J.R. Klein

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  ...See more >

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"Klein conveys philosophical ideas with beautifully crafted prose and vivid descriptions"

Kirkus Reviews


1st Place | Best Books Read, 2017 | Advicebooks | Italy, 2018: THE OSTERMANN HOUSE

Killer Nashville Claymore Award Finalist, 2017: THE OSTERMANN HOUSE

Advicebooks Prize, 2018

Hometown Houston, TX

Favorite author Patrick Modiano, Dean Koontz

Favorite book A Confederacy of Dunces

Favorite line from a book Probably I was in the war. Norman Mailer, Barbary Shore


Pub Date:
ISBN: 978-1-5448-1505-3
Page count: 382pp

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:
ISBN: 978-1-5327-8246-6
Page count: 206pp

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.