What People are Saying

I thank my editor, Matt Ellis, who made the book what it is now and for helping me navigate the odysseys of writing.

Vicky Pinpin Feinstein, author of A Thousand Little Deaths

I am extremely indebted to Matt Ellis. His attentive, thoughtful editing during the final stages of this project is responsible for much of what is good about its writing.

Aaron Hunter, author of Authoring Hal Ashby

…thank you awesomely and massively for all.

Elizabeth Wurtzel, from the Acknowledgements page of bestseller Bitch

Matt’s editing transformed my literary puttering into a mature, marketable novel that was reviewed with real interest by four agents, and picked up by one. His critique, delivered with a punctuality rare in the writer’s world, cut to the heart of my book, and inspired me to write into the dark corners I’d been tiptoeing … More Seth Biderman, author of Ragers (forthcoming)

Seth Biderman, author of Ragers (forthcoming)

Ten years of work went into my first manuscript, and despite my efforts, I still hadn’t written the book I wanted to write. I knew I needed help, someone to point me towards the shore. Matt proved to be the beacon I was looking for. Matt offered to work in stages with me to explore … More Robert Colton, best-selling author

Robert Colton, best-selling author

As the publisher of New Europe Books, whose titles are distributed globally by Penguin Random House, it has been my honor to publish two remarkable, critically acclaimed novels by Matt Ellis in recent years–one of them destined to take its place among the classics of expatriate literature, the other a riveting, intelligent fantasy chronicling the … More Paul Olchvary, Publisher of New Europe Books

Paul Olchvary, Publisher of New Europe Books

Highly, highly recommended. When I sent my manuscript to Matt Henderson Ellis for a critique and feedback, I feared he’d come back to tell me that the story was broken, the writing was terrible and the characters lame. I worried about that because I believed it was all true. What I got back from Mr. … More Frank Freudberg, author of Baby Please Don’t Go

Frank Freudberg, author of Baby Please Don’t Go

More than just an editor, you have been a mentor to me and as is as much as possible given the constraints of distance, etc. a friend.

Todd Godwin, memoirist, creative mind behind Sprite’s “Obey Your Thirst” campaign

Selected praise for my writing:

For Keeping Bedlam at Bay in the Prague Cafe:

“John Shirting, a quiet Chicago native with a passion for excellent coffee and a bad habit of self-medicating, has been let go from his barista job at a branch of the Capo Coffee Family, an eerily recognizable global coffee powerhouse. Determined to win back his job and impress the Capo higher-ups, Shirting decides that Prague is the perfect place to start a new franchise. Shirting soon discovers that it won’t be easy to plant the seeds of capitalist coffee culture in recently postcommunist Prague, once his college nemesis resurfaces in the same boardinghouse and his first hire abandons him. An ode to expatriate living, culture clashes, and the heady days of early 1990s Europe, this novel is a manic, wild ride with a loose narrative style full of off-the-cuff observations. Seeing Prague through Shirting’s eyes is a bit like wandering in a new city without a guidebook—the major landmarks are recognizable, but you’re always on the verge of being lost. The novel is darkly comic (reminiscent of DBC Pierre’s Lights Out in Wonderland, 2011), immersive, nostalgic, and thoroughly enjoyable.” Stephanie Turza, Booklist

 “Both charming and absurd in all the best ways.” David Gutowski, LargeHeartedBoy.com


“Difficult to put down, unsettling yet addictive, the novel is a must-read for anyone who dares to peek behind the postcard image of a famously beautiful centre of European civilization.”  Winnipeg Free Press

“As the title suggests, disorder predominates in Ellis’s debut novel set in Prague during the dizzying days of the early 1990s. John Shirting is a quirky and unbalanced former barista from Chicago with a pill habit who winds up in the newly capitalist city hawking a plan to establish a chain of mobster-themed coffee shops. . . . The picaresque absurdity will be familiar to fans of Thomas Pynchon, along with the low-grade paranoia and aggressively whimsical dialogue. . . . . Ellis vividly re-creates the atmosphere of a city in the throes of transformation as well as the American Quixotes who populate this new frontier.”  Publishers Weekly

“Former barista John Shirting from Chicago, an expat in the hallucinatory Prague of the Nineties, stands in the good company of Ignatius J. Reilly, Chauncey Gardener, and Forrest Gump as a remarkable and original member of that autistic and exclusive club. In creating Shirting, Mr. Ellis has enriched the literature of estrangement and given us a marvelous portrait of postcommunist Prague in its heady and wild rush into capitalism. This novel is a worthy addition to both expatriate writing and Czech storytelling, managing also to reflect in its rollicking drive profound insights into the ideologies of the last century.” Andrei Codrescu, author of So Recently Rent a World: New and Selected Poems and New Orleans, Mon Amour

“John Shirting, master of mission statements and misfit of the planet, makes his way to Prague to offer change that’s not needed. A loveable mess, he lives in the past while trying to escape it, often unable to tell whether he’s getting better or worse, but his obsession with building a global outpost of the American coffee chain that fired him keeps him moving forward. Ellis has written a hilarious hallucinatory satire, built on shots of caffeine.”  Amanda Stern, author of The Long Haul

“With fresh and evocative language, Ellis delivers us into a frenetic and history-haunted world. By turns strange and subtle, imaginative and knowing-and also often very funny-this assured and original debut novel is a must-read for anyone, like me, who ever daydreamed about expat life in 1990s Eastern Europe but didn’t have the nerve to go for it.” Rosie Schaap, author of Drinking With Men, Drink columnist, New York Times Magazine

“Thanks to Ellis’s wickedly good writing and laserlike focus on the absurdities of expat life, Keeping Bedlam at Bay in the Prague Café is an arresting, hilarious, and thoroughly enjoyable novel – both a vivid portrait of an already bygone era and an up-to-the-minute snapshot of civilization in decline.”  Katherine Shonk, author of Happy Now? and The Red Passport

“Don’t let the title fool you. The bedlam here is never kept at bay for very long. Ellis writes with manic, overcaffeinated energy about the wild westernization of Prague after the fall of the Iron Curtain and he captures that era perfectly. A strong and lively debut.” Andrew Ervin, author of Extraordinary Renditions

“Mr. Ellis has fashioned a delightful, and ultimately moving, traipse through Middle Europe in bitingly satiric prose reminiscent of Joseph Heller, David Markson,
and Alexander Theroux at their most playful. A pleasure.”
 Joshua Cody, author of [sic]: A Memoir

Contact Matt here.