Book Talk — I.Q. on L.A.’s Mean Streets

Having a book-review column is new to me. Although I’ve written an opinion column for the Tribune since 1999 and other pieces from time to time, having a regular column devoted to books is a novel experience. Pun intended.


With extra reading time during the pandemic, I soon found that I’d read all the books by my favorite authors. I started prowling through the online warehouse at Amazon.com, looking for new writers.


The process is different from browsing at a brick-and-mortar bookstore where one can flip through pages before making a decision. Purchasing a book by an author unknown to the buyer is something of a hit or miss situation. Fortunately, I’ve had a lot of hits and only a few misses.


In this and future columns, I’ll share them with you, beginning with Joe Ide, a crime fiction writer of Japanese American descent who grew up in South Central Los Angeles and incorporates his unique knowledge of the mean streets into his narration.


His debut novel, “I.Q,” was published in 2016, and it was nominated for the Edgar Award for Best First Novel. The book centers on Isiah Quintabe (I.Q.), an African American high-school drop-out who is the Sherlock Holmes of the ‘hood. He even has a Dr. Watson in the person of Dodson, “the hustler’s hustler.”


I.Q. takes on the cases that the local cops overlook or don’t care about, and he usually works for in-kind payment. Maybe a pair of Uniroyals. He solves problems using his powers of reasoning and logic, displaying an intelligence that would hit the highest levels on a Stanford-Binet test. But, of course, that talent doesn’t help when violence is involved. That’s where Dodson comes into play.


In “I.Q.,” Isiah has just enough earnings from various sources to handle the bills, but he finally gets a case that will pay real money. Black the Knife, a rap mogul, has been threatened, and it’s up to I.Q. to prevent his murder. I.Q.’s genius and his demeanor leaves the reader wanting more, and Ide has not disappointed.


The second book in the I.Q series, “Righteous,” reveals that Isiah, like Sherlock Holmes, has his own Moriarty. Perhaps he’s finally going to discover the person who killed his older brother. Perhaps.


In Ide’s third book, “Wrecked,” Dodson becomes I.Q.’s full-fledged partner who insists that their private investigation business become more professional. Isiah leaves the business end to Dodson while he gets personally involved with a painter whose mother is missing. Somehow, Mr. Ide manages to work a dangerous paramilitary operation into the plot.


In “Hi Five,” the fourth book, I.Q. has to deal with Christiana, a woman with multiple personalities. For me, the fascination with this offering by Mr. Ide is the process by which the protagonist assimilates clues from each of Christiana’s personas.


I recommend that you read the books in order. You won’t be disappointed. Enjoy.


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Jim Glynn may be contacted at j_glynn@att.net.