PERSONAL: Born in NJ.
ADDRESSES: Office—Star-Ledger, 1 Star-Ledger Plaza, Newark, NJ 07102-1200. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Star-Ledger, Newark, NJ, editor.
The Barbed-Wire Kiss (novel), Minotaur (New York, NY), 2003.
The Heartbreak Lounge (novel), Minotaur (New York, NY), 2005.
SIDELIGHTS: Wallace Stroby is a journalist whose debut novel, The Barbed-Wire Kiss, features protagonist Harry Rane, a retired New Jersey state policeman with a closet full of demons and ghosts. Two years earlier, Rane's wife died of cancer. Made careless by his grief, he was shot in the stomach while on duty, which put an end to his fast-track career. Now he broods in his old rural farmhouse, struggling to make it through each day. A telephone call from Bobby, a boyhood friend who seeks his help, turns Harry's world upside down. Bobby has been dealing drugs on a small scale but tried to score big just once, working with crime boss Eddie Fallon. Bobby's partner in the deal has run off with their cash, and Bobby now cannot pay Fallon the money for the drugs. Harry agrees to intervene, but soon learns that the mobster is married to Christina, Harry's high school sweetheart, who disappeared from his life while pregnant with their child.
Marilyn Stasio wrote in the New York Times Book Review that in The Barbed-Wire Kiss "Stroby does wonders with his blue-collar characters." Chicago Tribune reviewer Dick Adler called the book's action scenes "especially original, set in parts of New Jersey made familiar by The Sopranos but with much of the show-business heat and light deliberately drained out." "The stage is set for lots of angst and melodrama," noted a Publishers Weekly reviewer, while a writer for the Cleveland Plain Dealer felt that "Stroby controls his material like a veteran." The same critic deemed the book "arresting and powerful," with "unforgettable and original characters." "Bullets fly, blood flows, body bags fill," wrote a Kirkus Reviews contributor, who added that "all the familiar hardboiled elements are managed competently in this fast-paced debut."
Harry Rane returns in The Heartbreak Lounge, a story of revenge and murder. Harry, now working as a security guard, gets caught up in the problems of Nikki Ellis, a former dancer at the Heartbreak Lounge in Asbury Park. Johnny Harrow, the father of the baby boy Nikki gave up for adoption, has been released from a Florida prison after serving seven years for attempted murder. Now he wants to find both Nikki and his son and also kill the mob boss who betrayed him. Stasio called Johnny "an electrifying character" who "presents a genuine challenge for Harry." Booklist reviewer Frank Sennett felt that "folks who like their protagonists more realistic than heroic will enjoy the refreshing Rane." A Kirkus Reviews contributor noted, "when Harrow and Rane go mano a mano in the obligatory showdown, the denouement is bloody, explosive, and deeply satisfying."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, November 15, 2004, Frank Sennett, review of The Heartbreak Lounge, p. 566.
Chicago Tribune, February 23, 2003, Dick Adler, review of The Barbed-Wire Kiss, p. 2; February 20, 2005, Dick Adler, review of The Heartbreak Lounge, p. 2.
Cleveland Plain Dealer, February 23, 2003, review of The Barbed-Wire Kiss.
Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 2002, review of The Barbed-Wire Kiss, p. 1739; December 1, 2004, review of The Heartbreak Lounge, p. 1124.
Library Journal, February 1, 2003, Rex E. Klett, review of The Barbed-Wire Kiss, p. 121; January 1, 2005, Rex E. Klett, review of The Heartbreak Lounge, p. 84.
New York Times Book Review, February 23, 2003, Marilyn Stasio, review of The Barbed-Wire Kiss, p. 16; February 20, 2005, Marilyn Stasio, review of The Heartbreak Lounge, p. 21.
Publishers Weekly, January 6, 2003, review of The Barbed-Wire Kiss, p. 42; December 6, 2004, review of The Heartbreak Lounge, p. 46.