Former Farm Broadcaster Uses Ag Plots as Crime Novelist

When you read a crime novel by JJ Gould, you notice three things: one, the author must really know radio and agriculture; two, the characters are compelling and unique; and three, there are not a lot of wasted words.

Jeff Gould was a reporter for the Linder Farm Network in Minnesota, and the craft of writing never left him.

“I’ve always loved stories. I hear a good story, and I never forget it. And believe me, I heard a lot of good stories when I was a farm broadcaster. I remember an ASCS agent telling me about a grain inspector who was trying to poke a hole through some crusted grain at an elevator. Turns out, the elevator was empty, and he was walking around on a layer of molded crust two hundred feet above an empty elevator floor. I heard that story and thought ‘Yes, that would make a great plot feature.’”

In a happenstance meeting, Gould was sitting next to an author who was on the way to meet her editor in New York. Her interest in Gould’s stories got him hooked on the idea of writing.

“She told me two things that were compelling. The first was that the average author writes about 300 words a day. Any radio guy can tell you that a 30-second spot is 90 words, which means an author is only writing three and a half spots a day. Heck, I could do that like falling off a log. And the second thing was that a book is about 65,000 words. So I did the math and figured I could write a book in about 120 days … so I did it!” Dead Air was released to Amazon in 2016. “I wasn’t really focused on marketing it. I just liked writing it. I really thought I was done writing.”

But the characters wouldn’t leave him alone.

“I grew to like the characters. I kept thinking about them, wondering what happened after the novel was over.”

This led to three other novels: Dead Heat, Dead End, and Dead Line. All the novels take place in rural South Dakota, all four novels feature radio stations, and all four have compelling, often dangerous and often funny characters.

“I get compared a lot to John Grisham, Louis L’amour, and Elmore Leonard. I like dialogue, and that is what drives my scenes and characters. But I get my pacing from radio, definitely.”

Years as a farm reporter and even more years as a copywriter taught Gould the importance of editing and informs his process.

“I treat each chapter like it’s a copy assignment. I pick a character, figure out what other character they will confront, and then simply write down what they say to each other. When the chapter is finished, I ask myself, ‘What needs to happen next?’ and that tells me what the next chapter needs to be and who needs to be in it. I start on Ash Wednesday and write furiously until July. Then I go back and chop away, adding details that are needed and chopping unimportant stuff. Then about August, I go through a three-month process with my editor and publisher, getting it ready for a holiday release.”

Gould finds the task of writing and publishing challenging.

“I’ll be honest. I wrote these four books to please myself and friends and then asked my editor, ‘Do you really think these are good?’ She said yes and then recommended a publicist to help get the books to a wider audience. In late December, we issued Dead Heat to the English-speaking foreign market — namely, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and India. Things have been taking off ever since.”

Ultimately, Gould wants to carve out a niche for himself as a professional writer.

“Most of my income comes as a professional speaker; and, as I learned from COVID, like a farmer, I need to diversify my operation to weather dips in the industry. For me to have the ability to take a slow time in speaking and generate a book that continues to sell and generate income — that’s a smart idea.

“The book industry is content-driven. The more books you’ve written, the more titles sell as readers find out about you and then pick up all your books, and that snowballs into greater and greater income. Right now, I have two more books in my head that are writing themselves, waiting for a time for me to put them down on paper.”

Gould’s books are all available through Amazon (search JJ Gould) or through his website,