“Speaking of radio, are these guys on the air? Is anyone on the air?”
“Not in Connecticut. ‘Cuz, um, they’re all dead. Seventy-five percent of Connecticut is syndicated, Ivan. You know that.”
— excerpt from DJZom-B & The Ungrateful Dead, by Vinnie Penn (2011, 23House Publishing)
It’s a local broadcaster’s worst nightmare: dead air. Vinnie Penn conjures up that image, as well as a great many other dead things, in his brain-gnawing novel DJZom-B & The Ungrateful Dead.
The book came out over the summer and Penn, the longtime local radio host and man-about-town, says he’s been pleased with the response. It’s gotten him into panel discussions at sci-fi conventions and made him privy to the next trends in the fantasy/horror genre. “One reviewer said it was like an AC/DC concert,” Penn says. “I’m not sure he meant it in a nice way, but I’ll take it!” Now he’s mulling over whether to write the sequel the publisher has invited him to write, but feels that the
DJZom-B & The Ungrateful Dead
by Vinnie Penn
Barnes & Noble | Amazon ($16.95 list price)
The Vinnie Penn Project: 6-9am on WELI 960 AM.
recent wave of zombiemania may be over.
Lots of thrillers turn into wish-fulfillment fantasies for their authors, who wield their awesome powers of imagination in order to mangle enemies and humiliate bosses. Vinnie Penn enjoys wanton destruction as much as any zombie maven or morning-drive motormouth, but doesn’t cop to any fictionalized revenge schemes.
The first casualty in the book, for example, is a TV anchorman. The on-air talent gets slaughtered while the cameraman and crew escape. “There’s definitely some self-loathing in there,” Penn analyzes.
If anything, DJZom-B is a testament to the high-pressure communications career that Vinnie Penn enjoys so much. It’s also a valentine to his home state of Connecticut, despite the shambles he leaves it in by the end of the book. The action begins from a
dance club in Norwalk then lurches with zombie intensity to the offices of a small internet radio station based on New Haven’s own ultraradio.com, follows a rampage of horror and disaster to Westport, then Niantic and ends up at… “How could it not end at Mohegan Sun?,” Penn laughs. “All good nights do.”
A lifelong New Haven resident, Vinnie Penn was an established local journalist and magazine writer years before entering radio as the sidekick to Glenn Beck on KC101. When Beck left for greener, more conservative pastures, Penn became the sole star of the morning drive time. He got out of the radio racket for a few years, then resurfaced as the 6-9 a.m. guy on WELI 960AM. He celebrated the 500th episode of his ELI gig on Friday, Dec. 16 with special guests—“and cake,” he beams. Penn also pens a regular television-themed column for MSN.com. Those observations may fuel his next book, which he says is “about TV as a stimulus package.”
Having previously published a humor book, Guido’s Credos, and a superhero-themed short story, Penn had a strong idea of how he wanted to package DJZom-B & the Ungrateful Dead: “I wanted to make it look like a Marvel comic.” So he commissioned a grabby cover illustration from top Star Wars comic book artist Dave Dorman, and even convinced Dorman to add a variation on the Comics Code Seal of Approval stamp which graces old comics. Here, it reads “Approved by the Zombie Code Authority.”
“It’s tacky, probably,” Vinnie Penn grins. “But I really wanted my name on something that looks like a comic book.”