Book Club: Steph Cha and Joe Ide talk mysteries and murder

Authors Steph Cha and Joe Ide
(Maria Kanevskaya / Craig Takahashi)

Good morning, and welcome to the Los Angeles Times Book Club newsletter.

Los Angeles has a well-earned reputation as the capital of noir. And on Monday, March 30, contemporary crime authors Steph Cha and Joe Ide will talk with readers about what L.A.’s latest generation of fictional sleuths shows us about the city.

Join us at 7 p.m. as the Los Angeles Times Book Club hosts its very first virtual event. Cha and Ide will explore L.A.’s noir landscape in conversation with Times reporter Maria L. La Ganga. This meet-up will be streamed live from The Times’ Facebook page and on YouTube. It’s free — just BYOB.

Cha is the author of “Your House Will Pay,” a bestselling thriller exploring L.A.’s racial tensions through the stories of two families — one Korean American, one black — grappling with a decades-old crime. (Read The Times’ review.)


Ide writes the edgy “IQ” series set in East Long Beach. His latest book, “Hi Five,” finds private eye Isaiah Quintabe entangled with a murder suspect who has multiple personalities. (Read The Times review.) Ide recently tweeted a story from the Wrap about Snoop Dogg’s plans to executive produce a TV series based on the books.

What questions do you have for the authors? Join the conversation by sending them in advance of Monday’s meet-up to

10 questions for Joe Ide

Joe Ide lives in Santa Monica and published his first mystery in his mid-50s. His 2016 debut novel, “IQ,” received an Edgar Award nomination for best first novel by an American writer. He followed up with “Righteous” in 2017, “Wrecked” in 2018 and “Hi Five” in January.


In the New York Times, reviewer Janet Maslin calld Ide “the best thing to happen to mystery writing in a long time.” His fans include Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Michael Connelly, who described him as a writer who “takes it up a notch,” because “he’s reflecting on how difficult this place can be to grow up in and survive when you live south of the 10 Freeway.”

Ahead of Monday’s chat, Ide shared some of his current reads and other interests.

Here’s what’s on his mind right now:

Book for social distancing: I work at home and keep to myself under normal circumstances, so socially distant is a way of life. I’m reading “The Devil in the White City” by Erik Larson.


Favorite noir book: “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” by John LeCarré. Spy fiction is noir in another country.

Book I love to read again and again: If I had to choose one, it would be “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy.

TV show I’m binging: “Babylon Berlin”

Favorite music: Blues


Inspiration behind your current book: “The Three Faces of Eve” and “Sybil”

Something that might surprise people: I am incredibly incompetent at anything that requires real-world planning, fixing, building, organizing, maintaining focus or moving quickly.

Spending my days: Pretty much like I always do. Writing, reading, walking.

Next Project: IQ 5, titled “Smoke”


Theme song: “Cakewalk into Town” by Taj Mahal. It’s a cocky, head-bobbing, carefree little tune. How I feel on a good day.

Book covers for "Your House Will Pay" by Steph Cha, left, and "Hi Five" by Joe Ide.
(Ecco / Mulholland Books)

Quarantine diaries

We recently asked authors who are stuck at home like the rest of us to track what they do over several days of isolation. The first diary comes from Steph Cha, who is expecting her first child next month. She writes:

“I’ve been listening to audiobooks lately, figuring I’ll lean on them pretty heavily when I’m taking care of an infant. A couple of weeks ago, I put a hold on the first volume of Robert Caro’s ‘The Power Broker through the library — I own the paperback too, and figure I can toggle between them. The audiobook just became available, and [my husband] Matt and I start it together, another project to get us through these endless days. We’ve both been meaning to read this book for years, and so far, it’s pretty fascinating. We also start a 2,000-piece jigsaw puzzle of Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night,’ putting the border together while we learn about [Caro’s subject] Robert Moses.”


Keep reading her diary here.

Author Laila Lalami, who joined book club readers in July, shared her coronavirus diary too: “I dreamt that I was a decorative-art historian in Bahia, Brazil, and that I was showing museum visitors an antique Moroccan teapot. It was the most restful dream I had all week. Then I woke up and remembered.”

Steph Cha, holding the book "Minor Feelings," on the couch with basset hounds Milo and Duke.
Author Steph Cha sheltering in place with Milo and Duke.
(From Steph Cha)

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Foodie alert

This spring we’ll be reading “Always Home: A Daughter’s Recipes & Stories,” the new memoir by Fanny Singer about growing up with one of the world’s most celebrated chefs.

Singer’s mother is Alice Waters, the author and chef behind Chez Panisse in Berkeley and the founder of the Edible Schoolyard Project, which teaches kids how to grow and eat healthful foods. She pens the foreword to “Always Home.”

“My mom makes a chicken stock whenever she arrives somewhere new,” Singer writes. “It is the aromatherapy of my childhood, a smell intermingled with that of burning leaves or rosemary.”

“Of course making a chicken stock is something that requires getting a chicken first, and procuring a chicken is more easily achieved in some corners of the world than others, and certainly not at all hours.”


Singer and Waters are scheduled to join the L.A. Times Book Club on May 8 to discuss food and family with Times editor Laurie Ochoa. Stay tuned for more details.

Fanny Singer; "Always Home" book cover; Alice Waters
“Always Home” by Fanny Singer; foreword by Alice Waters
(Left to right: Brigitte Lacombe; Knopf; Megan Alldis)

Read on!

Book chats, distance dinner parties, virtual poker: Jessica Gelt shares 10 ways to connect with family and friends.

On a budget? In the past week, publishers and audio entertainment companies have offered a deluge of free e-books and audiobooks to keep readers of all ages engaged while they’re hunkered down at home. Here’s how to read for free while social distancing.


Coronavirus tips: Here are 50 skills you can learn online during self-quarantine. They’re all free.

What to watch: TV experts share the 51 best TV shows to binge while self-quarantining.

Hollywood changed “Little Fires Everywhere.” That’s what author Celeste Ng wanted. Read Yvonne Villarreal’s behind-the-scenes interview.

Celeste Ng, center, author of "Little Fires Everywhere," on the set of Hulu's adaptation of Ng's book.
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)


Help us get L.A. reading and talking.

The Los Angeles Times Book Club is your chance to help us build something amazing. It’s about much more than the remarkable books we read. It’s about coming together to share an experience.

Stay tuned for more events and conversations, and stay in touch. Tell us: What stories do you want to share? What authors would you most like to meet?