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'IQ' Combines Holmesian Detective With Southern California Streets

Author Joe Ide grew up in South Central Los Angeles and as a Japanese American in a primarily African-American neighborhood, he always felt like an outsider. But he found solace in Sherlock Holmes stories.

Now Ide has written “ IQ,” a book featuring a Holmesian detective. Isiah Quintabe, also known as IQ, solves cases for his neighbors in east Long Beach, California. Ide joins Here & Now‘s Robin Young to talk about the book.

Note: The excerpt below contains some explicit language.

Interview Highlights

On how the book relates to his personal experiences

“All my friends were black. And so I co-opted their speech and their style and their attitudes and pretty much all of it. And so in effect, the vernacular was my first language. And I practiced it everyday — I mean it was really part of me. And so that was really one of the easier parts to do.”

On how Sherlock Holmes impacted his childhood

“He absolutely fascinated me. Here’s this guy, who can control this world with just his brains. And being a small kid, in a neighborhood where walking home from school could be life threatening, I thought that would come in handy. And so I really obsessed over those books. I read them — all the stories and all the novels — multiple times.”

On his book as a “love letter” to the neighborhood

“That sort of facade, of being a kid from the ‘hood, really served me well. I came from a family that was Japanese American in a black neighborhood, and I really had no way to be in the world. And assuming that identity made me feel at least that I belong somewhere, that I fit in, and it was only a facade, but it really, in many ways, helped me survive when I was a kid. And so I have a real affection for the neighborhood… I look back with a deep affection.”

Book Excerpt: ‘IQ’

By Joe Ide

Isaiah’s crib looked like every other house on the block except the lawn was cut even, the paint was fresh, and the entrance was a little unusual. The security screen was made from the same heavy-duty mesh they used to cage in crackheads and bank robbers at the Long Beach police station. The front door was covered with a thin walnut veneer but underneath was a twenty-gauge steel core set in a cold steel frame with a pick-proof, bump-proof, drill-proof Medeco Double Cylinder High Security Maxum Deadbolt. You’d need some serious power tools to get past all that and even if you did there was no telling what you’d be into. Word was, the place was booby-trapped. A cherry eight-year-old Audi S4 was parked in the driveway. It was a small, plain car in dark gray with a big V8 and sports suspension. The neighborhood kids were always yelling at Isaiah to put some rims on that whip.

Isaiah was in the living room, reading emails off his MacBook and drinking his second espresso, when he heard the car alarm go off. He snatched the collapsible baton off the coffee table, went to the front door, and opened it. Deronda was leaning her world-class badonk against the hood, smothering a headlight and part of the grill. She wasn’t quite a Big Girl but damn close in her boy shorts and pink tube top two sizes too small. She was pretending to sulk, sighing and sighing again while she frowned at the sparkly things on her ice-blue nails. Isaiah chirped off the alarm, one hand shading his eyes from the afternoon glare.

“No, I didn’t forget your number,” he said, “and I wasn’t going to call you.”

Ever?” Deronda said.

“You’re looking for a baby daddy and you know that’s not me.” “You don’t know what I’m looking for and even if you did it wouldn’t be you.”

Except she was shopping around for somebody who could pay a few bills, and Isaiah would do just fine. Yeah, okay, he did make her uneasy, he made everybody uneasy, checking you out like he knew you were fronting and wanting to know why. He looked okay, not ugly, but you’d hardly notice him at a club or a party. Six feet tall, rail thin, no chain, no studs in his ears, a watch the color of an aluminum pan, and if he was inked up it was nowhere she could see. The last time she’d run into him he was wearing what he wore now: a light-blue, short-sleeve shirt, jeans, and Timberlands. She liked his eyes. They were almond shaped and had long lashes like a girl’s. “You not gonna invite me in?” she said. “I walked all the way over here from my mama’s house.”

“Stop lying,” he said. “Wherever you came from you didn’t walk.”

“How do you know?”

“Your mama lives on the other side of Magnolia. Are you telling me you walked seven miles in the heat of the day in flip-flops with all those bunions growing out of your feet? Teesha dropped you off.”

“You think you know so much. Could have been anybody dropped me off.”

“Your mama’s at work, Nona’s at work, Ira still has that cast on his leg, and DeShawn lost his license behind that DUI. I saw his car in the impound yard, the white Nissan with the front stoved in. There’s nobody left in your world but Teesha.”

“Just because Ira got a cast on his leg don’t mean he can’t drive.” Isaiah leaned against the doorway. “I thought you said you walked.” “I did walk,” Deronda said, “just, you know, like part of the way and then somebody else came and I —” Deronda slid off the hood and stamped her foot. “Dang, Isaiah!” she said. “Why you always gotta fuck with people? I came over here to be sociable, aight? What’s the damn difference how I got here?”

It made no difference at all but he couldn’t help seeing what he saw. Things different or things not right or out of place or in place when they shouldn’t be or not in sync with the words that came with them. “Well?” Deronda said. “You gonna make me stand out here and get heatstroke or invite me in and pour me a cocktail? You never know, something good might happen.”

Deronda looked down at her ankle, turning it to one side like something was stuck to it, probably wondering where Isaiah’s eyes were. On her dark chocolate thigh gleaming in the California sun- shine or her dark chocolate titties trying their best to escape over that tube top. Isaiah looked away, uncomfortable deciding for the both of them what would happen next. She wasn’t his type, not that he had one. Most of his love life was curiosity sex. A girl intrigued by the low-key brother who was so smart people said he was scary. That hadn’t happened in a while. He opened the screen.

“Well, come on then,” he said.

Isaiah sat in his easy chair rereading his emails. He was hoping he’d missed something. He needed a payday case but nothing here was coming close.

Hola Senor Quintabe

I am a frend of Benito. He tell me you are trusted. A man from my work is saying blackmail to me. He say if I dont give him money he will tell INS I no have green card. My son cannot stay for his school. Can you do something to help me?

Dear Mr. Quintabe.

Late at night while I am asleep in my bed, a man comes in and fondles my private areas. I know this for a fact because in the morning my nightgown is all bunched up and I have a funny feeling down there. Please don’t tell anyone as I have been ridi- culed about my suspicions before. Can you come over Sunday after church?

Isaiah didn’t have a website, a Facebook page, or a Twitter account but people found him anyway. His priority was local cases where the police could not or would not get involved. He had more work than he could handle but many of his clients paid for his services with a sweet potato pie or cleaning his yard or one brand-new radial tire if they paid him at all. A client that could pay his per diem gave him enough income to support himself and helped him pay Flaco’s expenses. “Dang,” Deronda said, looking into the fridge at the FIJI Water and cranberry juice. “You ain’ got nothing to drink?”

“Just what’s there,” Isaiah said from the living room.

There was nothing to snack on either. Deronda might have thrown something together if she knew a recipe for plain yogurt, some plums, a bag of trail mix with no M&M’s, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!, bread with birdseed stuck to the outside, and Cage Free Eggs, whatever the fuck those were. There was a complicated machine on the counter. Stainless steel, big as a big microwave with handles and buttons and a double spigot over a grill like a soda machine. A tiny coffee cup and a little metal pitcher were set on the grill. “Is this your coffee machine?” she said.


“You need a bigger cup.”

Isaiah kept reading the emails and tried not to think about Deronda, ripe and juicy as one of those plums. Reluctantly, he kept his Diesels zipped up. Not an easy decision. If he’d had sex with her he’d come home one night to find her three-year-old son tearing up the place while she watched Idol and ate the last few pieces of Ale- jandro fried to a crispy golden brown. When he told her to keep her clothes on she wasn’t so much put out as she was surprised.

“You don’t know what you missing,” Deronda said, “I be doing some crazy shit.”

Excerpted from the book IQ by Joe Ide. Copyright © 2016 by Joe Ide. Reprinted with permission of Little, Brown and Company.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

The cover of "IQ," by Joe Ide. (Courtesy Little, Brown and Company)
The cover of "IQ," by Joe Ide. (Courtesy Little, Brown and Company)

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