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Landon J. Napoleon

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I was born in 1964 in Boulder, Colorado, and grew up in nearby Ft. Collins. When I was 10 I penned my first novella, Donald the Dragonfly, during a summer writing course my librarian mom had suggested. The teacher gave me an A+ and wrote that I was also a good kickball participant at recess. As a kid I wrote numerous letters to dozens of authors of children’s books telling them of my well-formed vision and intention to one day be an author.

I was a switch hitter in Little League and chess champion of my 5th grade class. When I was 16 I had already started a lifelong love of bicycling and did a double century on my Trek road bike, 200 miles in a single day, through the mountains of Colorado. I followed the sunshine from Colorado to Arizona, in 1984, and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Telecommunication at Arizona State University (B.A., 1989). Then I was off to Scotland where I earned a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of Glasgow (M.Phil, 1996).

After writing three novels that didn't sell, my big breakthrough came in February 1998. British publisher Bloomsbury bought my novel ZIGZAG, followed by publishers in the USA (Henry Holt), Germany (Rowohlt), and Portugal (Dom Quixote). ZIGZAG hit bookstore shelves in June 1999. That same month, writer, director and producer David S. Goyer came across ZIGZAG in a Pasadena bookstore. Exactly ten years after I left my first and only official job to write full-time, Goyer began filming the adaptation of ZIGZAG on location in Los Angeles.

In 2005, I interviewed a high-profile plaintiff’s attorney for a magazine piece. From that meeting the ACTION series of novels was born, about a lawyer’s entire career beginning in 1970.

ANGELS THREE: THE KAREN PERRY STORY Cover
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR

ANGELS THREE: THE KAREN PERRY STORY

BY Landon J. Napoleon • POSTED ON Nov. 23, 2015

On the evening before Thanksgiving, an airplane shuttling Perry’s ex-husband and three small children crashed into a mountainside, killing them instantly. This biography charts Perry’s journey to, and eventually beyond, that “agonizing night.”

Perry, herself an aviator, became a national figure following the 2011 crash, first as the object of sympathy and later as a model of resilience whose grieving process was captured by an Oprah Winfrey Network film crew. It’s a credit to Napoleon’s (Burning Shield: The Jason Schechterle Story, 2014, etc.) diligent reporting that readers here are treated to a much fuller portrayal of Perry. After starting her pilot training at age 19, Perry spent nearly two decades breaking barriers to pursue a career in the male-dominated field. Then, at age 38, she discovered she was pregnant, an instant “game changer” for a woman who thought she was unable to have children. Perry and her husband, Shawn, welcomed daughter Morgan in 2002; sons Logan and Luke came along soon after. But along with its joys, motherhood introduced new strains. Both Morgan and Luke were autistic. The family was told that Morgan, who also suffered from epilepsy and developmental delays, would never be able to live independently. Perry and her husband divorced in 2010. A little over a year later, the crash occurred, leaving her utterly heartbroken and in search of answers. Napoleon has a knack for capturing and distilling minutiae, a skill on display as he dissects crash reports and court documents. But the real beauty here is when he uses those same skills to render Perry and her children as more than just tragic victims. Although Napoleon’s use of aviation metaphors is at times a bit heavy-handed, his portrayals of Perry and her children are genuine. Along with a collection of black-and-white family photos, his vivid details help readers experience the clan’s happier times. We see Morgan snuggle in the lap of a family friend, learn Luke was a prodigious photographer, and laugh along with Logan as he delights in his Easy Bake Oven.

An absorbing read that serves as a reminder to cherish every moment.

Pub Date: Nov. 23, 2015

Publisher: Avery Press

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

THE RULES OF ACTION Cover
MYSTERY & CRIME

THE RULES OF ACTION

BY Landon J. Napoleon • POSTED ON June 3, 2014

In Napoleon’s novel, a struggling lawyer befriends a local bail bondsman and takes on a case that will change his life.

Fresh out of law school, Connor J. Devlin is struggling his way through traffic tickets and he-said, she-said misdemeanor cases in the Maricopa County courts. He decides business might improve if he ingratiated himself with the local bail bondsman, “One-Armed Lucky.” Devlin’s client, a tenacious woman named Kay Pearson, is convinced that substandard nursing-home care killed her mother, Ann, a greyhound-racing devotee and one of Lucky’s best friends. There’s only one problem: In 1970, no one even thought of suing nursing homes for wrongful death. Dying people were what nursing homes were for. Over 10 years, Devlin dedicates his fledgling law practice to getting to the bottom of Ann’s painful, haunting death, culminating in a dramatic civil trial that challenges not only the nursing home, but the very notion that death should be neither seen nor heard. From the start, Napoleon’s novel is briskly told and well-drawn, but this legal thriller does what many courtroom-based novels and television shows do not: It stays true to the actual practice of trial law. Legal tales often circumvent the dense lawyering to keep the action moving; Napoleon, however, proves that realism needn’t be sacrificed to pace or plot, and, despite its dry reputation, legal procedure can provide as much action, suspense and whodunit excitement as any shootout or car chase. Prospective law students are frequently encouraged to read law-student memoirs or legal hornbooks, but for a realistic view of litigation and a great deal more action, they’d do well to add this legal thriller to their reading list.

A fast-paced tale of justice in action and a remarkably accurate portrait of a trial lawyer’s daily grind.

Pub Date: June 3, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-9886519-6-8

Page count: 348pp

Publisher: Avery Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2012

Burning Shield: The Jason Schechterle Story Cover
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR

Burning Shield: The Jason Schechterle Story

BY Landon J. Napoleon • POSTED ON Jan. 19, 2014

A maimed cop fights to regain his life in this inspiring true story.

Officer Jason Schechterle was on a routine call when a cabdriver suffering an epileptic seizure smashed into his car at more than 100 miles per hour. His cruiser exploded, and the resulting flames burned 43 percent of his body. When he reached the hospital, his hands looked like “mutilated claws.” The doctors removed most of his face to prevent infections and told his family he would be “blind, deaf, mute and probably vegetative.” But Schechterle—who fought his way into the Phoenix Police Department after years of effort—has a habit of beating the odds. Author Napoleon scrupulously guides readers through Schechterle’s teen years, spent absorbing the sounds of REO Speedwagon, excelling at golf and falling in love—and into his laudable career in the Air Force. Faithfully documented is every bump and nook on his road toward achieving his childhood dream: wearing a Phoenix Police Department badge. As the enthusiastic rookie got his bearings in the routines of police work—which involved more picking up shoplifters at Wal-Mart than high-octane shootouts—his future fate was darkly foreshadowed by events elsewhere. All across the country, police officers were dying in exploding Ford Crown Victorias, and attorney Patrick J. McGroder III—“the legal equivalent of The Terminator”—aimed to make Ford pay. Schechterle would be crucial in helping him. Napoleon, the author of several crime novels, is skilled at painting a scene in slangy strokes while balancing plotlines. But if this true story reads like a novel, it sometimes feels like the life of a saint. “He had already broken the barriers of medicine and science,” readers are told after Schechterle leaves the hospital, and “now [he] was charting new territory in the field of human potential.”  Perfection can be robotic, and many readers will miss the flaws. Still, human-interest fans will enjoy the journey if they take the hyperbole with a pinch of salt.

An underdog tale replete with legal battles, gruesome surgeries and a few too many superlatives.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2014

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2013

ZIGZAG Cover
FICTION & LITERATURE

ZIGZAG

BY Landon J. Napoleon • POSTED ON June 1, 1999

A remarkable debut portraying the inner life of a disturbed ghetto teenager as he attempts to grow up in the frightening world he's inherited.

Louis Fletcher, alias ZigZag, is one of those charmed unfortunates who appear so forlorn and helpless that they can get away with murder—literally. Ostensibly mentally retarded, ZigZag works as a dishwasher and lives with his abusive father, who shakes him down for cash and continually reminds him that he "killed" his own mother during childbirth. In actuality Louis isn't retarded but autistic, with a phenomenal memory and grasp of mathematics, although, at 15, he does lack the most basic understanding of social behavior and verbal communication. He's looked after by Dean Singer, his Big Brother from a local welfare agency, who takes him on outings and tries to get him placed in a safer home than his father's. When ZigZag's father threatens to throw him out on the street unless he comes up with $200 to pay the rent, the boy memorizes the combination of his boss's safe and steals $5,000. Singer discovers what's happened and tries to retrieve the money before ZigZag is arrested, but ZigZag's father takes the whole packet and uses it to pay back a loan shark. So now Singer must borrow money himself to keep ZigZag out of trouble. The result? He almost gets both ZigZag and himself into even worse trouble when he tries to replace the loot in the safe. Soon the detectives are dusting for fingerprints, the safe is still empty, and Singer is going to get some bones broken unless he comes up with a way of making the loan-shark's weekly vig. A hopeless scenario? Well, God upholds the foolish, innocence is often mistaken for ignorance, and in the end it's ZigZag who looks after Singer in the first of many role-reversals that twist through this marvelously intricate tale.

An unaffected, moving, and astonishing insight into the heart of a troubled, silent genius.

Pub Date: June 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8050-6048-0

Page count: 288pp

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1999

GRINNIN' LIKE A JACKASS EATIN' BRIARS Cover
BOOK REVIEW

GRINNIN' LIKE A JACKASS EATIN' BRIARS

BY Landon J. Napoleon

An adoptee discusses his struggles to conform in the American South and his difficulties coming to terms with his sexual identity in this memoir.

Born in Savannah, Georgia, in 1963, Batton was raised on a 700-acre peanut and tobacco farm. As a child, he recalls having a “Tom Sawyer existence,” although he had a fraught relationship with his adoptive father, whom he describes as a bigot and a “well-mannered racist.” By the age of 8, the author was already aware of his fascination with the male body but had no concept of gay sexuality. Growing older, he felt it necessary to disguise his “gayness,” but this changed after entering LaGrange College as a theater major; his life became a “blur of bars and boys.” Batton’s life changed again while attending a church service. He experienced a moment of epiphany, believing God had delivered him from being gay. The autobiography details the author’s attempts to “look inconspicuous in the straight world,” which involved marriage, fatherhood, and a passionate drive to help the poor. The last led him to work in outreach programs in Hong Kong and London. Written with Napoleon, who helped the author get the “story to paper,” this compelling first-person account chronicles Batton’s coming to terms with his identity as both an adoptee and a gay man. Elements of his life are desperately sad yet recounted with a brisk frankness. Regarding school, he notes: “If I could keep everyone laughing, then no one would call me a faggot. I shifted my entire persona to try to fit in and never be the last kid picked for kickball.” Batton also bravely owns up to deflecting attention away from himself by deriding others: “I was the personification of a shrike, a gruesome little creature that seemed to derive pleasure and sustenance from the slow feeding on others.” His use of language is modestly elegant, and while some readers may argue that he overuses similes, they inject a delightful levity throughout: “Grandfather was meaner than a wet hen in a rainstorm.” From recounting his endeavors to find his birth mother to describing his struggles with fatherhood, Batton presents a richly textured autobiography—readers grappling with their own sexuality may well relate to his journey of self-discovery.

A captivatingly candid and sharply written account of a gay adoptee’s odyssey.

Pub Date:

ISBN: 978-1-7348774-2-7

Page count: 242pp

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Nov. 7, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

Awards, Press & Interests

Hometown

Boulder, Colorado

Favorite author

Elmore Leonard

Favorite book

"First Blood" by David Morrell

Day job

Author

ZIGZAG: Kirkus Star

GRINNIN' LIKE A JACKASS EATIN' BRIARS: Kirkus Star

Burning Shield: The Jason Schechterle Story: Arizona Republic Recommends, 2014

ZIGZAG: Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers, Finalist, 1999

Amazon Success Story, 2015 NPR radio interview, 2014 Publishers Weekly review, 2014

ADDITIONAL WORKS AVAILABLE

Deep Wicked Freaky

Fast cars. Big money. A ticking clock. And one of the most compelling women in contemporary fiction. The author of ZigZag—“one of the boldest and most original first novels to appear in a long time” (Carl Hiaasen)—is back with an exhilarating thrill ride that reintroduces a character from that acclaimed debut. It’s a man’s, man’s, man’s world, and Jenna Jet is a twenty-something femme fatale on the run—literally. Trying to out pace the lingering effects of her troubled past, and desperate for cash, Jenna heads west to play a dangerous game: driving stolen exotic imports across the nighttime desert from Phoenix to Los Angeles. She's made the run a harrowing nine times, and the big payout—a cool hundred grand—is on ice until she delivers car number ten. One last ride before she's out of the game for good. But nothing is ever that simple. And everything is about to go wrong, fast. Along the way Jenna must negotiate highway patrol, police choppers, border checkpoints, and a nasty cop who's more interested in her than in the six-figure import she's driving. But the biggest roadblock of all? A family secret that might just slam the brakes on everything. Elmore Leonard meets James Ellroy, with a dash of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum, in this high-octane road novel told in prose that David S. Goyer calls "gritty, jagged, and full of passion."
Published: Nov. 3, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-9886519-1-3

The Flatirons

Coming of Age—in Two Generations. Landon J. Napoleon, author of the "briskly told and well-drawn" legal drama The Rules of Action (Kirkus Reviews), has an uncanny ability to cross genres with distinct narrative voices. The Flatirons reconfirms that ability by weaving together two tales that leapfrog between the modern world and New York of the 1920s. American editor Joel Quinn is living the hedonistic dream in 1990s London—sex, drugs and all-night raves—when his world is rocked: His mother is suffering the ravages of an unexpected illness, barely clinging to life. Called home to Boulder, Colorado, Quinn is confronted with grief, family, an imploding career and, most unexpectedly, a persistent Scotland Yard detective who’s investigating a crime that points to him. As everything falls apart Quinn works to unravel the pain of coming home. Ultimately, it’s the women in Quinn’s life who point the way to what he seeks. They also begin to unlock a family mystery—one with roots in the murder, chaos and underworld of New York's storied gangland of the 1920s.
Published: Nov. 3, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-9886519-3-7