Interrogation—Joe Ide

Who: Joe Ide

What: He grew up in South Central Los Angeles. Ide earned a graduate degree and had several careers before writing his debut novel, IQ, inspired by his early experiences and his love of Sherlock Holmes. The second IQ book, RIGHTEOUS, will be released this October.

Where: Santa Monica

Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.

Congrats on the success of your debut novel, IQ. Can you tell us about the genesis and evolution of this story?

I grew up in South Central LA. My friends were primarily black and like most kids, my main aspiration was to belong, so I co-opted their speech, style and attitudes. I was envious of them too. We all came from struggling families and wore the same sad, hand-me-downs but somehow they managed to look cool while I looked like I’d jumped off a freighter from North Korea. I also learned to love the street vernacular which always struck me as a kind of poetry. The cadence, syntax, word choices and inflections. The endlessly creative slang. I listened to it like music. Although I was never quite convincing as a black kid who happened to be Japanese, I’ll always be grateful for that version of myself. The façade gave me a way to be in the world and not be afraid.

My favorite books were the original Sherlock Holmes stories. By the time I was twelve, I’d read all fifty-six stories and four novels multiple times. Like me, Sherlock was an introvert, a misfit and not a tough guy. But unlike me he was able to defeat his enemies and control his world with only the power of his intelligence. I grew up in an area where walking home from school could be life threatening so that was a very powerful idea. When it came time to write the book, all those elements came together virtually by themselves and Sherlock in the hood was born.

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