“Zombie is truly a feat in storytelling. It reads like a novel Chuck Palahniuk would write after reading too much Robert Cormier while taking swearing lessons from Chuck Wendig.”
– The Guilded Earlobe

"When it starts to slip into David Lynch territory, I was absolutely mesmerized...The final act is gruesome and cathartic, smart and gripping. I would recommend this book to anyone. This is easily one on of the most entertaining novels I've read in years."
—The Blog of the Living Dead

“It’s simultaneously a bildungsroman à la Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, an homage to zombies in pop culture, and a twisted mystery all wrapped up into one utterly original – and darkly delightful – novel. Angelella’s debut novel is a coming-of-age gem . . . one of those rare novels that was so satisfying, I actually hugged the book when I finished.”
—Paul Goat Allen, BN.com

  • ZOMBIE: A NOVEL

    A zombie movie-obsessed teen is forced to face a dark family secret in this shocking debut literary novel from a talented new author. Fourteen-year-old Jeremy Barker attends an all-boys Catholic high school where roving gangs of bullies make his days a living hell. His mother is an absentee pillhead, his older brother a self-diagnosed sex-addict, and his father disappears night after night without explanation. Jeremy navigates it all with a code cobbled together from the zombie movies he's obsessed with: Night of the Living Dead, 28 Days Later, Planet Terror, Zombieland, and Dawn of the Dead among others. The code is put to the test when he discovers in his father's closet a bizarre homemade video of a man strapped to a bed, being prepped for some sort of surgical procedure. As Jeremy attempts to trace the origin of the video, this remarkable debut moves from its sharp, precocious beginnnings to a climax of almost unthinkable violence, testing him, and the reader, to the core.
    PDF icon ZOMBIE: A NOVEL
  • John Waters | #GotZombie

    “If you want to know how teenagers feel and what they say when adults aren’t around, Zombie— a funny and very authentic, well-written first novel by J. R. Angelella—should definitely be the next book you read.” —John Waters, author of Role Models, and writer/director of Hairspray and Pink Flamingos. John Waters was an early fan of my novel, and even offered up a blurb for the cover. During a social media campaign where readers of ZOMBIE were asked to upload pictures of themselves reading the book, John sent me this picture and allowed me to use it in my online campaign.
  • Me and my editor Mark Doten

    This picture was taken in October of 2012 at the Bookcourt Bookstore in Brooklyn. We were invited to speak with their book club who had just finished reading ZOMBIE.

Who Done It? (Soho Press: 2013)

A star-studded anthology with a devilish hook, whose proceeds benefit 826nyc: the fabulous literacy non-profit founded by Dave Eggers.

Can you imagine the most cantankerous book editor alive? Part Voldemort, part Cruella de Vil (if she were a dude), and worse in appearance and odor than a gluttonous farm pig? A man who makes no secret of his love of cheese or his disdain of unworthy authors? That man is Herman Mildew.

The anthology opens with an invitation to a party, care of this insufferable monster, where more than 80 of the most talented, bestselling and recognizable names in YA and children’s fiction learn that they are suspects in his murder. All must provide alibis in brief first-person entries. The problem is that all of them are liars, all of them are fabulists, and all have something to hide...

Praise for Who Done It?

"Go buy this book for your kids. Every kid on the planet needs this book. And the extra bonus is that proceeds from Who Done It? benefit 826nyc, the literacy non-profit founded by Dave Eggers!"
—NCBLA Executive Director Mary Brigid Barrett

"Well worth a read."
—The Guardian (UK)

"Wonderful and fun to read. Included in these pages is some fabulous description, lots and lots of creativity...[will] keep even the pickiest teen happy for hours."
—Tulsa Books Examiner

“Curl up and check out the laugh-out-loud alibis.”
—Justine Magazine

"Who Done It? is essentially a who’s who of fabulous YA...And they’re all talking. But someone’s lying. The 'alibis' range from poetry to comics, and are hilarious."
—Persephone Magazine

“With a lively blend of self-incrimination and finger-pointing, Who Done It? will keep readers guessing to the end.”
—Shelf Awareness

"Filled with in-jokes and carried to ridiculous extremes by a mammoth stable of YA and children’s authors...clever."
—Kirkus Reviews

"The finger-pointing and self-incrimination begin in every form imaginable...David Levithan offers his alibi in verse....Indeed, the pen is being used mightily to drum up support for creative writing; proceeds from sales will benefit Dave Eggers’ (another among the accused) 826 program in New York."
—Booklist

"Jon Scieszka combines humor and Clue style campy mystery in his Who Done It?"

—Crimespree Magazine
"How did you get my phone number? Stop calling me or I'm getting the police involved."
—Maureen Johnson, author of The Name of the Star and The Last Little Blue Envelope

"Wah-huh?"
—Gayle Forman, author of If I Stay and Where I Went

"Who are you? Why are you writing down everything I'm saying? What book? What are you talking about?"
—Lemony Snicket, author of A Series of Unfortunate Events and Who Could That Be at This Hour?

"Papery. And rectilinear."
—Barry Lyga, author of I Hunt Killers

"Of all the books I've ever read, this was definitely the most recent."
—Jennifer Smith, author of The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

"If you already know who done it, this is not the book for you."
—Mo Willems, author of Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus

"Deliciously cheesy."
—Jo Knowles, author of See You At Harry's

"Exceptionally rectangular."
—Kiersten White, author of Paranormalcy

"My God. It's full of words."
—Kieran Scott, author of the He's So/She's So trilogy

"Not enough pictures."
—Ricardo Cortés, co-author of Go the F--k to Sleep

"Cures everything from sleeplessness to insomnia."
—Natalie Standiford, author of The Secret Tree

"Wicked awesome."
—Lisa Brown, How to Be

"Who is Jon Scieszka?"
—Casey Scieszka, co-author of To Timbuktu

"I'll get back to you with a blurb as soon as I have some time."
—Leslie Margolis, author of Everybody Bugs Out

"This book is full of slanders, falsehoods, and outrageous defamations of character. In other words, it was perfect!"
—Adam Gidwitz, author of A Tale Dark and Grimm

"Without a doubt, one of the top 10,000 books of the year."
—Robin Wasserman, author of The Book of Blood and Shadow

"Stays crunchy in milk."
—Gordon Korman, author of Swindle

"It makes an excellent step so I can reach all my shoes."
—Kate Brian, author of the Private series

"What an outrageous, hysterical, cheesy, fantastic, ingenious book!"
—Emily’s Crammed Bookshelf

"Funny, creative, and clever. Buy a copy for yourself and another for a young reader in your life."
—Beth Fish Reads

  • Who Done it - Angelella.pdf

    Can you imagine the most cantankerous book editor alive? Part Voldemort, part Cruella de Vil (if she were a dude), and worse in appearance and odor than a gluttonous farm pig? A man who makes no secret of his love of cheese or his disdain of unworthy authors? That man is Herman Mildew. The anthology opens with an invitation to a party, care of this insufferable monster, where more than 80 of the most talented, bestselling and recognizable names in YA and children’s fiction learn that they are suspects in his murder. All must provide alibis in brief first-person entries. The problem is that all of them are liars, all of them are fabulists, and all have something to hide… A star-studded anthology with a devilish hook, whose proceeds benefit 826nyc: the fabulous literacy non-profit founded by Dave Eggers.
    PDF icon Who Done it - Angelella.pdf

Light Like Gunshots: Short Stories (currently on submission)

Attached is my unpublished book manuscript titled LIGHT LIKE GUNSHOTS: SHORT STORIES (a nod to the Hemingway short story "Hills Like White Elephants"). This collection has been a labor of love over the years and is currently on submission to editors through my literary agent.

The characters in this collection of stories battle monsters and demons, imagined and real, through episodes in their life, only to find that their circumstances are normal and expected, not otherworldly as their pain might dictate. The theme that runs through each story is that of a skewed perception mapping out the foreign quadrants to a changed world. Identity shifts in these stories and absurdity reigns as a means for these characters to come to terms with infidelity, divorce, physical handicaps, natural death, unnatural death, robbery, abuse, dementia, war and suicide.

All but two of the stories in this collection have been published with the rest finding homes in both online and print journals.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

“Hoodlums”
Fifth Wednesday Journal, Fall 2009

“The End is Bear”
Sou’wester, Spring 2011

“Beneath the Bench on Barnaby Street”
Boston Literary Review, Fall 2009

“Face Down in Baltimore, 1998”
Plots With Guns, Summer 2012

“Dire Fire” (published as “Vacant”)
JMWW, Spring 2012

“Light Like Gunshots”
unpublished

“The Hard Ones”
unpublished

“In Memoriam”
The Literary Review, Spring 2009

“The Saddening State of Sammy the Speech Writer”
Twelve Stories, Fall 2008

“The Art of Apology” (published as “Sauce”)
The Coachella Review, Winter 2012
Short Fiction Contest Winner

“My Old Man Never Taught Me A Thing”
unpublished

“Traumarama”
unpublished

The Heart is a Dark and Violent Place: A Novel (currently work-in-progress)

The Pitch: FALLING DOWN meets DIRTY PRETTY THINGS meets GLADIATOR

Synopsis

Ancient Rome. The Coliseum. The brutal sun scorches the drunk Roman spectators and the fiery sands of the pit, while they await the gladiatorial deathmatch tournament. Eight gladiators enter and only one will be left standing. Our hero, ABADDON, is a cunning, ruthless gladiator, jailed for crimes committed trying to free himself and his family from debt. The first match begins: Abaddon’s name is called.

Modern day Manhattan. An R train smashes through darkness. JOHN QUINTUS snaps out of his fantasy. It’s the middle of March and the city has been hit with a winter rainstorm named Jupiter, the rainstorm of the century, which will last the entirety of the novel. The city suffers widespread floods, electrical outages, structural damages and a slow descent into broken social order. The storm happens to coincide with the worst day of Quintus’ life. Quintus, a quiet, weak man, escapes his troubled, stressful life by listening to comedy albums and fantasizing about being a gladiator. (As the novel progresses, so do the gladiatorial fights and Abaddon wins each of his fights, paralleling Quintus’ struggle to fight for his own life.)

Quintus’ life is a pit of black oblivion; the weight of his world is crushing him from all sides—work, home, family, health. All he wants is to save himself and his wife from the darkness of their lives and escape New York City.

Quintus’ sick wife EFFIE suffers from a chronic abdominal pain that doctors’ have failed to diagnose and believe to be psychological, at best. Their medical attempts have left Quintus bankrupt, and hunted by creditors who seek to garnish Quintus’ wages. ZAZO, a sadistic Puerto Rican loan shark, and super of Quintus’ office building, hounds Quintus for thousands of dollars owed. Cell phone service is interrupted from unpaid bills. FENTON LOH, their abrasive and Bluetooth-obsessed landlord, threatens Quintus with eviction for three months of unpaid rent. Quintus has his pocket picked by an Indian mystic, who goes on to use Quintus’ credit card to live an extravagant life in NYC that Quintus becomes nihilistically obsessed with tracking. And then there is eccentric boss SAM SWIFFT who abruptly returns from Israel and instructs Quintus to fire half of the employees of Sam Swifft Staffing Solutions. Pushed to the breaking point with this directive, Quintus impulsively quits.

The worst day of John Quintus’ life. So far.

The next day at Effie’s doctor appointment, the medical assistants refuse Effie access to the physician because her health insurance has been cancelled due to Quintus quitting his job. Quintus humbles himself to the staff of the office, begging for their understanding and assistance. He receives none. That is until businessman MIKELI ZYKOV appears at the counter and offers to cover the past and current medical expenses, so long as the doctor would see Effie today. The office agrees. Quintus asks Mikeli how he can repay him for his generosity and Mikeli makes a simple request: work for me.

Back at the Coliseum, Abaddon continues to fight his way through his opponents. He kills the vicious TIBERIUS, defends himself against a pack of wild leopards, survives a mounted archer with a reflex bow and a two-on-one bout against two gladiatrix—bloodthirsty female gladiators. Exhausted and covered in blood, sweat, and sand, Abaddon has one final tournament fight against a Cestus—fist-fighting brawler—before reaching the championship match for his freedom.

Quintus doesn’t tell Effie about quitting his job at the staffing agency. Instead, he dresses for work every day and leaves at 8am like normal, when in fact his life is changing drastically every day. His job? Bagman for the Chechen mob. What the money is for, Quintus doesn’t know the details. He assumes it’s some kind of protection fee or tax. All he knows is that he is to collect substantial amounts of money from named clients given to him by Mikeli’s operation managers, twin brothers WYATT and WALON MORENO, who act as the accounting and collections departments of Mikeli’s illegal enterprise—Wyatt reasonable, Waylon bloodthirsty.

Sam Swifft reaches out to Quintus and asks for his help—he can’t handle the staff on his own and needs a refresher on certain operation tasks. The real reason for Sam’s return to the states comes out: his new bride needs a liver transplant, one they couldn’t get in Israel due to religious laws. But now that they have returned, they still cannot receive the help they need. Quintus sympathizes, but enjoys seeing a man like Sam suffer a medical meltdown as he himself suffers.

At first, the bagman visits are easy and uneventful, clients handing over money, no problem. But as the visits increase, the clients become more resistant to paying the large amounts of money owed and Quintus is forced to retrieve the money through any means necessary, resulting in violence and intimidation tactics, which he is not emotionally, psychologically or physically equipped to process or handle. He forces himself to use fear, intimidation and violence to earn desired results. In doing so, he elicits the truth, accidentally, from a client—they are paying for Mikeli to arrange a black market organ transplant.

The upside to being a bagman? Quintus has money now. He is able to pay for Effie to continue treatments and for doctors’ visits, which only seem to make Effie more sick and shade the medical landscape to be as corrupt as Mikeli Zykov. Moreover, Quintus continues to pay off his medical bills, rent money and even Zazo. The problem is that Zazo knows that Quintus has found a new source of income and continues to up the vig, threatening harm to him and his wife.

The new normal of Quintus’ life seems to be leveling off, until he pays a visit to new client of Mikeli’s and is caught in an FBI sting. Special Agents CHANO KING and ADELAIDE FROST reveal that Mikeli Zykov is a Chechen mobster involved in an international organ-harvesting network. Mikeli’s job: finding individuals with the means to pay for a black market organ and facilitating a deal between them, the organ donor, and doctors willing to execute the operation. This is in addition to a laundry list of other illegal businesses—drugs, human trafficking, extortion, money laundering. King and Frost use their leverage of Quintus’ sick wife, financial needs and connection to the black market organ ring as a way to force him to cooperate, turn rat and bring down Mikeli Zykov’s network.

Quintus accepts.

Quintus returns to Sam Swifft, asking him if he would be willing to pay for a black market transplant. Sam says yes. Quintus arranges a meeting between Sam and Mikeli, tipping off the FBI about the meeting as a means to bring them all down and set fire to the last remaining dregs of his life in New York City.

The showdown takes place where everything began: at Sam Swifft Staffing Solutions. All parties present and unknowingly double-crossed—Mikeli Zykov, Wyatt and Waylon Moreno, Zazo, Chano King, Adelaide Frost and John Quintus. The end results in a clash of double-crosses and violence and death, which Quintus survives—bloodied, sweat-soaked and victorious.

At the Coliseum, Abaddon reaches the final fight with VENATOR, a grizzled, scarred, undefeated gladiator, whom he must defeat to win his freedom. Abaddon is exhausted. Slow. Beaten down. Bruised. Barely any gas left in the tank. He fights well and strong, but not as fast or strong or as well as Venator. Just as Quintus has embraced the violence of his world, Abaddon maxes out on the violence in his. And subsequently, as Quintus escapes, Abaddon dies.

With his new capabilities and limits realized, Quintus kills the gladiator fantasy.

Alive with a trunk full of cash and the FBI and Chechen mob after him, Quintus steals a car, grabs his wife, and disappears, just as he’d always hoped to do.



  • Gladiator Novel - submission.pdf

    Two men from different worlds--a gladiator from Ancient Rome and a down-on-his-luck modern man--must fight against the fated events of his own existence to save not only themselves, but their families. Are these two lives somehow related? And if so, how will the end results affect each other?
    PDF icon Gladiator Novel - submission.pdf
  • Excerpt from The Gladiator Novel | Noir at the Bar: Baltimore

    This is a reading from a work in progress at Noir at the Bar - Baltimore, held at Mi Ranchito in the Hollins Market neighborhood on April 16, 2015. Fellow readers included Nik Korpon, Phillip Thompson, Damien Walters, Jessica McHugh, Eryk Pruitt and Michael Hughes. As a challenge, when asked to read at this gather, I refused to read from my novel ZOMBIE and instead forced myself to produce new work and read from my novel-in-progress.

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