August Snow, a fictional Detroit detective that sprang from the imagination of Farmington Hills writer Stephen Mack Jones, has been tapped for a TV series on ABC, produced by and starring Keegan-Michael Key.
“August Snow” is the first novel for Jones, who is also a poet and an award-winning playwright.
Published in 2018, the book was an instant success, winning several awards including the Nero Award for excellence in the mystery genre and the Hammett Prize for Crime Fiction. The second in the series, “Lives Laid Away,” was published in 2019, and the third, “Dead of Winter,” will be available starting May 4.
But awards and a TV series were the furthest thing from Jones’ mind when he created the detective several years ago.
“I was between jobs…so essentially I was at home, helping to raise my son while my wife worked,” he said. “But when everybody was out of the house, what was there left for me to do? So, I decided to tell myself a story. It was something I used to do with my kids and I missed it, so I just sat down and started telling myself a story.”
As a longtime fan of crime fiction, Jones said it made sense that the story would feature a detective. He chose Mexicantown in Southwest Detroit as the setting.
“In my years of reading (crime fiction), I never saw anyone that resembled me…leading the story,” he said. “I’ve worked and lived in Detroit for 40-something years, (so) my thought was to take Detroit’s two largest minorities…and combine them.” August Snow is half African-American and half Mexican-American.
While set in Mexicantown, the series features numerous Detroit-area landmarks that readers will recognize, including Farmington’s own Silver Dairy.
Why August Snow?
One of the most common questions Jones said he gets asked about his books is how he chose the name August Snow.
“I actually came up with the name mowing the lawn…and two words settled on my brain – August and snow,” he said. “And I laughed it off – it doesn’t snow in August! (But) the words would not leave me alone. They stayed there for a couple of days, a week. By about the second week, I thought, well, I have to do something about this.”
Praise for Key
Jones is thrilled that Keegan-Michael Key will star in the series.
“That is fantastic – one, because he is an extraordinary talent…and two, he’s a Detroiter, so he’s knows Detroit,” he said. Key grew up in Southfield and graduated from the University of Detroit-Mercy.
Jones said he first met the Key in 1982 when the actor auditioned for a play that Jones had written and was being produced at the Attic Theatre in Detroit. Key was only 16 at the time.
“(T)he play was about African-American Vietnam veterans and here we had a 16-year-old kid standing in front of us who, of course, did not resemble a Vietnam veteran because of his youth,” Jones said. Key didn’t get the part because he was too young, but Jones said “it was one of the most dynamic auditions we had seen.”
Strong Michigan roots
Jones is a lifelong Michigan resident. He grew up in Lansing, earned a degree in advertising from Michigan State University and moved to Detroit after graduation to work in advertising, marketing and communications. He and his family have lived in Farmington Hills for 27 years.
Jones has served on the Farmington Hills Arts Commission, was 2017 Artist in Residence and started a Young Playwrights program for youth ages 7-12. Under the guidance of Jones and actor Ethan Kankula, the students wrote and produced a play.
“The students did a phenomenal job,” Jones said. “It was a lot of fun and I learned a lot.”
Jones will serve as a consulting producer for the August Snow TV series, but no air date has been set. In the meantime, he’s turning back to his keyboard.
“I am currently outlining the fourth in the series,” he said. “After that, I would like to take a little break, and I have an idea for a different kind of story, so perhaps I’ll try that.”
He’s been surprised at the response to his books, with fan mail coming from as far away as Australia. His first two books will be translated and released in Germany this year, and are available on Audible and in large print.
Jones said he is grateful to be living his dream.
“I am blessed that the dream has come true,” he said. “But it’s amazing how much work it takes to make the dream come true.”