Roger Johns rewrote his book at least seven times before finally nailing it down.
There was one part, however, that never changed — its setting, Baton Rouge.
“A lot of things changed in the book over the course of writing it… but for some reason, Baton Rouge just put itself there as the setting, and I never really thought about changing it,” Johns said.
Johns, the author of the Wallace Hartman Mysteries from St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books, will discuss his love for the capital city and his new book series during an appearance at Cavalier House Books on Tuesday, Nov. 6.
The book signing will begin at 2 p.m. at the Denham Springs bookstore, located at 100 N. Range Avenue in the Antique Village.
Johns will sign copies of his books “Dark River Rising” (2017) and “River of Secrets” (2018), two books set in Baton Rouge that follow the story of Wallace Hartman, a smart and fearless female homicide detective who must navigate around the city’s rampant conspiracies and corruption.
For Johns, writing the story was a chance to reminisce on the city where he spent some of his formative years.
A native of Alexandria, Louisiana, Johns moved to Baton Rouge in 1974 to attend LSU, where he’d earn his undergraduate degree in 1978 before graduating from the university’s law school in 1983. In between, he worked at the State Capitol for the legislative council.
In 1984, Johns relocated to Lafayette to start his law career but left three years later to pursue a degree at Boston University to become a law professor. His teaching career began at Eastern New Mexico University and included several other stops before ending in retirement nine years ago from New Mexico State.
Johns said he got serious about writing after retiring, something the lawyer-turned-professor dabbled in but could never dedicate the necessary time to while working.
“I could never seem to get the right angle on the first book [while I was working],” Johns said. “After I retired, I decided to really bear down on this thing. Some insights came to me, and it just really took off from there.”
Though the story changed much over the course of writing, its setting stayed the same throughout.
“That was my first time away from home when I moved from Alexandria to Baton Rouge, so that’s when the world sort of opened up to me,” he said. “Some of the most interesting experiences for me happened in Baton Rouge, so what better place to put a dangerous story?
“Plus, I just love Baton Rouge. I still consider it home.”
Johns’ writing accomplishments include being named the 2018 Georgia Author of the Year (Detective - Mystery Category), a 2018 Killer Nashville Readers’ Choice Award nominee, and a finalist for the 2018 Silver Falchion Award for best police procedural.
He belongs to the Atlanta Writers Club, Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and International Thriller Writers, where he is one of The Fearless Bloggers, and a mentor in the Big Writer program.
Along with four other crime fiction writers, he also co-authors the MurderBooks blog at www.murder-books.com.
He and his wife now live about 25 miles outside of Atlanta.