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Dove Season (A Jimmy Veeder Fiasco) Paperback – September 13, 2011
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A Q&A with Johnny Shaw
Question: You were born and raised in the Imperial Valley. Yet in your 20-year writing career, Dove Season is the first work of yours fully set there. Why the long wait?
Johnny Shaw: I don't think I consciously avoided writing about the Mexican border. It can just be difficult to see a place as familiar as one's hometown as a subject that would be interesting to anyone else. All those cool, unique details hide themselves in plain sight. But I'm glad I waited--it gave me a chance to do it right, with the proper amount of distance, objectivity, and experience.
Q: Dove Season continues a proud tradition of books and movies set in rural California. What was your approach to creating such a strong sense of place?
JS: In the case of Dove Season, the Imperial Valley did all the heavy lifting for me. It's a unique place to grow up and an amazing backdrop for a crime novel. Usually the only time my hometown is mentioned in the news is for something lamentable: worst unemployment, air pollution, earthquakes, immigration issues, and so on. While all those things may be true, I figured, why not show the other side of the story? The story I know; the human story.
Q: The subtitle of Dove Season is "A Jimmy Veeder Fiasco," which implies we'll be seeing more of this protagonist in your work. What are your plans for his future?
JS: About halfway through writing Dove Season, I knew that Jimmy Veeder and Bobby Maves were characters I wanted to revisit. Not only are they a blast to write, but there is a lot of complexity to their friendship that has yet to be explored. As I write this, I'm hard at work on Plaster City, the next Jimmy Veeder Fiasco. At minimum, I have two more fiascoes in my head, stories that stand on their own but are part of a bigger arc. After that, we’ll see.
Q: Jimmy and Bobby get into some crazy situations on both sides of the Mexican border in Dove Season. How much of the novel is autobiographical? Are any of his misadventures based on your life?
JS: Write what you know, right? Without getting myself into too much trouble, let’s just say that the bars and strips joint of Mexicali are not a world that is foreign to me. And like Jimmy, I did grow up on a farm in the middle of nowhere with a field-worker bar across the street. But if you want to know if I've ever used a shovel to fend off someone with a baseball bat, you’ll have to ask my wife. Just kidding, honey. Put the bat down.
Q: You've written extensively for the stage and screen. How are these processes similar to and different from creating plot and characters in a novel?
JS: Whether I'm writing a screenplay, graphic novel, stage play, or novel, I try to treat each one with the proper amount of respect, emphasizing the given medium's strengths. I've always been of the mind that if you can make the characters breathe and the setting real, then you've gone a long way toward drawing the reader in. The individual medium doesn't matter--it's all about the story and the people who inhabit it.
From Library Journal
Think of this title as a coming-of-age novel writ noir. Turning 30 hasn’t meant much more for Jimmy Veeder than moving from one low-paying job to another. “I didn’t have a dream. I just was,” is how he describes himself. Then he gets a call from his dad. Big Jack has cancer, the bad kind. He’s dying. Would Jimmy come and stay with him for a few months? So Jimmy returns to Holtville, the hick town where he grew up, deep in the Imperial Valley in Southern California, next to the Mexican border. His dad’s got one request: find him a whore he knew in Mexicali, Yolanda, and bring her to see him. Jimmy does. His father dies..... Jimmy and his old buddies soon find themselves butting heads with the Mexican underworld. But as his troubles continue, Jimmy learns something about himself. At the end, he’s on his way to growing up—maybe. VERDICT This is Shaw’s first novel, and it’s a good one. (It was a finalist for the 2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.) Aficionados of crime stories will enjoy it thoroughly.—David Keymer, Modesto, CA
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Top Customer Reviews
The book is divided into two unequal parts that are very different. The first is mostly about family. The main character, Jimmy Veeder, has returned to his home in the desert Imperial Valley on the Mexican border for one primary reason: to watch his father die of cancer. The two value humor over all other attributes and there are some laugh out loud yet poignant scenes as they go for "The Big Laugh". Big Jack, the father, has an unusual request and most of the first part of the book has Jimmy fulfilling this request. Along the way, Jimmy gets reacquainted with old friends he had ignored since leaving the valley a few decades before. Bobby, a white-maned lover of fisticuffs, is a great supporting actor.
The second part of the book turns into a quasi-thriller/mystery as Jimmy has to deal with the ramifications of fulfilling his promise to his father. This part is a little on the pat side, but still good.
Jimmy and his father are great characters and the scenes with them together are terrific. So also, is Bobby. Angie, the lost love, is a bit predictable. Mr. Shaw captures the valley and its working class populace very well. The book is thoroughly enjoyable. The first part (which is probably 75%) is deeper and more interesting, but both parts are good. The humor and dialogue are also very good in that they capture the characters interactions so well. This is an entertaining and at times touching book. Highly recommended.
I actually laughed on the very first page when Johnny Shaw described the desert and the desert hare. Buy this book, you won't go wrong!
I say Bluto goes to the border with John Belushi's character from Animal House in mind. Jimmy's a person who seems to bungle his way into a lot of mishaps, and his motley assortment of friends seem to pull his fat from from the fryer again and again. Whether its saving him from a kicking by a number of cowboys in Mexicali or backing down a maniacal Mexican killer on this side of the border, Jimmy and his friends, Bobby (with the white Elvis pompadour, Angie (ex-girlfriend he dumped when he left town), Buck Buck (don't ask) and the rest seem to rally to a guy who never did much for them and who seems incapable of surviving on either side of the border.
Like Animal House, Jimmy gets sent on a crazy roadtrip to find his father a prostitute before his father dies, only later to discover that his father has sired a son with said prostitute. The antics and chase scenes only accelerate after the discovery, and Jimmy's fat is pulled from the fryer again by a powerful Mexican criminal who creates pornography and sells drugs. This same drug dealer was a friend of Jimmy's when they were kids, and fortunately Jimmy was nice to him, because Thomas is unusually helpful to Jimmy, considering the trouble Jimmy causes by constantly trying to do the "right thing".
In the matter of only a few days Jimmy hires a prostitute, gets beat up in Mexicali, angers a Mexican criminal lord and re-unites with his old girlfriend and discovers a murder victim, only to kick off a completely new adventure including a criminal hideout for criminals smuggling illegals into the US via a power plant. Who says the border is sleepy or uninteresting?
There's a bit too much slapstick and too many fortunate coincidences to mark this debut novel as a five star, but Johnny Shaw has written an interesting, entertaining novel and with "A Jimmy Veeder Fiasco" as a subtitle, I wonder if there are more in store?