Short and Sharp Words: MysteryPeople Q&A with Jordan Harper

  • Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

Jordan Harper’s She Rides Shotgun is one of the most exciting full-length novel debuts to come down the road in some time. It concerns an ex-con on a crime spree road trip with his eleven-year-old-daughter. Over the course of their journey, both are targeted by a White Supremacist gang. It is a tough, uncompromising book, with a heart that is hard-won.

Jordan joins us at the store for our New Voices of Noir panel this upcoming Wednesday, July 26th, at 7 PM. He’ll be joined by Bill Loehfelm and Rob Hart. We got ahold of him by himself for this pre-interrogation.

MysteryPeople Scott: How did the idea for She Rides Shotgun come about?

Jordan Harper: I recently prowled through my DropBox and found an early draft of She Rides Shotgun that was dated 2014. It’s been in the works for a long time now, and just how I got the initial idea is a little murky to me. But I know the initial idea came from me noticing that there was a very small subgenre of crime story, that of the criminal and child on the road together. It’s a subgenre I’ve always loved, even if I’d never noticed it was a genre at all. I was inspired to add to the canon that includes Lone Wolf and Cub, Paper Moon and The Professional.

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MysteryPeople Review: SHE RIDES SHOTGUN by Jordan Harper

  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

9780062394408Jordan Harper’s name buzzed around crime fiction circles with his stand-out short stories, many of them appearing in the collection, Love And Other Wounds. His hard boiled tales of outlaws and others on the edge are written with a gritty poetry and visceral tone. He kept both intact in his debut novel, She Rides Shotgun, a book as bada** as its title.

Harper takes us on one of the darkest daddy-daughter bonding experiences in fiction since A Paper Moon. Nate McClusky, a father and a career criminal, crossed a white supremacist gang, Aryan Steel, at the end of his prison sentence. Upon his release, he discovers the prison gang has killed his ex in retaliation and they now have their sights set on Polly, his eleven-year-old daughter. He grabs her at school, taking her on the road. Their initial goal of escape quickly turns into a crime spree as Nate robs the gang’s criminal enterprises as leverage for a truce. As he gets to know Polly, he notices an inner coldness that could serve as a key to her survival.

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Three Picks for June

This month covers the big three of crime fiction protagonists: cops, private eyes, and criminals.

9780393249644Fateful Mornings by Tom Bouman

Finally, Officer Henry Farell of rural Pennsylvania returns for a second book that somehow tops Bouman’s Edgar-award-winning debut, Dry Bones. After a hippie is found murdered, investigators suspect her abusive relationship as the cause, but they soon expand widen the net as the case becomes a sordid mixture of drugs, class conflict, and more killings. A compelling hero immersed in a vivid place and beautiful writing. Fateful Mornings comes out June 27th. Pre-order now! 

9780062394408She Rides Shotgun by Jordan Harper

A career criminal crosses an Aryan gang who kills his ex-wife for retribution and now has sights on his eleven year old daughter, forcing him to go on one hellish road trip with her. Harper’s debut novel is a hard boiled rocket ride through a sunburned California of lost societies, violent men, and where love has to be many forms of tough. Jordan will be joining us on our New Voices Of Noir panel with Bill Loehfelm and Rob Hart on July 26th. She Rides Shotgun comes out today! You can find copies on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. 

 

9781616957704Murder in Saint-Germain by Cara Black 

Aimee Leduc, still grieving the loss of her father and consumed by the needs of her new bebe, is one busy detective in Cara Black’s latest. Leduc Investigations is hard at work on a corporate espionage case, much to Rene’s satisfaction. When an old friend reaches out to Aimee after spotting a war criminal in a local cafe, then goes missing, Aimee has even more on her plate. Despite her busy schedule, she’s still the definition of effortless Parisian chic – read this book if you like detectives that can kick butt in 5-inch heels! (In fact, read the whole series.) Cara Black joins us to speak and sign her latest Leduc Investigation on Monday, June 12th, at 7 PM. You can find copies of Murder in Saint Germain on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

 

Scott’s Top Ten of 2015

  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

If there was a common thread through the best books of 2015, it was ambition. Authors stretched themselves by taking on large subjects or writing something much different, or taking their series characters down a different path. All of these authors raised the bar for themselves and leaped over it.


hollow man1. Hollow Man by Mark Pryor

Pryor’s smart use of point of view puts us in the head of Dominic – Austin prosecutor, musician, and sociopath – who gets involved with a robbery and to continue to tap into his darker nature when things go bad. One of the freshest and best neo-noirs to come down the pike.


the cartel2. The Cartel by Don Winslow

Winslow’s sequel to The Power Of The Dog reignites the blood feud between DEA agent Art Keller and cartel head Adán Barrera in epic fashion to show the disastrous effect of the war on drugs in Mexico. A book that both enrages and entertains.Read More »

Scott’s Top 10 (Okay, 12) Of 2015 So Far

Scott’s Top 10 (Okay, 12) Of The Year So Far

We are now in the last month of summer reading. If you want to go out with some quality crime fiction, here are some suggestions of books both talked about and deserving of attention. It was difficult to cut this list down and even when I did, I doubled up on a couple that shared a few traits.


the cartel1. The Cartel by Don Winslow

This mammoth, yet fast paced look at the war with the Mexican cartels is epic crime fiction at its finest. Full of emotion, great action, and sharply drawn characters, this book is destined to be on a lot of critics’ list for 2015 as well as becoming a classic. Even more entertaining, is that Winslow’s drug kingpin, Adan Barrera, has a lot in common with current fugitive Cartel boss, El Chapo.


bull mountainwhere all the light tends to go2. Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich & Where All Light Tends To Go by David Joy

Both of these rural noirs by debut authors show there is still a lot of life in the subgenre. These books view ideas of violence, kin, honor, and retribution with the eyes of an author with decades of experience and the energy of newcomer.


long and faraway gone3. The Long & Faraway Gone by Lou Berney

The ambitious novel balances three mysteries to look at the ripples of a violent act and the effect it has on the survivors. Great pacing and clean, accessable style allow for this rich, multi-character story to flow beautifully.


bishops wife4. The Bishop’s Wife by Mette Ivie Harrison

Loosely based on a true crime, this book gives us an inside and very human view of modern Mormon society. Harrison balances both interior monologue and exterior dialogue to give us a main character who doesn’t know if she can always speak her mind.


doing the devil's work5. Doing The Devil’s Work by Bill Loehfelm

A routine traffic stop for rookie patrolman Maureen Coughlin leads to a conspiracy involving a black drug dealer, white supremacists, guns, a prominent New Orleans family, and some of her fellow officers. Loehfelm renders the both the drudgery and danger of police work and the web of corruption that even ensnares good cops.


love and other wounds6. Love & Other Wounds by Jordan Harper

These short stories herald a great new voice in crime fiction. Harper has a cutting prose style that reveals the souls of violent men.


soil7. Soil by Jamie Kornegay

A mix of Southern gothic with psycho noir about a failed young farmer who finds a body on his flooded property. Kornegay knows how to capture people driven by their obsessions and at the end of their rope.


concrete angels8. Concrete Angel by Patricia Abbott

Abbott’s inverse retelling of Mildred Pierce has a classic feel even though the story about a daughter caught up in her mother’s mania and criminal schemes has a modern psychological bent. A page-turner in the best sense of the word.


past crimesthe devils share9. Past Crimes by Glen Erik Hamilton and The Devil’s Share by Wallace Stroby

Two great hard boiled tales from the criminal point of view. Whether Stroby’s heist woman or Hamilton’s “reformed” criminal out for revenge, these books deliver all the tropes with a fresh take and pathos.


all involved10. All Involved by Ryan Gattis

This tapestry of short stories that take place in L.A. during the six days of the Rodney King Riots is both blistering and human. A historical novel that has a lot to say about the present.


You can find copies of the books listed above on our shelves or via bookpeople.com.

MysteryPeople Q&A with Jordan Harper


Jordan Harper is an author to watch. While writing for TV shows like The Mentalist and Gotham, he built up a reputation in crime fiction with his hard hitting pieces that deal with bikers, drug dealers, and dog fighters. His work, which can be see in the collection Love & Other Wounds, is uncompromising, with strong sense of prose style that is perfectly crafted to give it an individual voice that never overwhelms the story. We caught up with Jordan to talk about his writing.

MysteryPeople Scott: What about the short form of fiction attracts you?

Jordan Harper: It gets to the point. One main character, one story, one theme. Everything’s so concentrated, so that language and character and action all become unified. It’s very satisfying.

MPS: You have a great talent for presenting a bad man and showing his heart without compromising him or the darkness of the story. How do you approach your characters?

JH: I make the assumption that most people are just that … people. We’ve all done bad, we’ve all done good, just in different ratios. Once you approach characters like that, it gets a lot easier to write them. Maybe it’s a sign of low self-esteem that I think killers and badmen aren’t that different from myself. But it’s how I write them. It means spending a lot of time spelunking in my skull, seeing what sorts of blind salamanders and weird mushrooms I find down there and bringing them to the surface. I may have lost control of that metaphor.

MPS:  You make your living writing for television. Does one form influence the other?

JH: Less than you’d think. I’ve learned a lot about dramatic tension and how to produce it from working in television, but it’s a day job like any other. My fiction is very different than what I’m paid to write, and I think there’s a pretty thick wall between those parts of my brain. One thing that’s been useful is that television is a collaborative medium, meaning that there’s a lot of input from a lot of people on a television script. It can make taking notes less painful, thanks to all the scar tissue.

MPS:  Unlike many authors, your stories have several different locations. Is there one in particular that lends the best backdrop for your writing?

JH: I was born in the Ozarks, and a lot of my early stories are set there. But I’ve also moved around a lot, and I made a decision at some point that I wasn’t going to be a single-location writer. How could I hope to keep writing about the Ozarks in an authentic way when I haven’t lived there in a decade? Especially when Daniel Woodrell is still there and writing brilliantly? Now that I’ve settled in Los Angeles, most of what I write is set there, but I’m trying not to tie myself down.

MPS:  I heard you just finished a novel, can you tell us anything about it?

JH: It’s called If All Roads Were Blind. It’s the story of an eleven-year-old girl who is kidnapped by her ex-con father because they’ve both been greenlit by Aryan Steel, which is my stand-in for the Aryan Brotherhood. Like Paper Moon with a body count.

You can find copies of Love & Other Wounds on our shelves and via bookpeople.com