DSU Dean Emeritus puts Local Spin on Murder Mystery

Eric Johnson knows how to put a unique spin on a murder mystery:  add some hot rods, a love of good grub and set the mystery in a small Midwestern town. The book Hamburgers and Hot Rods, takes all of these elements and gives the reader an adventurous novel with a local connection. The mystery takes place in Madison, S.D., the location of Dakota State University where Johnson taught for 36 years and served as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences for 21 years.

“The novel is set at car shows in South Dakota and Minnesota,” Johnson said.  “And that kind of stable, orderly setting is essential for a mystery to have a healthy resolution for the reader.” 

The story features Dr. Roger Strong, a professor who builds hot rods as a hobby and enjoys entering his 1923 Ford T-bucket street rod in car shows. When he learns that a fellow car enthusiast has been killed in a crash, he assists the local sheriff by investigating automotive fine points related to the tragedy.

The character of Dr. Strong not only has teaching in common with the author, but Johnson is an avid hot rod collector himself. He models many of the cars in the novel after hot rods that he owns including the 1923 Ford T-bucket  and the 1932 Ford Highboy roadster.

1932 Ford Highboy roadster 1923 Ford T-bucket belonging to Dean Emeritus Johnson , and which honed his knowledge of cars and car shows, both of which shine in his new mystery novel. Photo by Eric Johnson.


“Since I own cars precisely like those described in the novel, if I have a question about a hot rod while I’m writing, I have the answer at hand.  For example, when I needed to know the size of the bolt on a pitman arm (as a clue to the mystery), I went to my garage and measured the bolt,” Johnson remarked.

Hamburgers and Hot Rods will be officially released on Tuesday, November 26th with a book signing at the DSU bookstore from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.  The book will be on sale at local businesses including the DSU bookstore, Lewis Drug, Mochavino, Wild Goose Chase Antiques as well as online at Barnes and Noble, Amazon and from the publisher, Tate Publishing — plus all bookstores can order the book from their usual wholesalers.

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