Clues to My Crime: Jordan Harper’s SHE RIDES SHOTGUN

Mystery Month 2017In “The Clues to My Crime,” authors explain the influences behind their latest works of crime fiction. In this installment, Jordan Harper tells us about what inspired She Rides Shotgun, named one of Booklist’s best crime fiction debuts of 2017, a book about an ex-con who seeks to punish the gang trying to kill him and takes to the road with his 11-year-old daughter.



HARRIET THE SPY: Harriet the Spy was the first crime novel I ever read. A lot of people wouldn’t classify the classic kids’ book as a crime novel, but come on: Harriet was a straight-up peeper, and as a kid, I loved the way the precocious Harriet lived a secret life on the fire escapes of Manhattan. The fact that Harriet also worked at being a writer also endeared her to me. So maybe it’s no accident that the hero of my first novel is Polly, a reserved eleven-year-old girl who hangs her hair over her face to hide her gunfighter eyes.


SHOGUN ASSASSIN: There is a mini-genre that exists within the road story that you could call “the outlaw and child,” which includes everything from Paper Moon to The Professional. The mini-genre was birthed (to my knowledge anyway) by the fantastic manga series Lone Wolf and Cub by Kazuo Koike, in which a samurai travels the Road of Death while at war with a Shogun who has placed a death warrant on him. But my introduction to the genre was through the movie Shogun Assassin, based on the manga, which delighted teenage me with it’s cheesy dubbed dialog, creatively-armed assassins and endless jets of blood. She Rides Shotgun is my addition to this lovely little genre.


BRAZILIAN JIU-JITSU: Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is a revolutionary martial art, one that took ancient Japanese fighting techniques and battle-tested them; today, a mixed-martial-arts fighter cannot expect to succeed without understanding its locks and chokes. Practicing BJJ also does wonders for eliminating anxiety: when your opponent is trying to get his arm around your throat, your everyday cares seem to melt away. I studied BJJ throughout the writing process of She Rides Shotgun, so I promise you this: when her father Nate teaches Polly how to choke someone unconscious, that is how you choke someone unconscious.


Sun O)))

KANNON: Sunn 0))) makes loud music. Punishingly loud. Slabs of guitar that are meant to fill your every crack and crevice with gorgeous noise, so loud that when you see them live, if you open your mouth, you can feel your uvula vibrating in the back of your throat. It’s not for everyone, but you come out the other side cleansed, like the sound shook the dust from you. I always listen to music when I write, and when I really need to shut the world out, I strap on my headphones and listen to Sunn 0))). I try to make my work as thrilling and invigorating as this music, and with She Rides Shotgun, I think I’m finally getting there.


THE CALIFORNIA HIGH DESERT: She Rides Shotgun covers a lot of ground in Southern California, starting in the Inland Empire and then heading to Los Angeles. But the book ends in the California High Desert, a place of harsh beauty, so hot and dry it’s like it begs to burn. I spent a lot of time in the hippie desert town of Joshua Tree while writing She Rides Shotgun, but most of the action in the book takes place in the fictional town of Hangtree, which more resembles the insanity of the Salton Sea and the wasteland around it. It’s as strange and scary a place as you can find in America, and the perfect setting for Polly’s final battle, when it is up to her to save the man who is trying to save her.


Jordan Harper was born and educated in Missouri. He has been a music journalist, film critic, and TV writer. He lives in Los Angeles.



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