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

Jun 22, 2014

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.