Interview with B.J. Smith
Q. What's the story behind your Detective Red Shaw books?
The idea for the first Red Shaw book, "Blood Solutions," came from my years in journalism. After college I was a reporter for a couple of daily newspapers, then I landed at a news/features syndicate in Des Moines. As an editor there, one of my responsibilities was proofreading a weekly crossword puzzle. It wasn’t my favorite part of the job, but it sparked the idea that became my first crime novel.
My second Red Shaw novel, "North of Grand," grew out of my longtime interest in bicycling. I've spent a lot of time riding for fun, exercise and transportation, including several times across the state of Iowa in an annual pilgrimage called RAGBRAI and some other excursions in Colorado, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Cycling, especially long distances, gives a person a lot of time to think.
The beginning of "North of Grand" was triggered by frequent sightings of bike storage lockers in Boulder, Colorado, but the Des Moines lockers in the book are purely imaginary. (I did tell the transit authority there that I was going to do that.)
Q.Besides the writing and proofreading, what elements of journalism influence your books?
There were times in both Ottumwa and Clinton, on the daily-newspaper jobs, where I reported on crimes, a manslaughter trial, routine police beat news, in addition to my usual work as a general assignment reporter. I think I absorbed some of the police procedural stuff just by being around it and meeting some of the cops, not to mention loving to read detective stories and watching old TV shows like “Dragnet” and “Mannix.” I’ve also known a lot of physicians, my father and a sister among them, and I’ve dealt with psychiatrists and lawyers and other people who find their way into crime stories.
Q. Are any of the characters, like Red Shaw, based on actual people you know?
The short answer is no. A character, or characters, might have mannerisms, or patterns of speech, or a scar or something that I thought about and used in some way, but Red Shaw and the others are really not much like any particular individuals that I’ve ever known or met.
Q. What do you enjoy most about writing fiction?
Writing fiction, just making things up, has been really interesting. Until I started doing this seriously, I did not know that a writer can, in a way, lose control of his own characters. Once you’ve developed them to a certain point, they can go off in a direction that you really didn’t have in mind before you set everything in motion. Red Shaw surprised me a number of times. I didn’t know what he would do next.
Q. What are you working on next?
It's complicated. What I'm working on now is a short story that started out wanting to be a novel. It grew to about 30,000 words before going on the back burner, and now it's undergoing some major surgery. Once the short story is done, I just might make it a long story after all.
Almost forgot: I'm also working my day job.
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Books by This Author
North of Grand: A Detective Red Shaw Novel
by B.J. Smith
A young cyclist turns up dead outside the central transit station on a muggy August morning in Des Moines and the heat is on. Detective Edward “Red” Shaw and his partner, Phil Vega, look for the killer and find themselves probing the sometimes toxic, hyper-competitive world of amateur bicycle racing.
Blood Solutions: A Detective Red Shaw Novel
by B.J. Smith
(5.00 from 2 reviews)
A brutal crime in the woods of southern Iowa has deadly repercussions years later in the state’s capital city, where a string of gruesome murders tests the considerable skills of Detective Edward “Red” Shaw.