Zellnik, Joe (M.J. Zellnik, a joint pseudonym)
Zellnik, Joe (M.J. Zellnik, a joint pseudonym)
Education: Duke University, B.A., 1991.
Theatrical composer and graphic designer. Composer of musicals, including Lancelot and Elaine, 1993, City of Dreams, 1999, First in Flight: The Wright Brothers, 2003, and Yank!, 2005; composer of songs for dinner theater productions, including Murder on the Ocean Queen 1, Murder on the Ocean Queen 2, Destination Murder, and Murder on the Broadway Ltd., 1991-93; composer of incidental music for The Tempest, 1992; composer and lyricist for BMI Musical Theater Workshop, 1992-95; musical director and arranger for Capitol Theater, 1991, The Duplex, 1994, and Don't Tell Mama's Cabaret, 1996; playwright for TOSOS II theater company. Designer of theater posters and company logos.
Rosetti Grant for the Creation of New Musicals, 1989, for "Trust Me …"; Henry Schumann Award in Composition, 1991; Richard Rodgers Award finalist, 2000, for City of Dreams.
WITH SISTER, MIRIAM ZELLNIK; UNDER JOINT PSEUDONYM M.J. ZELLNIK
Murder at the Portland Variety: A Libby Seale Mystery, Midnight Ink (Woodbury, MN), 2005.
A Death at the Rose Paperworks: A Libby Seale Mystery, Midnight Ink (Woodbury, MN), 2006.
(Lyricist and composer) Put Up Your Dukes, produced in Durham, NC, at Duke University, 1989.
(Lyricist and composer) "Trust Me …," produced in Durham, NC, at Duke University, 1990.
(Lyricist, librettist, and composer) The Uncrowned Queen of Ireland (one-act), produced in New York, NY, at BMI Musical Theater Workshop, 1993.
Composer Joe Zellnik and his sister, freelance writer Miriam Zellnik, have penned a number of mysteries under the joint pseudonym M.J. Zellnik. Set in late-nineteenth-century Portland, Oregon, their debut collaboration, Murder at the Portland Variety: A Libby Seale Mystery, follows the exploits of seamstress-turned-detective Libby Seale. When Libby, a costumer at a downtown vaudeville theater, learns that her friend, magician's assistant Vera Carabella, has been murdered, she decides to investigate. With the help of newspaper reporter Peter Eberle, Libby explores the dark underworld of the city, including the infamous Shanghai Tunnels, a series of dangerous passageways that led to the Willamette River waterfront. Booklist contributor Barbara Bibel remarked that Murder at the Portland Variety "introduces a charming pair of investigators, Libby's strength and courage playing nicely against Peter's endearing maverick streak."
In A Death at the Rose Paperworks: A Libby Seale Mystery, Libby and Peter look into the mysterious circumstances surrounding Hiram Rose, a wealthy paper mill owner who has made numerous enemies through his business practices. When a body is found mangled in the mill's machinery, a victim of what is certainly foul play, it is assumed to be Hiram's until he arrives home from a meeting, very much alive. A Kirkus Reviews critic noted that A Death at the Rose Paperworks "provides historical interest along with strong characters and a solid mystery." According to Bibel: "This series effectively captures the vibrant atmosphere of a growing western city as the twentieth century dawns."
The inspiration for their brazen heroine came from the Zellniks' grandmother. "Her name was Lillian; Libby was a nickname," Miriam told Caroline Cummins on the January Magazine Web site. "She was born in 1902 and became a lawyer, which was pretty unusual in the 1920s. She was told she couldn't get married until her older sister got married. So when she and her husband met in law school, he climbed up the fire escape and helped her sneak out and they eloped. She was definitely not a typical woman of her period." The decision to have their protagonist work in a theater was a practical one, Joe explained. "We felt that a seamstress would have access to many strata of society," he remarked to Cummins.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 1, 2005, Barbara Bibel, review of Murder at the Portland Variety: A Libby Seale Mystery, p. 64; September 1, 2006, Barbara Bibel, review of A Death at the Rose Paperworks: A Libby Seale Mystery, p. 72.
Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2006, review of A Death at the Rose Paperworks, p. 815.
January Magazine,http://www.januarymagazine.com/ (March, 2006), Caroline Cummins, "Gore by Gaslight," review of Murder at the Portland Variety.
Libby Seale Web site,http://www.libbyseale.com/ (February 28, 2007).
Who Dunnit Web site,http://www.who-dunnit.com/ (March 29, 2006), Alan Paul Curtis, review of Murder at the Portland Variety; (June 5, 2006), Alan Paul Curtis, review of A Death at the Rose Paperworks.
Miriam, David, and Joe Zellnik Home Page,http://www.zellnik.com (February 28, 2007).