I'm pleased to welcome D.E. Johnson to Michigander Monday!
Debbie: Dan, please tell us a little about yourself.
Dan: I was born in Kalamazoo and have lived in West Michigan all my life, most of my adult life in the Grand Rapids area, though my wife and I are back down by Kalamazoo again.
I have three lovely daughters, all out of the house now, which is both good and bad. Good because it gives me the time I need to write while also holding down a full-time job, and bad because we miss them.
Up until five years ago, I was one of those frustrated people who knew they should be writing, but I’d never worked at it and so was even more frustrated when I did try. Finally I got off my butt and started learning the craft, and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. I’m a happy guy.
Debbie: And, of course, we want to know all about your books.
Dan: I’ve got two historical mysteries out. Here is the cover copy for each:
The Detroit Electric Scheme (2010, St. Martin’s Minotaur Books)
Detroit 1910: When Will Anderson finds the body of John Cooper crushed in a huge hydraulic press, he panics—for good reason. The body is in his father’s electric automobile factory, in the department Will manages. Worse yet, Cooper is engaged to the woman Will loves, his ex-fiancée, Elizabeth Hume.
He runs, eluding the police but leaving behind his cap and automobile. Under threat from a blackmailer and with the police closing in, Will discovers that Elizabeth is in terrible danger. He follows her through the Detroit underworld, trying to save her and find the killer at the same time.
As the evidence mounts, Will gets closer and closer to the secret Cooper had been desperately trying to keep—a secret that could cost Will not only his life, but also the lives of the people he loves most.
Booklist named The Detroit Electric Scheme one of their Top Ten First Crime Novels of the Year, and it also received a Michigan Notable Book Award.
My new book is Motor City Shakedown (2011, St. Martin’s Minotaur Books)
Detroit, 1911. Seven months have passed since Will Anderson’s friend, Wesley McRae, was brutally murdered, and Will and the woman he loves, Elizabeth Hume, barely escaped with their lives. Will’s hand, horribly disfigured from the sulfuric acid he used to help save them, causes him constant pain, forcing him into a morphine addiction. He lives for nothing except revenge against the people who contributed to Wesley's murder—first among them crime boss Vito Adamo.
When Will stumbles upon the bloody body of Adamo's driver, he knows he'll be a suspect, particularly since he was spotted outside the dead man's apartment that same night. He sets out to find the killer, and the trail leads him to a vast conspiracy in an underworld populated by gangsters, union organizers, crooked cops, and lawyers. Worse, it places him directly in the middle of Detroit's first mob war. The Teamsters want a piece of Will’s father’s car company, Detroit Electric, and the Gianolla gang is there to be sure they get it.
To save their families, Will and his ex-fiancée Elizabeth Hume enlist the help of Detroit Police Detective Riordan, the teenage members of what will one day be known as the Purple Gang, and Vito Adamo himself. They careen from one danger to the next, surviving shootouts, kidnappings and police brutality, while barreling toward a devastating climax readers won't soon forget.
Reviews so far for Motor City Shakedown have been great. Booklist recommended the series to fans of George Pelecanos and James Ellroy, Publishers Weekly gave it a rave and a starred review, and The New York Times even said that the scenes of Detroit were “extraordinarily vivid, and best viewed from the seat of one of those very snazzy cars.”
Debbie: Outstanding reviews! Do you have other books on the horizon?
Dan: I have a contract with St. M’s for two more books. Next up will be Detroit Breakdown, which will come out next fall. This one sets Will at Eloise Hospital, which many people from the Detroit area will be familiar with. It was Wayne County’s sprawling mental health hospital from the mid-1800s until the 1970s. Of course, mental health care was not exactly enlightened 100 years ago (though I’d argue it’s still not). That gives me license to put Will through more pain while he tries to solve a murder.
Debbie: Upcoming appearances?
Dan: New appearances pop up frequently. Check my website – dejohnsonauthor.com – for details.
Debbie: Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore?
Dan: How about three – Schuler Books in Grand Rapids, Kazoo Books in Kalamazoo, and Aunt Agatha’s in Ann Arbor. All three are independents fighting the good fight. Please, everyone, support your local independent bookseller!
Debbie: How about a favorite place in Michigan?
Dan: I know this makes me a freak, but my favorite place is where I am right now: sitting in my office at my computer.
Debbie: A few fun Michigan people we should all know about?
Dan: Two authors everyone should read: Bonnie Jo Campbell – she’s an amazing writer. Read her new one, Once Upon a River. You’ll buy everything else she’s written.
The other is Albert Bell. Albert writes a number of different things, including an outstanding Roman mystery series. His third in the series, The Corpus Conundrum, came out recently. The second, The Blood of Caesar, was one of Library Journal’s Five Best Mysteries of 2008.
Debbie: Something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about Michigan?
Dan: When they say Pure Michigan, they’re not kidding. There are still so many beautiful parts of the State, you could never see them all.
Debbie: Last question. Some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders; others Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally, are you a "Michigander" or a "Michiganian"?
Dan: Dang. I’ve wrestled with this. Michiganian has so much more dignity to it, but I grew up with Michigander, and I seem to be moving back in that direction.
Debbie: No worries - for now, we'll put you in the "both" column! Dan, thank you very much for being here for Michigander Monday!
To learn more about Dan and his books, visit his web site, D.E. Johnson, or find him on FaceBook. You can even sign up for a chance to win an autographed copy of Motor City Shakedown (but act fast - deadline is 11/15!) and/or sign up for a chance to be a character in his next book (deadline is 12/31).