Darryl Shelly’s life reads like a page out of Goodfellas, mixed with a juicy dollop of Hollywood glitz, glamor and depravity. After he survived a violent and emotionally abusive childhood marked by his father’s involvement with the Chicago Syndicate, he escaped to New York City where a hunger for intimacy lured him down the road of sexual addiction. Based on his life, Shelly’s debut novel The Hobbyist not only sheds light on a  highly refined subculture and the women inhabiting it, but also digs deep into America’s sexual psyche to unearth a complex tapestry of fear, loss, guilt, humor, and an American love for excess.

Here’s his WWFIL:

When We Fell In Love – Darryl Shelly

As a child, I crossed a threshold into an enchanting, exotic world as I flipped through the pages of Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are. During this adolescent phase: colors, textures and shapes were overpowering seductive devices that held the full command of my attention, while straight-up text books carried little sway due to my limited reading skills.

In my teens I abandoned reading for youthful thrills that were the exclusive province of sports and surfing; anything that challenged my physical prowess was an adrenalin rush. I recall a brief flirtation with books after reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in 7th grade, but my attention was quickly diverted when female classmates lit-up my radar as suddenly interesting human beings with curves. During this time, books served merely as decorations in the family bookcase. Needless to say, with reading absent from my plate, I held a rather undistinguished academic presence and plodded through lower education like an old horse deep in mud.

In sophomore year of high school, my English-Lit teacher drew guffaws from classmates when she asked me to remain after class.  Mrs. Braun was a stern, matron in her 50’s who held little patience for bratty kids – and I certainly met that criteria. I braced for the worst when she sat next to me, pulled out my latest assignment, and then passionately implored me to not only apply myself in class, but to read novels from distinguished writers and remain after school so she could work with me to develop what she perceived to be my gift. Referencing my assignment, she informed me that my first paragraph, alone, held more impact than her best students combined over the past ten years. None of which made the slightest impact upon me. Writing was nothing to get excited about, and reading even less so. For me it was like homework: neither pleasurable nor worthy of my time. I had girls to chase and the visceral rush of riding a wave along the La Jolla shores. I was supposed to give up my social life for reading and writing? It felt like Tom Sawyer was hustling me to whitewash his fence. No thanks, Mrs. B; I’m not falling for that act.

A few years later, I found myself playing catch-up in an acting class in New York City. My classmates knew all the scenes from the plays performed in class, except for me, and I found it painful to be the clueless guy in class. I had a sympathetic teacher, who gave me a list of plays to read from noted playwrights such as: William Inge, Arthur Miller, Eugene O’Neill, Chekhov, Shakespeare, Ibsen and Sam Shepard. The first play I read was The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams. I found myself hypnotized by the tragic realism of the writing and the fragile, damaged Laura had my heart. In an instant, I was hooked. After which, some of my most pleasurable moments played out in my minds eye as I plowed through play after play. I loved how the titles of O’Neill’s plays cried out for attention: Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Desire Under The Elms, Mourning Becomes Electra and The Iceman Cometh. Later, a friend loaned me a copy of Steinbeck’s , and my love of plays broadened to novels – and what was a promising affair now stood as a loving relationship between man and book. I was late getting to the party, but better late than never – and I’m delighted the party is still going.