Stella, Charlie 1956–
Stella, Charlie 1956–
Born June 1, 1956, in New York, NY; married; wife's name Ann Marie; children: (first marriage) Nicole; (third marriage) Charles, Dustin. Education: Attended Minot State College and Hofstra University; Brooklyn College, B.A., 1982.
Home—NJ. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer. Worked as a football coach, window cleaner, and word processor.
Eugene Schneider Memorial Short Story Award; Abraham Kraditor Memorial Award for Political Science, Brooklyn College, 1982.
Eddie's World, Carroll & Graf Publishers (New York, NY), 2001.
Jimmy Bench-Press, Carroll & Graf Publishers (New York, NY), 2002.
Charlie Opera, Carroll & Graf Publishers (New York, NY), 2003.
Cheapskates, Carroll & Graf Publishers (New York, NY), 2005.
Author of several plays, including Coffee Wagon, Mr. Ronnie's Confession, and Double or Nothing.
Charlie Stella grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and the city's street life serves as the milieu for his writings. Stella played football in high school and attended Minot State College in North Dakota on a football scholarship. His greatest influence at Minot, however, was Dave Gresham, the English teacher who sparked his interest in literature and writing. Stella also attended Hofstra University in New Jersey, where he won a short story writing award, but did not earn a degree. It was not until later, while he was washing windows and coaching football, that he decided to return to school and ultimately graduated from Brooklyn College. He worked as a word processor and then became what he describes as a "street guy." It is from these nearly two decades of associating with small-time operators and gamblers that Stella draws in writing his fiction.
In Eddie's World protagonist Eddie Senta, like Stella, works as a word processor and is the author of a book. Eddie is also a bookie with a history, and he is heading into a mid-life crisis. His much-younger wife wants to have a baby, and he is struggling in trying to parent his teenage son. He could buy a Corvette, but he decides instead to take part in one last burglary, for kicks and the quick score, but also to help his friend Tommy Gaetani. The supposedly easy job gets messy: Tommy winds up dead, and Eddie, who is suspected of a triple murder, is chased by the police, the real killer, and the FBI. "Stella throws in Russian mobsters, ex-cons, federal agents, Mafia figures, local cops and gang-bangers, all of whom convulse Eddie's world," wrote a Publishers Weekly reviewer.
In reviewing the book for Romantic Times Online online, Toby Bromberg called it "a fast-paced novel peopled with quirky characters." Library Journal reviewer Craig L. Shufelt wrote that "despite a slow start, Stella's debut picks up enough steam to distinguish itself from the scores of other crime novels." A Kirkus Reviews contributor noted that Eddie's World is "fresh, fast, and darkly funny. A sure-footed debut from a writer with a spare, no-nonsense prose style who can make you like characters you think you shouldn't."
Stella followed this auspicious debut with several equally esteemed crime novels. In Jimmy Bench-Press the title character, who earned his nickname when he lifted 402 pounds, is, a former prisoner, working as an enforcer for the mob in New York City. His casual and calculated brutality, according to a Kirkus Reviews contributor, makes his world "Soprano-esque" but does not scare off the street-savvy detectives on his case. Finding this novel even darker than Eddie's World, the Kirkus Reviews writer concluded that Jimmy Bench-Press is a "compelling" story of honorable men trying to do the right thing in a tarnished world. "Stella moves confidently into territory staked out by Elmore Leonard," observed a reviewer for Publishers Weekly, who noted Stella's lean writing style and unflinching glimpses of underworld brutality. The book, according to Library Journal contributor Craig L. Shufelt, offers "a much more subtle payoff than most crime novels."
The action moves to Las Vegas in Charlie Opera, where the title character, newly retired, has gone on vacation with his wife, Lisa. The trouble is, he was followed by Nicholas Cuccia, whose jaw Charlie had broken a while back when Nick had flirted with Lisa. Unbeknownst to Charlie, Nicky has powerful mafia ties and intends on getting revenge—and he has perfect timing: just after Lisa announces she wants a divorce, Charlie gets drunk and is beaten up on his way back to the hotel. Warned to leave town by federal agents who are watching Nicky, Charlie refuses, only to be drawn further into a world of drug deals, vendettas, and strung-out characters. A contributor to Publishers Weekly called Charlie Opera a "brilliant" crime novel, observing that Stella's characters are complex and often sympathetic.
Cheapskates, according to Booklist reviewer Connie Fletcher, presents "another deeply realized hero confronting a greed-crazed world." The plot focuses on Reese Walters, an ex-con whose attempts to go straight are derailed when his friend and former cellmate Peter Rizzo, released from the state penitentiary the same day as Reese, is shot on a Brooklyn street. Rizzo, it turns out, was on the way to meet his ex-wife, who had made off with a substantial chunk of his money. Frustrated by the cops' lack of interest in the case, and by the fact that Rizzo's family doesn't seem to care who killed him, Reese sets out to nail the murderer. This decision pits the naive ex-con against crooked cops, the FBI, the ex-wife's appalling father, the equally awful Rizzo family, and a large cast of Mafiosi—most of them, according to a writer for Publishers Weekly, rather inept. Praising the book for its pitch-perfect dialogue, wry humor, and finely drawn characters, the reviewer concluded that readers "will eagerly await the next book from this talented author."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, November 15, 2003, Wes Lukowsky, review of Charlie Opera, p. 585; February 1, 2005, Connie Fletcher, review of Cheapskates, p. 947.
Drood Review of Mystery, January-February, 2005, "Guys and Dolls." p. 7.
Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 2001, review of Eddie's World, p. 1458; September 15, 2002, review of Jimmy Bench-Press, p. 1357; October 1, 2003, review of Charlie Opera, p. 1203; January 15, 2005, review of Cheapskates, p. 88.
Library Journal, November 15, 2001, Craig L. Shufelt, review of Eddie's World, p. 98; November 15, 2002, Craig L. Shufelt, review of Jimmy Bench-Press, p. 103.
Publishers Weekly, November 5, 2001, review of Eddie's World, p. 43; October 28, 2002, review of Jimmy Bench-Press, p. 54; November 17, 2003, review of Charlie Opera, p. 48; January 24, 2005, review of Cheapskates, p. 224.
Charlie Stella Web site,http://www.charliestella.com (July 5, 2007).
Romantic Times Online,http://www.romantictimes.com/ (April 27, 2002), Toby Bromberg, review of Eddie's World.