J. R. Klein was born in Detroit and grew up on the west side of Chicago. While in college, he set his goals on a career as a writer, only to be 'temporarily' side-tracked by an excursion into science. After earning a PhD in Immunology from Johns Hopkins University, Klein did postdoctoral work at The University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and The Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation. He has held faculty positions at The University of California San Diego School of Medicine, and The University of Tulsa, prior to joining the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.
Throughout those years, Klein wrote short stories, novels, poems, and plays. His debut novel, Frankie Jones, a book of literary fiction, was released in June of 2016. Frankie is the quintessential American who comes from humble origins, lives in the moment, and succeeds out of sheer determination. It is a story of hope, love, friendship, and betrayal—a tale of life itself. Critically acclaimed, The US Review of Books stated of Frankie Jones, “…echoes of Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises linger in the white spaces of Klein’s beguiling novel.”
Klein’s second novel, The Ostermann House, is a psychological thriller set in a small town in rural Texas. Released in June of 2017, The Ostermann House was a 2017 Killer Nashville Claymore Award Finalist.
In Del Mar, California, “while sitting in the shade of the eucalyptus trees in the blissful mornings at a cafe by the ocean”, Klein wrote To Find—The Search for Meaning in Life on the Gringo Trail, a memoir of his travels through Mexico and Central America on less than five dollars a day. A book with overtones of On the Road and Into the Wild, he anticipates publication of To Find in 2018.
His recently completed novel, Red Rover, Red Rover, is a tale of suspense and horror that takes place at a small college in Covington, Vermont. In the centuries-old library building, a pair of students inadvertently stumble upon a passage that leads to an underground ceremonial altar chamber where medieval rituals are being performed. All is fine until something very dark and very dangerous is unleashed.
Klein is knee-deep into a fifth novel. Back to literary fiction—this time about the ever-increasing complexities of life in modern society.
Teach Your Children, a play about the Vietnam War, was performed at the University of Tulsa.
An avid traveler, Klein has been through more than two dozen countries on four continents, including a trip up the Amazon River on a cargo boat. He lives in Houston, TX, with his wife, Jeanne.
“Klein conveys philosophical ideas with beautifully crafted prose and vivid descriptions”
– Kirkus Reviews
Klein (Frankie Jones, 2016) offers a haunted-house tale with a twist.
Michael and Audrey Felton are looking for a place where they can get away from Houston and their work as professors at Monclair University and relax out in the country. When Michael finds an old, sturdy house in the tiny town of Krivac, Texas, it seems perfect. It’s not too far from work, but it’s still a place where they can be alone—or so they think when they buy it, cheap, from a real estate agent friend. From the beginning, Michael thinks something is off about the place but shrugs it off as superstition. However, after he and Audrey move in, they find a secret room, and they start hearing from townspeople that the previous owners, the Ostermanns, may have trapped people there—when they weren’t having large meetings late at night in the fields beyond the Native American burial ground. Then things start moving around the house, windows are broken one minute and fixed the next, and Charlie Blacek, an elderly neighbor, seems to appear and disappear at will. As the mystery deepens, Michael and Audrey must figure out if what’s going on is the result of some kind of conspiracy. The book starts out with a lot of run-of-the-mill haunted-house tropes—the new people in town buying an old, isolated house, things going bump in the night, and so on. But it turns an unexpected corner just shy of the halfway point, after which readers will find themselves questioning every new discovery—and that’s when Klein really makes the story engaging. He does have a tendency to overwrite, though; for instance, he describes the couple “being trapped with a loquacious real estate agent for four or five bromidic hours.” But this stylistic quirk becomes less noticeable as the story becomes more engrossing.
What starts out as a standard ghost story becomes a fun, unpredictable thriller.
Pub Date: June 19, 2017
Page count: 382pp
Review Posted Online: Aug. 10, 2017
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017
In Klein’s debut novel, a man travels across the country and around the world, searching for happiness and meaning in his life.
After starting out with pitifully few advantages, Frankie Jones enjoys a charmed life as an adult. As a baby, he’s abandoned by his father and orphaned a few years later when his mother dies in a factory fire. At age 16, he leaves his orphanage and gets a busboy job in a St. Louis diner, where he’s mentored by a blues-playing cook and his family. He eventually saves enough money to travel abroad, and he goes on to visit 32 different countries; he also has some love affairs along the way. When he tires of roaming, he returns to the United States and goes to college, where he earns a degree in journalism. In Boston, while working as a newspaper reporter, he meets Mercedes Brewster, the woman he will later consider to be the love of his life. Although they’re from different backgrounds—she’s blue-blooded, and he calls himself the “bastard son of a pauper with no history at all”—it doesn’t stop them from falling in love. But soon his restlessness compels him to travel across the country to take a reporting job in San Diego. There, he pines for Mercedes but finds new opportunities for love and friendship, which leads to a betrayal. As Frankie deals with the consequences of his actions, he contemplates the nuanced differences between elusive happiness and attainable contentment. Klein conveys philosophical ideas with beautifully crafted prose and vivid descriptions, such as “A biting mad-dog wind snapped down the street mean as a blister” and “I watched blindly as the orange sun drowned itself in the ocean and the sky fizzled with sparklers of every shade.” The story, told from a distinctly male point of view, has echoes of the work of Ernest Hemingway, particularly during its spearfishing sequences, which are set in Baja California, Mexico. Frankie also comes across as likable, despite his issues with identity and commitment, and although he discusses much with his friends and lovers, much is left unresolved—as often happens in real life.
An introspective tale of self-discovery that’s worth reading for its lyricism and insights.
Pub Date: June 14, 2016
Page count: 206pp
Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2017
Patrick Modiano, Dean Koontz
A Confederacy of Dunces
Favorite line from a book
Probably I was in the war. Norman Mailer, Barbary Shore
THE OSTERMANN HOUSE: 1st Place | Best Books Read, 2017 | Advicebooks | Italy, 2018
THE OSTERMANN HOUSE: Killer Nashville Claymore Award Finalist, 2017Advicebooks Prize, 2018
Hey there, book lover.
We’re glad you found a book that interests you!