Click here to email Charlie
Check out a review of “best interviewer (Craig McDonald) and his book (Art in the Blood).
For the full interview with Craig, go to Interviews on this page.
Praise for Shakedown
“Combine equal parts Mario Puzo and Elmore Leonard, throw in a dash of George V. Higgins and a pinch of Donald E. Westlake and who do you get? Charlie Stella, that’s who. His compelling and authentic portrayal of the urban netherworld and the savages who inhabit it place his crime thrillers among the best in the genre, past or present.” — Robert Wade, San Diego Union Tribune
“Stella, a rising star in the neo-noir thriller world, renders memorable characters who are every bit as bad as those in Scorcese’s GoodFellas … This is the fifth underworld thriller for Stella (following Cheapskates, 2005), and his deft plotting, acerbic humor, and knack for street talk will delight fans of Donald Westlake and Elmore Leonard, whose patter-happy bad guys remain the genre’s gold standard.”– Booklist Boxed *Starred* Review
“Charlie Stella’s Shakedown (Pegasus Books), the latest novel from the man who has succeeded Elmore Leonard and George V. Higgins as the master of the underworld thriller … Stella understands street-level crime and criminals better than anyone else currently writing in the genre, and that knowledge propels his always-enjoyable stories to the top of the heap. Combine that with his keen literary talent and you’ve got one of crime fiction’s unsung masters.”–David Montgomery (Chicago Sun-Times)
“And so the dance along Mean Street begins, as complex as it is violent and brutal. Bobby will have to step lively to keep from paying the piper. With his fifth entertaining entry in the gangster follies (Cheapskates, 2005, etc.), Stella earns a place among the most readable writers in crime fiction.” – Kirkus *Starred* Review
“In this smoothly compact and often funny crime thriller … Stella moves like a king cat through his usual New York-New Jersey Mafia milieu … Fans of the leaner, meaner novels of Elmore Leonard from 20 years ago have great reading waiting in every new Stella.” – Publishers Weekly
If only Jimmy Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, George Raft and Humphrey Bogart were alive today. They’d give their eye teeth to star in a Charlie Stella movie … Stella’s dialogue is so good it might have been tape recorded on the streets of Little Italy. For sure it will make the silver screen. As for the setting, every page was a trip along the streets of the Big Apple. A travel brochure could not have captured the atmosphere half as well. Cheaper than buying a ticket to New York and probably more fun. — Ron Ellis (I love a mystery.com)
“Extensive use of snappy dialog and caustic humor will resonate with fans of Elmore Leonard. Recommended for most crime fiction collections.“–Library Journal
“Charlie Stella could very easily be the new king of mob crime novels. Great pacing and wonderful dialogue keep this book hauling ass to a spectacular climax. Stella flat out Rocks. And when you go to buy this book, you might as well get the rest of his books right away, because one won’t be enough, you’re going to be hooked.” —Jon Jordan, Crime Spree
Fast, funny and violent, Shakedown is crime fiction at its very best, recalling the work of masters like Elmore Leonard and Donald Westlake. An instinctive storyteller, Stella combines the humorous and the horrifying to great effect. The Little Italy he evokes lives and breathes, providing a realistic backdrop to the trials and tribulations of his very human cast, all of whom are very carefully drawn. Stella’s cops and criminals are real people struggling with outsize problems, making for “arresting” reading. – Hank Wagner, Mystery Scene Magazine
“… no one captures the true spirit of modern mobsters better than Charlie Stella, the best dialogue man currently working the crime fiction beat … Stella’s latest release, Shakedown, is one of his most entertaining yet. We’ve already said that Stella reads like Elmore Leonard writing an episode of the Sopranos … Charlie Stella is one of the best modern American crime writers and if you want proof of that, just grab a copy of Shakedown, sit back and enjoy.” —Crime Scene Scotland
“Stella is a winner, a true artist.”– Ken Bruen
“Shakedown is a mob world thriller by a rising hardboiled US star. Chinese gangs in Little Italy add to the murky mix.” – Murder One (Europe) .
“Check out a new mystery to begin summer leisure reading. Shakedown, the tale of a retired bookie who is determined to leave his mafia life behind, is getting starred reviews. Author Charlie Stella’s deft plotting, acerbic humor and knack for street talk will delight fans of Elmore Leonard.” — The Director’s Pick, The Cuba Circulating Library
“Check out Charlie Stella’s new novel, Shakedown (Pegasus Books, $24.00) for a new jolt of Mafia crime and vengeance … Stella writes lean and obscene, like Mario Puzo, and there are some chuckles along the way.” — The Cleveland Plain Dealer
Get married, have a kid – it’s not much to ask. Unless you’ve got to first divorce the mob. And Bobby Genarro only thinks he has, in this brutal, funny, shrewd new crime novel from Charlie Stella, “who,” says the Chicago Sun-Times, “may just be the best crime writer you’ve never read.”
For three months now, ex-bookmaker Bobby G has been heading down the straight and narrow. He’s got the girl – pretty, and willful, Lin Yao, a video-grapher with a black belt in karate – and he’s bought the ring. He’s also safely stashed away a tidy, slightly tainted retirement fund. Then his old boss, a captain with the Vignieri crime family, flips and rats on his Mafioso associates. And Bobby’s past begins catching up with him.
“To get down to brass taxes,” as the phrase-twisting enforcer Tommy Agro puts it, the family figures it’s due, say, two percent of Bobby’s take. Intelligent, combative, a bit of a smart-ass, and stubborn, Bobby resists persuasion, even when he’s facing Agro’s muscle, a former offensive lineman who bench-presses five hundred pounds. Soon, though, Lin Yao is facing an Irish goon freelancing for the Vignieris, and before you can say the Mott Street Shadows the wiseguys’ shakedown is escalating as fast as Stella’s rapid-fire dialogue into warfare with a Chinese gang in the Heart of Little Italy.
Bobby G has got trouble.
Praise for Cheapskates
“It takes a finely tuned ear to write dialogue that rings true, and Stella (Charlie Opera , etc.) has it. With his hapless crooks and wry humor, he belongs in line behind Elmore Leonard and Donald E. Westlake … Readers will eagerly await the next book from this talented author.”
“Stella (Charlie Opera, 2003, etc.) loves his people, the bad no less than the good, which is why you will too.”
“With his fourth book, Cheapskates (Carroll & Graf, $25), Stella has combined his playwright’s gift for crackling dialogue with another strong, character-driven story that resonates with authenticity and emotion … Stella writes with intelligence and wit, infusing his stories with the reality of the streets and a sly sense of humor. He might just be the best crime writer you’ve never read.”
–David Montgomery (Chicago Sun-Times)
“Charlie Stella’s first novel, “Eddie’s World,” drew favorable comparison with such masters of the crime novel as Mario Puzo and Elmore Leonard. Three outings later, that judgment is still valid. A born storyteller, Stella combines quirky characters, clever plotting and a keen ear for the jargon of the streets to produce a thriller redolent with shocks, suspense and – somewhat surprisingly – humor.”
–Robert Wade (San Diego Union Tribune)
“Charlie Stella writes the kind of “George Higgins on Mulberry Street” dialogue you imagine he might from his name, and he tells a pretty good tale of hit men and Mafiosi and ex-convicts who are actually innocent in ‘Cheapskates’ (Avalon, 304 pages, $25). Charlie Stella’s previous opus, the nearly eponymous ‘Charlie Opera,’ did well, and this one should, too.”
–Harper Barnes (St. Louis Today)
“ … a metropolitan Macbeth filled with mobsters, bent cops, a Nation of Islam splinter group, and a rapacious ex-wife. Stella, the author of three well-received, character-driven crime novels—presents another deeply realized hero confronting a greed-crazed world.”
–Connie Fletcher (Booklist)
Poisoned Pen Book Clubs
CLUB PICK FOR APRIL 2005…
Hardboiled Crime: Cheapskates
“Stella is really one of the best dialogue writers going right now, making exchanges do everything and anything he wants — move the plot, convey conflict, add character color and give each person an individual voice … The decent folk have their gray areas and the sleazes are all too human and Stella oversees them all like a master puppeteer.” –Sarah Weinman (Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind)
“ … Stella’s fourth novel delivers on the promise of his previous books. He’s a natural storyteller, a sparkling dialoguer and a keen observer of the more selfish aspects of human nature. Cheapskates is a fast moving, slick talking ride, people with eccentrically believable characters. Even the cheapskates among you won’t mind parting with your hard earned cash for a read like this.”
–Russel D McLean (CrimeSceneScotland)
“Cheapskates builds to a climactic shootout on the streets of New York that plays like a cross between the money chase in It’s A Mad Mad Mad World and the final fire fight at the Alamo.”
“Highly recommended. A different look at the world of criminals and their intentions toward each other and the world in general. Plenty of action. Once you start reading, you’ll want to keep turning pages to see what will happen next. Enjoy.”
– Anne K. Edwards, (New Mystery Reader)
Reese Waters is headstrong, principled, and a bit naive. The former bus driver and now ex-con merely wants to do the right thing by prison buddy Peter Rizzo. He just doesn’t expect the right thing to entail $50,000 in cash, a funeral, the mean-spirited schemes of Rizzo’s congenitally greedy ex-wife, confrontations with Mafia consigliere Jimmy Valentine, two hit men, a Nation of Islam splinter group, and the homicide investigation of two New York police detectives. Reese is barely a day out of Fishkill Penitentiary before his world is spinning crazily out of control because everybody’s after the money, which is all at once a divorce settlement, an unhonored debt, a ransom demand, a shakedown, a killer’s fee, and a mere fifty g’s. With dynamite dialogue, high-octane action, and hardboiled humor, what author Charlie Stella’s cheapskates will do for the money gets as wild as the ride of a runaway bus loose on Second Avenue.
Praise for Charlie Opera
” For his third brilliant crime novel, following Jimmy Bench-Press (2002)…Stella’s dialogue is electric and funny…This outing Stella offers us quite a few sympathetic characters, from Charlie and the cocktail waitress he’s falling for, to strong-arm men Francone and Lano. You actually feel sorry for the poor New York Mafioso, dropped in Las Vegas like sharks flipped into a pool of piranhas.”
– Publishers Weekly *Starred* Review
A Mystery Book of the Year 2003 Selection
– Publishers Weekly
“Stella is carving himself a niche in crime literature somewhere between the late Eugene Izzi’s street noir and Elmore Leonard’s ironic tragicomedies. Bottom line: it works. Stella is a rising star.”
– Wes Lukowsky (Booklist *Starred* Review)
Booklist runner-up to the Top Ten Mysteries of late 2003/early 2004
“Stella’s Goodfellas do their wild and crazy thing once more … the pace never slows, and you’ll like tough, tenderhearted Charlie a lot.”
– Kirkus Reviews
“Combine Mario Puzo and Elmore Leonard, add a dash of George V. Higgins and what do you get? Charlie Stella, that’s what. His flamboyant characters, violent action and picturesque dialogue place his work among the best of underworld thrillers, past and present.”
– San Diego Union Tribune
“Charlie Opera is The Man Who Knew Too Much on steroids and crank … Stella’s third novel builds like a strobe and neon lit pop-Opera as staged by Sam Peckinpah … Violent, funny and softened by a touching and unexpected romance, Charlie Opera hews to the pattern of Stella’s fine, first two novels, Eddie’s World and Jimmy Bench-Press …”
– Craig McDonald (ThisWeek)
“Where all the pieces will land in this raucous explosion of a tale is for the reader to discover. Suffice it to say that when it comes to throwing a group of characters together and spinning the wheel to see what happens, Stella knows exactly where he wants them all to go. The getting there is all the fun.”
– Peter Mergendahl (RockyMountainNews.com)
“In classic fashion, Charlie Stella’s story comes to a final conclusion with all the parties, including Charlie, his new found girlfriend, Cuccia and the rest of the NYC and Vegas Mafia, and even the police, either dead, in love, returned to their everyday dark lives or missing forever. What an opera, and what a story. Don’t miss this Aida of a thriller!”
– Paul Anik (iloveamysterynewsletter.com)
A Crime Factory (the Australian Crime Fiction Magazine) pick as one of the best crime reads of 2003.
” … a gritty novel that brings alive the underbelly of a seamy city. Fans of hard-boiled fiction in the tradition of George V. Higgins will want to seek out Stella’s latest novel.”
– Sarah Weinman (January Rap Sheet)
“A retired window-washer with a love of opera goes to Vegas on vacation and wakes up in a ditch behind a construction site. He soon finds himself mixed up with New York mobsters. Advance readers say Stella’s latest crime novel is fast, funny and brilliant from start to finish.”
– Steven Robert Allen (Alibi.com)
“…A veritable organized crime soap opera of seamy characters and their tangled machinations surrounding one man who dared to break a wiseguy’s jaw, Charlie Opera is genuinely gripping, vividly written, and totally exciting reading.”
– The Midwest Book Review
“There is a manic energy to Charlie Stella’s writing. Heir to much that’s best in the hard-boiled tradition – often compared to George V. Higgins and Elmore Leonard – Stella has a gift for tough humour, quick-fire dialogue and comic plotting. Using rapidly shifting points of view, Charlie Opera involves the reader with a motley crew of sharply delineated characters as they descend on Las Vegas, pursuing, surveilling, beating up, shooting and narrowly escaping one another.”
– Lee Horsley (CrimeCulture.com)
“Charlie Stella has written a fast-paced-high voltage story here…The hi-jinks of the Las Vegas hookers and the different factions of ethnic gangs is all too believable…The audience Stella was aiming for will love this book. It is right up there with the best.”
– C.J. Curry (Newmysteryreader.com)
“Talented Charlie Stella has created a cast of interesting characters who will definitely keep you reading … A fun read with a great setting and plotline. Recommended read for the mystery lover who likes the high life and excitement of Las Vegas and lots of action.”
– Ann K. Edwards (murderandmayhembookclub.com)
“This is a superb piece of writing that stands proudly alongside the crime fiction gods Stella is most often compared with, George V. Higgins and Elmore Leonard.”
– Allen Guthrie, author of Two Way Split
“…you have a book that brings to mind Elmore Leonard were he to write an episode of The Sopranos. With a pedigree like that, you can’t fail to have a good book on your hands…Stella’s greatest strength is his dialogue. His characters come across in sharp focus and their verbal sparring is entertaining, enlightening and utterly believable…Masterful, fun and highly recommended.”
– Crime Scene (Scotland)
“It was good, sonny. I couldn’t wait to finish it. But do you have to put all that dirty stuff in there like that? All that cursing … it was too much.”
– Momma Stella
A gritty underworld thriller that takes mob bosses, hit men, and gangland wannabes to Las Vegas where the name of their game is Charlie Opera.
A guy goes to Las Vegas for a holiday. In a matter of hours he gets drunk, gets mugged, and gets dumped by his wife. Things could get worse, and do, in this new crime novel from Charlie Stella, whose work, says the San Diego Union Tribune, not only recalls George V. Higgins but also “stacks up well against the master.”
With bravura, alternating brutality with humor and high-octane action with virtuoso tough-guy dialogue, Stella crafts his story of Charlie Pellecchia, whose unwitting entanglement with New York mobster Nicky Cuccia plops him in the path of the DEA, FBI, and Las Vegas police. Law enforcement may find Charlie awkwardly in its way, but elsewhere—in deluxe casino hotel suites, at deserted construction sites, on quiet residential streets—a bodybuilding punk looking to be made, a professional killer, a mob chief’s double-dealing accountant, and a pair of Vietnamese gangbangers are all trying to put Charlie permanently out of the way. All because he broke a wiseguy’s jaw.
Add to the mix hookers with felonious kinks, a cop deeply troubled by his wife’s infidelity, a ham-fisted redneck with vengeance on his mind and some bad faith between a Brooklyn crime family and the Russian mob. Things go down tough in Charlie’s opera.
Praise for Jimmy Bench-Press
” Stella moves confidently into territory staked out by Elmore Leonard … for fans of unrelenting underworld fiction … This solid follow-up to Eddie’s World should spread Stella’s name wider …”
– Publishers Weekly
“It’s even harder to be soft-hearted about the gangsters in Charlie Stella’s blood curdling, convincing “Jimmy Bench Press” … Stella is a kind of obscene Ring Lardner, finding a lean, rancid poetry in his characters’ vernacular, and rendering it with flawless precision and humor.”
– Washington Post Book World
“Stella’s debut (Eddie’s World, 2001) was dark and violent, but this ups the ante to rampant brutality. Still, the story of the two troubled cops–essentially honorable men in a society where principle has become excess baggage–is compelling.”
– Kirkus Reviews
“Stella follows his impressive debut (Eddie’s World) with this second novel featuring hard-edged but likable cop, Alex Pavlik. This is a grittier effort than Stella’s first and one with a much more subtle payoff than most crime novels. Recommended for public libraries where crime fiction is popular.”
– Library Journal
” …an entertaining and enjoyable read with plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader guessing. And just when Jimmy gets made and is about to step into his new world, boy, does he get a surprise! Charlie Stella’s earlier novel, EDDIE’S WORLD, earned him comparisons to George V. Higgins. A nice comparison. His reputation will only be enhanced by JIMMY BENCH-PRESS.”
– Michael F. Hennessey (Iloveamystery.com)
“Credit Stella with writing a creditable plot that will more than surprise you in the end. If the Sopranos ran up against the likes of the characters in this book, they would retire to Florida and be thankful they were still alive. Stella’s story, like Jimmy “Bench Press” Mangino, has muscle to spare and isn’t for the squeamish.”
– Peter Mergendahl (RockyMountainNews.com)
“Fast-paced, carefully plotted, and alive with crackling dialogue.”
– MYSTERY SCENE magazine
” . . . an engaging read, and the ending has the ring of truth. Stella’s long experience with the streets of Brooklyn pays off not only in the authentic-sounding dialogue, but also in the respect he shows his characters.”
– Charles Smyth (January Magazine)
“Dear Charlie, I am finishing the book as we ‘speak’. George V. Higgins is smiling down from heaven on you.”
– Joe Black (Black Orchid Bookshop)
“Jimmy Bench-Press’ is violent, fast-paced, and politically incorrect. And it’s also a lot of fun. A number of comparisons have been made between Charlie Stella and Elmore Leonard which is understandable due to the naturalness of both writers’ dialogue, but with all due respect to Elmore Leonard (who’s a terrific writer) nobody writes about knockabout guys with the authenticity of Charlie Stella.”
– David Zeltserman, author of Small Crimes
Jimmy Mangino figures he’s overdue. Already he’s done two stretches in the joint. But he’s back, and he’s still a good earner for the family. You got a loser you need to lean on, Jimmy lends his strong arm, and he doesn’t flinch at murder, not for the Vignieris. He also bench-presses four hundred pounds. Jimmy wants to be a made man. Alex Pavlik wants to take Jimmy down. Pavlik, the edgy Polish cop who tailed Eddie Senta in Charlie Stella’s enthusiastically reviewed debut, Eddie’s World, has been transferred to Organized Crime from Homicide, where his short temper, keen sense of justice, and too-ready prizefighter’s fists have proved to be a volatile combination. Tough-talking, taut, and craftily plotted, Stella’s second novel takes Pavlik and his new partner, another New York police detective, John DeNafria, into the shifty world of Jimmy Bench-Press when wannabe-mobster Larry Berra hires Mangino to collect on a bad loan to a sixty-three-year-old Italian barber with a Cuban girlfriend. Jimmy’s got his fingers in any number of illegal pies, from extortion to murder, among purveyors of drugs and porn. Enough to get a man made, maybe.
Praise for Eddie’s World
“Fresh, fast anddarkly-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.”
– Kirkus *Starred* Review
“Stella’s characters are all too believable, and the novel manages a lightness throughout despite its dark subject matter. Written by an off off Broadway playwright, this promising first novel should move from library shelves where crime fiction is popular.”– Library Journal
“This is Charlie Stella’s first novel. Readers may be reminded, in both style and substance, of George V. Higgins’ underworld thrillers, especially the classic “The Friends of Eddie Coyle.” The comparison is not odious; Stella stacks up well against the master. He plots cleverly, keeps his finger firmly on the suspense button and moves the action along briskly. He is also blessed with a gift for dialogue, likely springing from his experience as an off-Broadway playwright.”
– Robert Wade (San Diego Union Tribune)
“… this is a fast-paced novel peopled with quirky characters you want to hate but just cant. If you like the caper novels of Elmore Leonard, you’ll love EDDIES WORLD.”
– Toby Bromberg (Romantic Times Magazine)
“… This book crackles, and I loved it.”– THE MYSTERY BOOKSTORE
” … the plan is to break into the office where Senta last worked and steal the fifteen-thousand dollars his ex-boss has stashed away there. Sprinkle the scene then with Russian Mafiosi, the FBI, Irish fences, along with old-time Italian gangsters, and things liven up way beyond Senta’s expectations. For the reader who is looking for a fast-moving suspense story, EDDIE’S WORLD will fill the bill.”
– John A. Broussard (I Love A Mystery Newsletter)
Eddie Senta has a problem, in this hard-boiled, fast-paced novel of crime. His attractive second wife, a highly successful marketing research executive who hears her biological clock loudly ticking, wants a baby. She also wants Eddie to clean up his act. Their marriage is going bad.
Nothing’s going great for Eddie, in fact. His stints as a firecracker word processor in the legitimate business world dull him, and the kick he once got running for the mob has turned into mere efficiency. Maybe it’s a midlife crisis, like his wife’s unsympathetic therapist says.
Uneasy with the feeling that his world is daily shrinking, Eddie seizes the opportunity, when it presents itself, to make an easy score and at the same time to help out a friend. While Eddie by no means needs the five grand he’ll make on the deal, he longs for the thrill–and the reinvigoration of his stale fortyish self–that a quick, uncomplicated robbery might bring.
Charlie Stella was born Carmelo Stella on June 1, 1956 in Manhattan, New York. He was raised in Brooklyn most of his life and attended public and catholic schools there until he graduated from Canarsie High School. Charlie attended Minot State College in North Dakota on a football scholarship where he established some of the most important relationships in his life.
Charlie’s favorite crime writers include: George V. Higgins, David Milch, Daniel Woodrell, Elmore Leonard, James Sallis, James Ellroy, Ken Bruen, George Pelecanos and Richard Marinick. Charlie considers himself a wannabe by comparison…and can’t think of better crime writers to wannabe…