Today we welcome Joe Ide, author of IQ.
What is your idea of a perfect day?
My perfect day would be fly fishing on Ruby Creek in Five Rivers, Montana, in late September. Then a medium rare rib eye and a decent bottle of Pinot, followed by good conversation, a Patron Maduro and watching the storm clouds roll in over the hills and the lightning storms flash and crackle in the sky.
Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase/expression, or meal?
My signature expressions are all swear words, said frequently and in a loud voice.
Which books/authors influenced you the most?
Aside from Conan Coyle, my biggest influence was Elmore Leonard. I loved his vivid, low life characters and how real they felt. I loved how they led the plot instead of the other way around. I loved the mixture of pathos and comedy. And I loved the writing. So rich, entertaining and economical at the same time. I think his dialogue is the best in crime fiction and ranks at the top across the board.
Other early influences include, John LeCarre, Walter Mosely, William Gibson, Hunter S. Thompson, Louise Penny, James Baldwin, Cormac McCarthy, and many others.
Do you listen to music when you write?
On the contrary, I shut off of my phone, draw the drapes and lock the door. I even wear ear plugs to enhance the feeling that I’m alone with my characters.
If your latest book were chocolate, what would it be and why?
A Hershey Dark Chocolate Mini. A fun treat you can have anytime.
What made you interested in writing this particular story?
It was my first novel so I thought it best to follow the old adage, write what you know. My favorite books were the original Sherlock Holmes stories. By the time I was twelve, I’d read all fifty-six stories and four novels multiple times. Like me, Sherlock was introverted, a misfit, and he wasn’t a tough guy. But unlike me, he was able to defeat his enemies and control his world with only the powers of his intelligence. I grew up in South Central LA where walking home from school could be life threatening so that was very powerful idea. When it came time to write the book, Sherlock and my early days converged all by themselves.
What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
Many mystery/thrillers tend to treat the victims of crime as props. They’re moved around like chess pieces to add suspense, pathos, terror, or whatever the story requires, legitimate techniques I utilize myself. What I’d like to do in future books, is give more focus to the victims as characters and explore the consequences crime has had on their lives, relationships and futures. To make them more human. More like us.
Tell us about your main character.
Isaiah Quintabe is twenty five years old and a high school droput. He lives in East Long Beach; the crime-ridden area Snoop rapped about in The Chronic. Isaiah is a loner and a misfit. He wears no bling, no tattoos, there are no rims on his car and he doesn’t listen to hip hop. He is quiet, watchful and assumming. His reasoning skills are near genius levels and he posseses extraordinary powers of observation. He makes his living as an unlicensed, underground private detective. He is Sherlock in the hood. An African American Columbo, and he takes the cases the police can’t or won’t handle. My daughter ran away with a drug dealer. My son did not commit suicide. I know who killed my friend but there’s not enough evidence.
Isaiah doesn’t have a convenient friend on the police force or access to law enforcement data bases and he doesn’t know how to hack. I like to think of him as a latter day Hugh Glass or Jerimiah Johnson. He knows what he knows from long experience and studying his enviroment. He charges whatever his clients can afford, which more times than not is something like a sweet potato pie, a hand-knitted potholders or a free oil change.
What drives Isaiah is his past. He’s done terrible things in his life and he’s hurt people. Much of that is irrepairable so case he takes is penance. Every case is a way to pay down a debt that can never really be paid off. Isaiah’s story is about redemption. It’s about a young man who overcomes his terrible past and transforms himself into someone who seeks justice for people who cannot seek it for themselves.
Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
— Sherlock Holmes
— Steve McQueen
— Sidney Potier’s Mister Tibbs in The Heat of the Night
If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
I wouldn’t restrict the guest list to mystery writers at any dinner party of mine. I’d invite: Conan Doyle, Anne Coulter, Hunter S. Thompson, Richard Pryor, Affinity Konar and Malcolm X. Now that’s a dinner party.
What’s next for you?
I’m editing the second book in the series.
Joe Ide is of Japanese American descent. He grew up in South Central Los Angeles. He earned a Master’s Degree and had several careers before writing his first novel, IQ. He lives in Santa Monica, California.