Find out the latest indie author news. For FREE.

steven schindler
Fallout Shelter
A fallout shelter could be in a church, school, or city hall. But an abandoned fallout shelter in the basement of a Bronx apartment building became a refuge for three best friends where they could plan their dreams and their schemes throughout their lives. Chili, Mikey, and Angel scoffed at fear. Atomic bomb “duck and cover” drills were an opportunity for mischief in darkened school hallways. Enraged nuns and priests spitting fire and brimstone were cause for hidden hilarity. Little did they know that lurking in places reserved for the sacred, evil was hiding in plain sight. They were used to the dangers on the city streets, but they weren’t prepared for the sins of the Fathers. Chili risked everything to protect those he loved and there wasn’t a commandment that could stop him.
Plot/Idea: 8 out of 10
Originality: 10 out of 10
Prose: 8 out of 10
Character/Execution: 10 out of 10
Overall: 9.00 out of 10


Plot/Idea: Fallout Shelter progresses at a steady pace while incorporating unexpected twists that up the entertainment value. The coming-of-age elements converge smoothly, as the three main protagonists try to navigate school and young adulthood in the face of unmistakable darkness. 

Prose: Schindler is strongest when depicting early teenage angst and antics, integral components to the story's appeal, and the balance of action, dialogue, and description is spot on. 

Originality: A stirring account of evil lurking where it's least expected, Fallout Shelter successfully combines betrayal, friendship, and self-discovery into one interconnected story.

Character Development/Execution: Schindler dedicates ample space to exploring the narrative arcs of Chili, Angel, and Mikey—but does so in a way that gives each priority while reconciling them with each other by the end.


Date Submitted: August 29, 2022

Schindler's (The Last Sewer Ball) period piece about three boys growing up in the Bronx blends a bittersweet tale of adolescence with elements of a crime novel. It’s full of vivid details of character and setting, but it's his willingness to delve into the loathsome depths of clergy molestation and corruption that sets it apart. The story follows lifelong friends "Chili" Manzilla, Mikey McGowan, and Angel Rodriguez through the ups and downs of their adolescence and early adulthood, touching on suckerpunches, youthful romances, crowded classrooms, and the pleasures of cracking open bottles of Boone’s Farm Apple wine in Van Cortlandt Park. Chili, the most devout of the three, starts on a path toward the priesthood, while prankster Mikey becomes a cop. Angel comes from a more privileged background, pursuing the law but always taking pains to be there for his friends.

Schindler charts their youthful pranks and dreams growing up in New York at its run-down 1970s sleaziest, finding escape from the world in the fallout shelter of the title. The era is expertly evoked: “Latin music mixed with the Irish Rovers and the Rolling Stones as they melded into a sidewalk symphony.” Perhaps inevitably, the boys face betrayals and hurt feelings as they mature, and Schindler's depiction of how friends can drift apart but find their way back to each other is especially touching and intimate. All three served as altar boys, familiar with whispered secrets of priests sexually molesting young boys in their care as teachers and pastors; the treatment of that scandal and trauma here is devastating and unsparing, edging into suspense territory, as one boy related to the central trio witnesses a priest’s crime, putting him in danger.

It all culminates in a surprising, explosive climax, handled with seriousness despite the hints of melodrama. Schindler's sensitivity in depicting trans characters, in particular, is remarkable, as is his moving, detailed evocation of these memorably flawed characters’s big dreams, tough talk, and connections to each other and their world.

Takeaway: Both a tender coming-of-age New York period piece and a harrowing exploration of corruption in the church.

Great for fans of: Arlene Alda’s Just Kids from the Bronx, John Boyne's A History of Loneliness.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: B
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: B
Marketing copy: A-