Johnny Angel Wendell: The Liberating Force of Punk Rock


Johnny Angel Wendell has had a career as a musician, radio personality, actor and journalist. He’s now produced his first novel, “Looking for Lady Dee: A Punk Rock Mystery,” available through It’s an homage to his Boston punk rock roots. Wendell will be appearing at the 14th DIY Convention on March 7 at the Roosevelt Hotel (free and open to the public) on the 4 p.m. panel, “War Stories From the DIY Front.” We asked him a few questions in advance about his writing process…..

1) You have had a career in several areas – radio, music, journalism, acting – why now for a novel?

I had the idea for two stories–one a memoir of the punk days and the other the story of “Dee” vanishing that were running in my head one day and I realized why not put them together, the same way that you can put two different songs together to make a better single song. I haven’t written much in years as print journalism is dead and screenwriting is a war zone. So, I had to re-scratch my itch.

2) Tell us about the story. It’s based on your history, but includes a healthy dose of fiction?

The story is about the parallel tales of my first band’s failed career and the life and disappearance of a girlfriend. I guess how our paths were similar and in fact, similar to so many other people back then. The liberating force of punk rock also freed some people from the mooring they needed to just not die–I suppose that’s the cautionary part of it.

3) How is writing a novel compared to writing a song?

A song carries a single idea and conveys its message in the lyric. A novel has to have many ideas in it or it gets very dull quick. Also, you sing a song in your voice or in an assumed character–a novel, everyone has to sound like themselves and stay in character and that was HARD!

4) Have you heard from anyone mentioned in the book? Reaction?

Yes. “Viv DeMilo” loves the story. She was “Dee”s best friend in real life years ago, she did contact me on the net to try and find her, she was the story’s inspiration. She was even amused about the constructed tale of my character and hers making love in a cemetery. Beautifully perverse.

5) Where are you heard on the radio now? Where performing?

KEIB AM1150. No upcoming gigs, getting the book out ate up my time and my brain.

6) Could you have written this book ten, twenty years ago? Why or why not?

No. I didn’t have enough distance from some of the characters and also the main idea –where did Dee go–had not yet been established. In a lot of ways, this is the big kiss goodbye to the remnants of my ties to Boston and its scene–I doubt that if I write more of these, my youth will play much of a part–some of it, not like it is in “Looking For Lady Dee”.

7) I know the book is only out a short time – what did you learn about publishing that you didn’t know before?

That to do it myself was the only sensible option. I ran the whole deal past Henry Rollins and he told me to just get it out. If I shopped it, assuming it was picked up, it would sit on my hard drive for a year. I don’t believe in that. I have a lot of connections after so many years in media. Time to use them.

8) DId you shop this to traditional publishers? If so, reaction? If not, why not?

Yeah–not bad. But the moment anyone else gets involved in your business, they have say. And mind you, these were and are old friends. They can’t do that much more for me than I can for now. And they get a big chunk of change assuming it makes any not to mention part of the film rights. In all honesty, “Looking For Lady Dee” was written to become a film. Bostonians in the film and TV business have been wailing for years that our scene has never had a real representation, well, I made one. Half the folks I went to Emerson with are big shots in the field, you wanted it, you got it. Pony up!

9) Promotion plans for the book?

Yes, trying to lay the groundwork for San Francisco and San Diego in-stores and readings and of course here in LA. The East will have to be net and radio.

10) What do your kids think?

Until “Looking For Lady Dee” is a video game, it’s more daddy-cray!