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In Black America Podcast: 'The Jones Men' with Vern E. Smith

On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. speaks with Vern E. Smith, author of ‘The Jones Men.’

When Smith suggested to his editors at Newsweek Magazine that they take a look at the devastating impact of heroin on Detroit’s urban landscape back in the early 70s, he knew it was a subject that would draw attention. But what he could not have fathomed that he would turn the essence of his reporting into a novel, 'The Jones Men,' or that sometime after that a determined producer–and Detroit native Woodie King Jr. – would convince him to write a screenplay based on the book. 

'The Jones Men' is a streetwise novel that chronicles the rise and fall of Lennie Jack, a twenty-six-year-old Vietnam veteran and mid-level heroin dealer itching to knock the powerful Willis McDaniel off his perch as the number-one drug kingpin on Detroit’s Westside.  

Born and raised in Natchez, Mississippi, Smith is a graduate of San Francisco State University, and the Summer Program for Minority Journalists at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Smith joined Newsweek as a correspondent in 1971, and was assigned to the Detroit bureau. In 1972, he won the Detroit Press Club Foundation’s annual magazine writing award for a Newsweek article entitled “Detroit’s Heroin Subculture. In 1979, Smith became Newsweek’s Atlanta Bureau chief.

John L. Hanson is the producer and host of the nationally syndicated radio series In Black America. It’s heard on home station KUT at 10 p.m. Tuesdays and 6:30 a.m. Sundays — and weekly on close to 20 stations across the country. The weekly podcast of IBA, the only nationally broadcast Black-oriented public affairs radio program, is one of KUT’s most popular podcasts.