Guest Post with Len Joy - Dry Heat

Photo Content from Len Joy

Len Joy is the author of four books that have have received shining reviews and several awards. "Everyone Dies Famous," published in 2020 won 1st Prize in the 2020 Top Shelf Book Awards and was described by Kirkus as ". . .a striking depiction of small-town America at the dawn of the 21st century." NY Times bestselling author Kevin Wilson described it as "A clear-eyed examination of how we live in an uncertain world. . . .In clear prose, Joy does real work here. I'm grateful for it." His first novel, American Past Time, published in 2014 took 1st Prize in the Top Shelf Book Awards in 2019 for Fiction and was described by Kirkus as ". . .expertly written and well-crafted." His second novel, Better Days was a finalist in the Indie Excellence Book Awards in 2019 and described by Foreword Reviews as "A bighearted, wry, and tender novel that focuses on love and loyalty.

Len is a nationally ranked triathlete and competed internationally representing the United States as part of TEAM USA. He lives in Evanston, Illinois with his wife, Suzanne.


In my first novel, American Past Time, the main character, Dancer Stonemason, is a minor league baseball player in the 1950s who pitches a perfect game that ends up costing him his chance to make it to the major leagues. The novel covers the twenty years after the cheering stops as Dancer struggles to find his way in postwar America. My third novel, Everyone Dies Famous, picks up Dancer’s story thirty years later, with Dancer a grief-stricken old man, trying to come to grips with the death of his son. In my second novel, Better Days, the main character, Darwin Burr, has coasted through life on the fading memory of high school heroics. But when his boyhood vanishes, he risks everything to save him.

My new novel, Dry Heat, is the story of Joey Blade, All-American high school football player. On the day Joey turns 18, he learns his ex-girlfriend is pregnant, is betrayed by his new girlfriend, and is arrested for the attempted murder of two police officers.

I was a good high school athlete in a small town back in the day when it was possible to play three sports. I have always been interested in the life lived after the crowds have all gone home. In my novels, Dancer struggled, Darwin coasted and Joey went to prison.

Put simply, I am following that adage, to “write what you know.” I understand athletes, the rush of having a crowd cheer for you, the wistfulness of no longer being able to do something that you loved, the challenge of moving on and growing up.

Dry Heat is set in Phoenix during the period from 1999 to 2014. Joey Blade, is an All-American high school football star, planning to attend the University of Arizona on a football scholarship in the fall. His family owns the largest engine rebuilder in the southwest.

In 1988 I bought a large engine rebuilder in Phoenix and for the next fifteen years I operated that business with my brother-in-law. On a summer evening in 1996, the son of one of my employees was riding in a car with two other boys and they were involved in a road rage incident with another vehicle. One of the boys fired a gun at the other car. It turned out that the driver of the other vehicle, who had instigated the confrontation, was an off-duty cop. They were all arrested, but the other two disappeared before their trial and my friend’s son was the only one prosecuted. He was looking at twenty years in prison if he lost at trial, so he took a plea deal for three years. One foolish mistake and his life was changed forever.

In my novel, on the day Joey Blade turns 18, he learns his ex-girlfriend is pregnant, is betrayed by his new girlfriend, and after a road rage incident where he is the innocent bystander, he is arrested for the attempted murder of two police officers.

It is not the story of my friend’s son. But that incident made me think about how easy it can be for any of us to have our lives turned upside-down in an instant. I imagined a character who had everything going for him and lost it. The challenge of the novel was not describing the incident or even the courtroom drama. The challenge was figuring out what Joey Blade does with the rest of his life.

I am a strong believer in what Robert Boswell’s describes as “The Half-Known World.” Boswell maintains that it is not necessary to know everything about your character. Let your imagine roam. Give your character the opportunity to surprise you.

It is important, of course, to get the details right. It was easy for me to recreate the setting of Phoenix circa 2000, because I lived there. I didn’t have any experience with gangs or the criminal justice system, but I had good contacts. The mother of the boy who went to prison shared with me her son’s perspective as well as her own. One of my beta readers is a criminal attorney and he helped me with the trial procedures. I found numerous articles and blogs on gang activity.

It is easy to get caught up in the research, but it is important to have a light touch. The goal is not to show the reader how much you know. The goal is to tell a good story and keep the reader turning the page to find out what happens next.

The day All-American Joey Blade turns 18, he learns his ex-girlfriend is pregnant, is betrayed by his new girlfriend, and is arrested for the attempted murder of two police officers. Then things get bad.

The high school bonfire is supposed to be the kickoff to a great night: Joey has just won a football scholarship and he's hoping for a sex breakthrough with his new girlfriend. Then his true love--but ex-girlfriend--Mallory tells his she's pregnant. He's reeling from that news when the bonfire explodes.

Joey, his new girlfriend and her drug dealer friend TJ, flee in her truck. When the police pursue, TJ shoots at the cop's car. It crashes and in the ensuing chaos TJ slips away undetected. Joey, the only adult in the truck, is hauled off to jail.

Joey is charged with attempted murder and released on bail. TJ is nowhere to be found. When Joey discovers that Mallory's father is pressuring her to terminate the pregnancy, Joey has to remain free to prevent that from happening. In desperation, he reaches out to notorious gang leader, Chico Torres, whom he met in jail, for help locating TJ.

When Joey is offered a deal--his freedom in exchange for his cooperation in nailing Chico--he faces a decision that will change the course of his life and Mallory's.

You can purchase Dry Heat at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you LEN JOY for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Dry Heat: A Novel by Len Joy.

*JBN is not responsible for Lost or Damaged Books in your Nerdy Mail Box*
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