Welcome to the Jewish Bookshelf, ChiTribe’s newest feature that highlights the creativity and excellence of Jewish authors around the world. Each month we will introduce a new book that is authored by Jewish individuals or is centered on Jewish themes, concepts, and characters.
“The scene is Otisville Prison, upstate New York. A crew of fraudsters, tax evaders, trigamists and forgers discuss matters of right and wrong in a Talmudic study and prayer group, or ‘minyan,’ led by a rabbi who’s a fellow convict. But soon, a celebrity convict arrives – one who has upset the 45th President of the United States. Shadowy White House powers begin turning the wheels of revenge – but the prisoners find ingenious, devious, and hilarious ways to defend themselves.”
About the Author
In promoting this month’s Jewish Bookshelf entry, ChiTribe had the opportunity to talk with the author himself, Jonathan Stone!
Tell us a little about yourself. Your story. Where are you from? How did you get into writing?
I grew up in suburban Connecticut, went to Yale, and had a 40-year career as an advertising creative director, doing national tv campaigns for clients like Mercedes-Benz, Microsoft, Mitsubishi – and even some that don’t begin with M! My last big assignment was creating and overseeing the advertising for Obamacare in its first few years. But starting in high school, I was always writing fiction on the side. I’m married, with an adult son and daughter.
Did you do anything Jewish growing up? Do you do anything Jewish now?
I’m afraid that since my bar mitzvah, I’ve been at best a classic “High Holiday” Jew. But I’ve always felt the cultural pull of, and deep connection to, my Jewish identity.
Who are your literary influences? Any Jewish literary influences?
As a suburban kid, I gravitated to the master stylists of suburban angst, Cheever and Updike. But as a Jewish suburban kid, I also voraciously read Roth, Malamud, and Bellow – and after that, Michael Chabon and Nathan Englander.
What does it mean to be a Jewish writer/author?
Well, I’m not really a Jewish writer. I’m a crime and thriller writer, of ten novels now, who happens to be Jewish. That said, being Jewish means bringing a certain sensibility to the crime genre – a stance that’s maybe a bit more sardonic, a bit more philosophical, and perhaps a bit warmer and more sympathetic, than the next crime novelist.
What is the most unique thing about “The Prison Minyan”? What stands out to you compared to your other works?
“The Prison Minyan” is very different for me – it’s first and foremost a comic novel, and social satire, which I’ve never done before. I read a New York Times article one morning about a federal prison that specifically caters to Jewish convicts, with a kosher deli, and prayer services run by rabbi inmates, and said “What?! Really? Someone should write a novel about this! Wait, I’m a novelist!”
Finish the phrase – When the Tribe gathers,
When the Tribe gathers, there’s endless kibitzing and lots of laughs.