Joe LeValley, former journalist and hospital exec, writes 5 fiction books starring small-town Iowa reporter

Joe LeValley, author of five Iowa-based mystery novels in four years, didn’t set out to write books, but that’s what he’s been doing since retiring in 2018 from a 30-year career as an executive at Iowa’s Mercy Medical Center hospitals.

LeValley’s books are set in the fictional town of Orney, Iowa, and follow the personal and professional life of Tony Harrington, a reporter for the local newspaper, The Town Crier.

As Tony moves and sometimes stumbles from one harrowing experience to another, readers also learn about the economic difficulties facing small towns and local news organizations in the digital age.

The plots cut a wide swath. LeValley’s first story wound across Iowa’s political landscape; His second effort focused on human trafficking. Next up was a story involving organized crime, followed by a Hollywood-comes-to-Iowa murder mystery. His most recent book focuses on an unsolved bank robbery and murder that occurred more than 50 years ago.

Joe LeValley

LeValley’s protagonist is far too good to be working in small-town journalism where pay is low, a problem the author solves by giving Tony a backstory. Tony’s father, a successful novelist and screenwriter who teaches at the University of Iowa Writers Workshop, has created a trust fund to offset Tony’s living expenses.

Tony, of course, got into journalism for all the right reasons. He took the reporting job in Orney because he wanted to work with the newspaper’s owner, Ben Smalley, who was himself a successful big-city journalist and had won a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting. (Spoiler alert: Tony also wins a Pulitzer for his work in Orney.)

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