Author of mysteries for teens plans book signing this weekend in Farmington

Jack Yerby hopes his books give teen boys a reason to keep reading

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
Author Jack Yerby will have a book signing and reading for his new book "The Mystery of the Lost Will" this weekend at Amy's Bookcase in Farmington.
  • Yerby will have a reading and signing for his book "The Secret of the Haunted House" this weekend at Amy's Bookcase.
  • Yerby published his first book, "The Secret of the Haunted House," in 2013.
  • Visit jackyerbyauthor.com for more information.

FARMINGTON — During his long career as a teacher, Jack Yerby noticed some distinct differences in the behavior between his male and female students at the junior high or middle school level.

Girls of that age typically mature much more quickly, he said, and seem to place much more value on developing serious relationships. The boys, on the other hand, are still consumed with action and adventure, and blood and guts, he said.

Yerby figured that had a lot to do with another trait he had noticed among many of his male students. An awful lot of them, who had been avid readers up to that point, seemed to lose interest in books and largely quit reading.

He theorized it wasn't the act of reading itself that the boys found unappealing – it was the subject matter.

"I figured most of the literature for that age group was aimed at girls," Yerby said. "And I wanted to get boys back into reading."

Yerby recalled that he had loved reading at that age, especially the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys teen mystery series.

"When I was in junior high, I devoured those," he said.

So when he retired from teaching in 1997 and began a second career as an author, Yerby decided to try his hand at writing teen mysteries. His goal was to create stories that would appeal to readers of both genders, but he was especially interested in keeping boys in the habit of reading through their early teen years.

An illustration from Jack Yerby's "The Mystery of the Lost Will."

It took him many years and roughly 100 rejections from publishers before he sold his first book, but Yerby finally succeeded in 2013 with the publication of his novel "The Secret of the Haunted House."

This weekend, he will celebrate the release of his second book, "The Mystery of the Lost Will," with a reading and book signing in Farmington. The book is published by Crimson Dragon Publishing of Aurora, Colorado.

Yerby has a simple explanation for the enduring appeal of the mystery genre among older and younger readers alike. He believes it's easy for the reader to identify with the main character, no matter who it is, because of the "whodunit" challenge that is inherent to the genre.

"The reader puts themselves in the shoes of the main character trying to solve the mystery," he said.

One of the big differences between adult mysteries and teen mysteries, Yerby said, is the amount of explicit violence they feature. Adult mysteries almost always involve a murder or a series of murders, most of which are described in grisly detail.

A much lighter touch is required for teen mysteries, Yerby said, which often don't involve violence at all — and if they do, much of it is related in a second-hand fashion.

The biggest challenge he faced in learning to write mysteries was developing a plot, he said. Yerby found himself returning to those Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books he had read as a kid for inspiration. He wound up borrowing liberally from those narratives, he said, although he did take pains to update the stories for a contemporary audience.

"I gave the main characters laptops, cell phones and computers," he said.

Jack Yerby's first teen mystery novel, "The Secret of the Haunted House," was published in 2013.

Yerby also went to great lengths to try to broaden the cultural horizons of his young readers. The setting for his first two books is San Juan County, but Yerby hopes his books are being read by a nationwide audience. His goal is to acquaint readers in the Midwest or East Coast with some aspects of life in the Four Corners.

With that thought in mind, he said he make a point of including a traditional Navajo character in each one of his books. In "The Mystery of the Lost Will," for instance, the main character has recently moved to the Farmington area from Houston and is befriended by a Navajo character. As the two get to know each other better, Yerby fills in the details of their backgrounds.

"By doing that, the reader also learns a little bit of Navajo culture," he said.

Yerby's reading and book signing will take place at 1 p.m. Saturday, July 24, at Amy's Bookcase, 2530 San Juan Blvd. in Farmington. Call 505-327-4647 for details.

He will have a second book signing at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 7 at the Feat of Clay gallery, 107 S. Main Ave. in downtown Aztec.

Yerby's books also are available online through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Target, and they can be found at the local authors table at the weekly Makers Market events in downtown Farmington on Thursday afternoons.

Visit jackyerbyauthor.com for more information.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.