Joe Formichella

Joe Formichella is the prize-winning author of two novels, Waffle House Rules and The Wreck of the Twilight Limited. He has written three books of nonfiction: Murder Creek, Staying Ahead of the Posse, and Here’s to You, Jackie Robinson. Joe edited The Shoe Burnin': Stories of Southern Soul.

web-logo-white facebook-logo-white 

Photograph of Joe Formichella author of Waffle House Rules and A Condition of Freedom.

“Joe Formichella has been one of the South’s greatest secrets for years. This novel should change that. From the first page to the end, this book is intriguing, and funny, and true, and tight; maybe his best writing ever.”

-Tom Franklin, New York Times best selling author of Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter and The Tilted World with Beth Ann Fennelly

Excerpt from Waffle House Rules

Long after all the other attendants had left the grave site, after the former colleagues and patients had paid their last respects to Dr. Jimmy Ryan, the Youngman sisters remained. They stood at the foot of the grave and acted out their ritual into the afternoon, until pink and orange hues from the early setting autumn sun filtered through the scrub pines surrounding the Twin Beach Road Cemetery at lower and darker angles. The cemetery workers, whose task it was to actually bury the casket, shoveling the coarse red dirt back into the hole and dismantling the sparse and subdued ceremonial staging, watched with obvious impatience, but from a respectful distance, near the perimeter of the trees.

“What the hell are they doing?” one of them, the younger one whispered.

“Look like bones,” his partner answered.

They moved closer, but stayed behind and away from the peripheral vision of the sisters, to see clearer.

The two women each held a brown paper sack, the size of a lunch bag, and were reaching into their respective sacks alternately and throwing what were, in fact, bones: brittle, unbroken wishbones-turkey wishbones, chicken wishbones, even quail and grouse wishbones, collected over a lifetime; tossing them onto the casket one by one, occasionally emitting a loaded sigh, as if that particular wishbone had a story more difficult to release than some others. That was the only sound emanating from the scene beside the eerie rattle of dried bones colliding with each other.

“Why?” the younger worker whispered again.


Waffle House Rules

“I haven’t had so much fun with a novel since I first read Slaughterhouse Five. Formichella’s iconic Dr. Jimmy Ryan is unforgettable, and his hilarious tale is tinged with the same poignancy as the best Vonnegut; the reader is constantly coming upon moments in the humor that signal deeper significances. Waffle House Rules is innovative, original, complex, yet always accessible and a delight to read. This brilliant and luminous novel is like one character’s smile: it makes the grass grow.”

—William Cobb, Harper Lee Award winner and author of seven novels and a collection of short fiction

“In Waffle House Rules, Joe Formichella’s writing flows with the certainty of an old river. A powerful current moves underneath the mild ripples on the surface of his prose, and in a story that curves unexpectedly, the history of a Utopian community and an eccentric man offer up sensual satisfaction.”

—Judith Richards, author of six novels, two of which,Summer Lightning and Too Blue to Fly, earned the Alabama Library Association Award

“There is no other writer quite like Joe Formichella. Balancing hilarious comedy with dramatic pathos, Waffle House Rules is chock full of charming, eccentric characters readers will long remember. Formichella explores the absurdities of life and death as perceived by the lovable inhabitants of Fairhope and Penelope, Alabama with great sensitivity and intelligence. This book reminded me of why I love to read. “

—Bev Marshall, author of Walking through Shadows,Right as Rain, and Hot Fudge Sundae Blue

The Shoe Burnin': Stories of Southern Soul

“Homicidal librarians, French twisted, stilletto’d and on the lam, flip flop shod Bessie Smith wannabe’s and cowboy booted, beauties out to prove that to get gone a woman doesn’t need fast footwear; good-ole-boys sporting Red Wing lace-up’s and an emergency medical trained aversion to Converse wearing co-ed’s pilling volunteer duty on a cat-4 tornado cleanup crew; guilt ridden bird-dog lover’s and holders onto life’s half-forgotten keepsakes: all this and more from a coalition of wordsmiths, story-tellers and song-swappers whose whiskey whetted forebears first stumbled onto the notion that on a cold winter’s night in the deep south, it’s better to burn shoe leather than brave a trip to the woodpile. “

—Rodney Crowell

“This wonderful collection of stories, poems and essays brilliantly confirms editor Joe Formichella’s belief that “Any pair of shows has a story to tell.” The Shoe Burning’ is an absolute delight. “

—Ron Rash, author of Serena, Saints at the River and The World Made Straight, among others.

The Wreck of Twilight Limited

“In this first novel, Formichella writes with all the senses. One can almost smell the cypress or suffer real pangs of heartache as the story of a train wreck takes the reader into lives so sympathetically portrayed that the age-old adage: “I didn’t want the book to end” rings entirely true. Well-wrought, with honesty, grace and tenderness, The Wreck of the Twilight Limited is as good as it gets in fiction. If you’re tired of bland writing, Formichella’s book is the cure. Do yourself a favor and buy this book.”

—Douglas Crandell, Author of Pig Boy’s Wicked Bird: A Memoir

A Condition of Freedom

“From the mid-1950s to the late-’60s, the all-black Prichard Mohawks from Mobile, Ala., played amateur baseball in the South. Formichella’s accounts of how Norwood and the team handled confrontations with racism on and off the field is both heartbreaking and inspiring. Unlike Mobile natives Henry Aaron and Willie McCovey, none of the Mohawks made it to the Majors, but Formichella focuses on their development into young men who succeeded despite overwhelming odds. While the baseball history is well researched and equally well dispensed, this work is more an analysis of a successful socio-political project than a sports chronicle.”

Publishers Weekly


Waffle House Rules (2014)
Staying Ahead of the Posse: The Ben Jobe Story (2008)
Murder Creek: The ‘Unfortunate Incident’ That Befell Annie Jean Barnes (2007)
A Condition of Freedom (2006)
The Wreck of the Twilight Limited (2004)
Editor of The Shoe Burnin': Stories of Southern Soul (2013)