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DOVE SEASON Still Open; Johnny Shaw Continues to Heat Up
Every year at Bouchercon, the annual mystery/crime fiction convention, there is one book that everyone talks about, one title on everyone’s must-have list. Last year, it was Benjamin Whitmer’s debut novel, Pike. This last year in St. Louis, MO, it was undoubtedly Johnny Shaw’s Dove Season, and that heat has continued to translate to big sales here now a month after B-Con. As of this writing, Dove Season holds the number one ranking in Kindle sales in the Action-Adventure genre, and the two spot for Hard-boiled Kindle sales.
The book certainly deserves the acclaim and the sales numbers. Set in California’s Imperial Valley, a largely agricultural desert region which lies directly across the Mexican border from Mexicali, the book enjoys a setting which is rich with cultural opposites and a vast illegal border-trade, all prime material for crime fiction. Combine that with Shaw’s keen sense of characterization, adept pacing skills, and ear for dialogue, and you have a hell of a book on your hands.
Dove Season is also indicative of a noticeable inclination towards the rural in crime fiction of late. The aforementioned Pike takes place in the foothills outside of Cincinnati; Frank Bill’s aptly-named collection of short fiction, Crimes in Southern Indiana, has been excerpted in no less a periodical than Playboy (not to be outdone, Shaw tells Criminal Complex that the upcoming November issue of Penthouse will carry a review of his own book). And of course, Daniel Woodrell’s tale of a young girl caught up in the machinations of the Ozark meth trade, Winter’s Bone, was adapted to film last year and met with critical raves. Noir and crime fiction, long the province of the urban landscape, is moving out to the country and proving that city-folk no longer have the market cornered.
At a public appearance at Café Libertalia in San Diego, CA, this past Sunday, October 16th, Johnny Shaw touched on this subject himself. He spoke of William T. Vollmann, a writer who has long been a darling of academic and critical book circles. In 2009, Vollmann released a monster of a non-fiction book about the same Imperial Valley in which Johnny Shaw grew up and in which he set his Dove Season. Yet, as Shaw points out, “The guy writes a 1300-page book about the Imperial Valley, and barely mentions farming.” To not focus on the industry that defines a region may be forgivable in an academic work such as Vollmann’s, but if one wants to truly understand a place like Imperial, one need look no further than the fiction of Johnny Shaw.
So do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Dove Season today, and find out for yourself just how a country boy does it.