The Pontiac-bred author and radio personality is back with the follow-up to his 2013 tale ‘Hyena’
Saline -- When Jude Angelini released his first book, “Hyena,” his goal was to make the New York Times bestseller list. He never got there.
“I tried so hard and I kept missing,” says Angelini, better known by his radio handle Rude Jude. He remembers driving in Los Angeles when his sister called him and told him he had made the list. He immediately teared up. Then he asked her how she found out, and it was all secondhand information. When he looked, he wasn’t on it.
“That was a punch in the gut,” Angelini says, “because I wanted that so bad.”
Angelini received other recognition from the 2013 collection of short stories — it was optioned by HBO to be turned into a television series — but missing the NYT list burned. But that burn fueled his fire, which helped drive him to write his second book, “Hummingbird,” which hits stores Tuesday.
Like “Hyena,” “Hummingbird” is full of ribald sex and drug escapades, but it’s also the story of growing up poor and feeling disenfranchised in Metro Detroit. The book is highly personal and carries a dedication to his grandparents, whom Angelini thanks “for the drive, for the thought, for the music, for the soul.”
With “Hummingbird,” he’s trying again to hit the New York Times list.
“It would be great. I would probably cry if I get to the New York Times bestseller,” he says, his gravelly voice sounding like he’s just gargled a mouthful of rocks. “But I don’t know what the next day is going to feel like. It will probably feel just like this.”
It is early August and Angelini is at McNaughton & Gunn, the Saline printing press where copies of "Hummingbird” (Rare Bird Books) are flying off the presses. He walks through the warehouse where his book is being assembled and chats up workers on the line. The room is roaring with the whirring sound of Michigan production, and Angelini is proud.
The press is about an hour’s drive from where Angelini grew up in Pontiac. Back then he didn’t have much — his family barely had gas money — and writing books was the furthest thing from his mind. But he could always talk.
“You have to play to your strengths,” says Angelini, who turns 40 on Monday.
“My strength is I’m nice with words.”
After high school, he landed a recurring role as “Rude Jude” on “The Jenny Jones Show,” where he would roast other guests and members of the audience for $300 an appearance. His stints on the show became so popular he was name-dropped by Eminem on his 2000 song “Drug Ballad,” and Angelini moved to Los Angeles to try his hand at acting.
His acting career never panned out, but the Eminem connection came back around in 2004 when Em’s manager Paul Rosenberg offered Angelini a slot as a DJ on Eminem’s newly launched SiriusXM satellite radio channel, Shade 45. Angelini became host of “The All Out Show,” which he still hosts from 4-7 p.m. weekdays.
On the side, Angelini started writing stories about his wild life experiences, first as a blog, and eventually in book form. “Hyena” was self-released in 2013 before being reissued a year later by Simon & Schuster. Actor Mark Wahlberg’s production company optioned it in 2015 to become a series on HBO.
The show never came to pass, but Angelini was able to take the money he earned from the Wahlberg deal and buy his mother a home in Royal Oak. That home is part of the groundwork for what Angelini says he hopes is an eventual move back to Michigan.
Angelini always figured “Hyena” was the beginning and the end of his writing career. But after he saw several of his friends overdose on drugs, he took a look at himself. “I was like, ‘what am I doing, I need to write, I need to look at my life,’” says Angelini, who counts Charles Bukowski and Elmore Leonard as literary heroes. “It wasn’t like I changed anything; I continued down a self-destructive path. I just documented it.”
While sitting on his couch in L.A. in a Ketamine haze, the title of the second book came to him in a rush.
“Hummingbirds are these symbols of joy, but they need to work really hard just to float. And I feel like people with depression feel like that,” he says, as someone who
suffers from depression
. “They’ve gotta bust a--
just to get out of bed, just to grind every day. And that’s what ‘Hummingbird’ is about. You’re just trying to find joy in the grind.”
Angelini took “Hummingbird” to Simon & Schuster but was rejected, the first of several publishers to turn him down. At Rare Bird, Angelini says he found a good fit and was able to implement several of his ideas, including making a smaller size book for portability purposes.
“I wanted to bring it back to the old school, make it small so people would throw it in their back pockets, throw it in their purse,” he says. “I wanted the book to be a part of a person. I want you to carry it with you.
“I want somebody to pick up my book and say, ‘This is a work of art.’ And it is. And I’m proud of it.”
Angelini didn’t get any published reviews on “Hyena,” which he chalks up to classism.
“I see it over and over again living in Los Angeles, they’re very dismissive of middle America,” he says. “And there’s a lot of, ‘Oh, it’s just a book about sex and drugs.’ Is it? It’s also a book about some post-industrial part of Michigan, and maybe our views about sex and drugs come from this place, so maybe it’s deeper than what you’re reading. But the literati, they don’t understand that language. But maybe that will change now. Maybe the timing is right.”
Angelini says the best reviews he got the last time around came from behind bars. “‘It’s the most popular book on my cell block,’ I got that a bunch,” he says. “I’m writing for people that have been ignored.”
Angelini knows the feeling. But while he feels he has been ignored, that has ultimately helped to drive him.
“That’s my gas for the car,” he says, uncapping his Sharpie and getting ready to sign another stack of books. “I’m not used to people believing in me, I’m used to people doubting me. It’s weird. I’m so used to being doubted that I don’t know what I would do if someone believed in me. I might (mess) up and blow it.”
Rare Bird Books, Jude Angelini
In stores Tuesday