Michael Shilling

Author of
  • Rock Bottom
    Little Brown (01/09)

Michael Shilling is the author of Rock Bottom, which Back Bay Books/Little, Brown and Company published in 2009. This summer, the book will be adapted to the stage by the Landless Theater Company in Washington DC.

Mr. Shilling, whose short stories have appeared in The Sun, Fugue, and Other Voices, teaches at Seattle University, plays the drums in a soul band, and is working on a novel that involves people running out of time while running after each other. It takes place in sunny Miami, rainy Seattle, and snowy California.

Books by Michael

Rock Bottom

Once, the Blood Orphans had it all: a million-dollar recording contract from Warner Brothers, killer hooks, and cheekbones that could cut glass. Four pretty boys from Los Angeles, they were supposed to be the next big thing, future kings of rock and roll.

But something happened on the way to glory, and now, two years later, along with their coke-fueled, mohawked female manager, they have washed up in Amsterdam for the final show of their doomed and dismal European tour. The singer has become a born-again Buddhist who preaches from the stage, the bass player’s raging eczema has turned his hands into a pulpy mess, the drummer is a sex-fiend tormented by the misdeeds of his porn-king father, and the guitar player–the only talented one–is thoroughly cowed by the constant abuse of his bandmates.

As they stumble through their final day together, the Blood Orphans find themselves on a comic tour of frustration, danger, excitement, and just possibly, redemption.

Praise for Rock Bottom

Two parts ‘Spinal Tap,’ one part Chekhov… Shilling both understands and overstates the cockeyed rock world. Writing about the boredom of touring, and the adoration given to anyone who plays music on a stage, he gets the rhythms as well as the ridiculous logic of the road, as his characters’ distinctive voices mix hyperbole with pop culture references into their own particular narcissistic brews…underneath the broad humor, Shilling also recognizes the humanity of his characters. They create out of their personal pain. Just because their art is of dubious value doesn’t mean that their stories aren’t valid. And between the laughs he lets some recognition shine in. Filthy, covered in sores and disgrace, the Blood Orphans almost earn our–and each other’s–respect. Beer in hand, they will, we sense, rock on.

Boston Globe

Simultaneously bleak and archly funny… With rich characterizations and surprisingly complex back stories, the author gets under the skin of his ragtag brotherhood… A thoughtful snapshot of a crumbling rock ‘n’ roll fantasy.

Kirkus Reviews

[Rock Bottom is] enlivened by characterizations as deep as would seem allowable for such a narcissistic gang and industry, brisk observations about the pitfalls of fame, and often funny banter among the dueling inhabitants of a sinking musical ship.

Publishers Weekly

Told in alternating chapters by each of the band members as well as their wise and raucous female manager, this is an exuberant comic romp by a veteran of the Seattle music scene.


…[Shilling] has obviously poured a lot of sweat and care into these characters. The book cycles deftly through five points of view, detailing sordid pasts, bleak presents, and uncertain futures.

The Stranger

Characters this complex can be hard to write, especially in books meant to be comedic, but Michael Shilling handles this with little difficulty.

Hipster Book Club

From the first sentence, Rock Bottom grabbed me with its itchy hands and dragged me on a wild, frightening ride through the last day of the last tour of the failed and humiliated band Blood Orphans.

Book Launch Cafe

A rollicking good read… a difficult book to put down.

Emerging Writers Network

Readers will likely find themselves rooting for this band of misfits (or at least most of the band members) and enjoying their wild ride into obscurity. In his world of sex, drugs, and rock & roll, Mr. Shilling certainly knows what he writes. The story is utterly believable.


Finally, at last, an ass-kicking, authentic rock & roll novel, one that peels back the veneer and gloss and–with an insider’s eye–exposes the lovely, wondrous, dirt.

David Means, author of The Secret Goldfish

Rock Bottom is a raunchy, knowing, brilliant novel – a diamond-sharp, lightning-witted, sex-packed, hilarious account of the last days of a fallen-from-grace heavy-metal parody band, marooned in Amsterdam under the crashing ruins of a lost greatness. Shilling, himself a former musician, is our insider guide to the ravages and seductions of the rock-and-roll world, and he describes the sights with a tender, pitch-perfect savagery. But more than this, the novel is a remarkably accomplished piece of art – a complicated survivor’s tale, full of hilarious sadness, virtuous cruelty, beautiful destruction, the sort of book you pick up with high expectations and that, to your surprise and delight, surpasses them all, a book funnier, smarter, sadder, and more inventively composed that you could possibly have hoped. It’s a hit, I mean – I was laughing all the way through, and singing along.

Michael Byers, author of Long for This World

A rock and roll novel at once rocking and rollicking. Rock Bottom knowingly skewers the pretentions of the music business, while never quite taking them seriously, and the result is a simultaneously scabrous yet affectionate portrait of a band and its entourage in the final throes of a tour de farce. Michael Shilling writes with wit, fury and an infectious gusto; it’s the kind of high-energy prose that makes a reader want to get up and strut their stuff.

Peter Ho Davies, author of The Welsh Girl

Michael Shilling’s debut is everything one wants in a novel: tragic and thrilling, farcical and realistic. The prose is exuberant in its range and wildness, but also in its little treasures, its unfoldings and depths. Here is a writer who brings characters to life, circumstances to light, and imbues them with resonance, traveling the whole map of human obsession and longing with breathless energy. This is a sexy, funny novel, but with the kind of profundity we need from our best novelists at this time. Michael Shilling is an important new writer, and this is novel you won’t forget having read.

Laura Kasischke, author of The Life Before Her Eyes
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