Fiction and the old neighborhood

No one has asked me yet, but I have the answer.

The question has to do with the title of my new Detective Red Shaw novel: North of Grand.

Why that? I’m glad you asked.

Much of Des Moines, Iowa, is north of Grand Avenue. It cuts through the city east to west – or west to east, depending on your point of view.

I was born there, grew up there, and lived there for a long time. I worked there. Mrs. Smith and I bought our first house there, a block north of I-235 in a neighborhood known as North of Grand. We lived there when our son was born.

soda-jerk-713089_1920
Not me. Pixabay image

South of Grand was another world. It’s where my mother took me and my five siblings on occasion to marvel and gawk at big, beautiful, expensive homes when we were kids. They were especially awe-inspiring when lit up for the holidays. She took us to a different neighborhood on the southeast side sometimes, too, to see how the truly poor people lived.

We were somewhere between rich and poor, a family of seven in a three-bedroom home on Merle Hay Road. (Why seven? One divorced woman plus six kids. She slept on the sofa.)

In high school I worked at a pharmacy just a block north of Grand Avenue, delivering prescriptions to old ladies in the neighborhood, driving a car with a manual transmission that I learned to drive in a panic on my very first day on the job.

The same little store housed the best soda fountain around, with real ice cream made right in the store. I served malts and shakes and cherry cokes and lime phosphates and great sandwiches and other treats to pretty Catholic girls from the nearby high school, to the friendly florist from across the street, to other people that I don’t remember quite so well.

I was a drug-running soda jerk.

The people and the crimes portrayed in North of Grand are purely imaginary. Really bad things do happen in Des Moines, of course, but none that I’ve witnessed.

A young guy did threaten to kill me and a friend when we were in high school, but we managed to talk him out of it. One night years later someone reached in our son’s bedroom window at our little house on Iola Avenue and took off with a diaper bag, but that’s the closest thing to crime that came our way.

All things considered, Des Moines is a pretty good place to live or to be from. We’ve been away for years now, but it never seems that long ago.

North of Grand is in my blood. It’s in my bones.

Read on.

B.J.

“Detective fiction meets the peloton”

First the Kindle ebook, and now in paperback! Just letting you know that.

Special note to my dear cycling friends: here’s some of what an Amazon reviewer had to say about the new Detective Red Shaw novel:

North of Grand is also a really interesting experiment in genre–detective fiction meets the peloton, resulting in “bicycle noir.” Read it!

Can’t argue with that.

Pedal on,

B.J.

 

In search of good bicycle fiction

Something prompted me to search for “bicycle fiction” and “cycling fiction” this weekend. (OK, the prompt just might have been this book review.)

My search turned up some short fiction but not many exact matches. I did find A Simple Machine, Like the Lever on Goodreads and tagged it as a book I want to read.

Movies about bicycling are easy to find, often in lists like this one:

The 26 Best Cycling Movies of All Time

time lapse photography of man riding bicycle
Photo by Stepan Kriz on Pexels.com

If there are 26 “best,” that leaves me wondering how many cycling movies there are, and how much time I’m willing to put into watching.

I’m more inclined to read, if anyone out there can recommend some good novels that you consider bicycling or cycling fiction.

Pedal on.

B.J.

P.S. I read Lance Armstrong’s It’s Not About the Bike when it was considered nonfiction, so don’t bother.

 

Thrillers and “engrossing bicycle noir”

People who write for a living always look forward to finishing things and getting paid.

If some of those finished things are works of fiction, some writers also anxiously wait to see what readers think.

bikepixabayThe insecure (that may be all of us) wonder: Will this be a dismal failure or will there be some good reviews and lots of stars? Will there be royalties?

Only the dreamers and the famous think about screenplays and movie deals.

After releasing my second Detective Red Shaw novel last month, I have to say I’m feeling pretty good. Just today, readers had terrific feedback on both BLOOD SOLUTIONS (Red Shaw #1) and NORTH OF GRAND (Red Shaw #2).

#1 was called a “gripping, compelling thriller” soon after publication and won five more stars this morning.

#2 so far is a “riveting thriller,” “a real page-turner” and, maybe my favorite, “engrossing bicycle noir.”

If you haven’t read them, consider those reviews and others and start turning pages.

Read on.

B.J.

 

Fencing out ravenous beasts, and the inevitability of loose ends

The Smith Compound has taken up temporary residence in far northwestern Montana. We are surrounded in our little borrowed cabin by pine forest, the faint smell of smoke, and a fence high enough to keep hungry deer from eating the neat flower gardens that decorate our well-watered grounds.

0906181758a~2The first thing you see inside the cabin’s front door is a canister of bear spray on a window ledge. As I sit here on the front porch typing, I can’t help but wonder if it is there just in case a grizzly decides to ignore the fence and the massive gate in the driveway, or as a courtesy for us to borrow when we venture out for a hike. We did bring our own, and I will not hesitate to use it should my hiking companion prove able to outrun me.

Mountains are a rumor to the east through haze that lifted but once yesterday on our trip from Pacific time in and around Coeur d’Alene, which is widely known as CDA in the lingo of northern Idaho.

A road trip gives a body time to think, as I was doing yet again just now until a pine cone bounced off the deck a few feet from where I sit. A barely perceptible rustle in the branches 30 feet above me gave away the perpetrator, who I swear gave me a squirrelly scowl as he came head-first down the trunk of the pine a couple of minutes later.

If I remember correctly, I’d been thinking about loose ends, of which there are many in every life of any length. They multiply as time goes by. Earlier this morning, back when the cabin’s wifi was within reach, I came across some true words about fiction and how we don’t always get the endings we want. An author can surprise us, disappoint us, confound us. Sometimes characters surprise the author and do or say things their creator could not or did not foresee.

Nonfiction is much the same. Characters surprise and disappoint. Body parts and murder weapons are not always found. Bad guys go unpunished. The innocent go to prison. Things we should say and do go unsaid and undone. We can confound ourselves.

Looking back, with open minds, we see loose ends dangling here and there like fishing lures caught on a wire by the lake road. With luck, we see tidy resolutions somewhere back there, too.

B.J.

Two words that make a writer’s day: “Great read!”

Woke up to this on Monday morning…

NORTH OF GRAND: New Detective Red Shaw novel now on Amazon

A man turns up dead in a bicycle storage locker on a muggy August morning and Detective Red Shaw takes the heat.

bicycle-2462199-enhancedShaw has just outsmarted a murderous sociopath who almost killed him. Now he has another homicide to investigate—while he’s hobbled by a sore knee, distracted by a steamy new romance, and dodging accusations of coercing a confession in an old case.

Shaw and his partner probe the sometimes toxic, competitive world of amateur bicycle racing, where they find a web of cryptic social media messaging, stolen property, drug trafficking, and murder.

Get it now on Amazon!

If you somehow missed the first Red Shaw novel, called a “compelling, gut-wrenching thriller” by one reviewer, you can get that on Amazon, too: BLOOD SOLUTIONS.