Omnimystery News is pleased to welcome Johnny Shaw, whose debut mystery Dove Season (AmazonEncore September 2011, trade paperback and ebook editions) is intriguingly subtitled "A Jimmy Veeder Fiasco".
Today Johnny tells us about the setting for his book.
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When I was a kid, I don't think it ever occurred to me that the rest of the world didn't share my experiences or environment. If I would have thought about it, I probably would have realized that most people didn't live on a farm in the desert on the Mexican border.
That most people didn't fall asleep on Friday nights to the sound of Mariachi trumpet from the Mexican field worker bar across the road.
Photo provided courtesy of
That most people didn't know who Dippy Duck was (because they didn't need to be warned about the dangers of swimming in the irrigation canals).
That most people didn't know how awful 160 acres of broccoli smelled.
It wasn't until I sat down to write my first novel Dove Season that I looked back at the Imperial Valley of my youth and saw it for its unique qualities. And the more I looked, the more I saw a rich setting filled with diversity, tension, and conflict.
For those that need a roadmap, the Imperial Valley rests in the desert as far south and as far east as you can go inside California, cradled against both the Arizona and Mexico borders. The towns in the Imperial Valley are farm towns, border towns, desert towns. And there's no place like them on earth.
Dove Season tells the story of Jimmy Veeder, who returns to the Imperial Valley after a dozen years to take care of his dying father. Jimmy thinks he's going to sit around and spend some quiet time, but his father has an odd request. For Jimmy to find a Mexican prostitute named Yolanda.
Jimmy doesn't ask why, he just grabs his erratic-at-best childhood buddy Bobby and heads south of the border. Armed with too much beer, Jimmy and Bobby stumble among the violent, the exploited, and corrupted of Mexicali. The search leads to violence, danger, and murder and ultimately forces Jimmy to question everything he held true about his father and himself.
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Johnny Shaw was born and raised on the Calexico/Mexicali border, the setting for his debut novel Dove Season. Growing up on a farm in a house full of books proved to be an environment that would shape his creative work for years to come. Although he has been writing for over twenty years, it took that same amount of time for him to finally revisit and explore the people and places of the Imperial Valley, California in his writing.
Johnny left the farm for college, attending both UC Davis and UC Santa Barbara for his undergraduate studies. While at UCSB, he wrote and co-produced Henry Dies at the End, the first feature-length film made by students at the university, beginning his career as a screenwriter.
Johnny received his MFA in Screenwriting from the prestigious School of Theater, Film, and Television at UCLA. Over the course of his screenwriting career, Johnny has seen his screenplays optioned, sold, and produced. His work has won numerous awards, including the $100,000 King Arthur Screenwriters Award.
As a playwright, his stage collaborations with actor Jaime Arze, "Natural Acts" and "A Good Kind of Crazy", have been successfully performed throughout Los Angeles. A third collaboration is currently in the planning stages.
Intrigued by all writing media (Johnny has written crossword puzzles, pub quizzes, novelty pins, greeting cards, and pretty much anything with words on it), it was only a matter of time before Johnny tried his hand at writing a novel. The result was Dove Season, which gained national attention as one of the Finalists in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.
In addition to his work as a writer, for the last ten years, Johnny has taught writing. He has lectured at both UC Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara City College, teaching Beginning and Advanced Screenwriting courses.
He is the owner of Johnny's Used Books, formerly a brick-and-mortar bookstore in Los Angeles, now entirely online.
Johnny currently lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife, artist Roxanne Patruznick. When he's not writing, he's probably writing.
Visit his website/blog at JohnnyShaw.net.
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About Dove Season:
Twelve years have passed since Jimmy Veeder set foot in the Imperial Valley of Southern California. The only person who could bring him back is his father, Jack, who is dying of cancer. Jimmy is prepared to spend Jack's final days joking and reminiscing, but the old man has other plans. He needs Jimmy to cross the border into Mexico and find a prostitute named Yolanda. It's a strange final request, to be sure, but Jimmy's not one to argue with a dying man.
With his childhood buddy Bobby Maves in tow, he heads south, looking for Yolanda among the seedy bars and neighborhoods along the Calexico-Mexicali border. Their search leads them to Tomás Morales, a rising star in the Mexican underworld. Tomás is dangerous to most, but his childhood friendship with Jimmy brings out his loyalty and spurs him to help. But just when Jimmy thinks his quest has ended, an unexpected murder sucks him further into the violence and danger of Mexicali.
In Jimmy's fight for survival and search for truth, his discoveries call into question everything he thought he knew about his father—and will determine what kind of man he himself truly is.