SIOUX CITY -- Growing up in Sioux City, Brad Carl said he was so obsessed with "The Hardy Boys" mysteries that he'd write his own versions of the popular teen book series for family and friends.
More than 30 years later and living in Kansas City, Missouri, he's still writing fiction. Only now, his influences come from "The Sopranos" and "Breaking Bad."
"Television series are becoming more like literature while fictional books are taking cues from long-running TV shows," Carl explained. "If you're able to create great characters, readers will follow them from through a series of books."
Continuity was certainly the case with Carl's "Grey Areas" -- a four-book series that focused on the mysterious Henry Fields. Hoping to start his life over again, Fields takes a job as a convenience store clerk in the fictional Gable, Iowa. Before long, danger, double-dealing and the DEA descend into the small town.
Carl said readers have compared the "Grey Areas" novels to Robert B. Parker's "Jesse Stone" detective novels and, even, a heartland version of David Lynch's cult TV series "Twin Peaks."
Indeed, he said reading the serialized "Grey Areas" is the equivalent of binge-watching a favorite TV show.
"I wanted to keep the readers guessing," Carl said. "What is Henry hiding? That's a plot point that continues from book one to book four."
Carl said he identified with Henry Fields' desire to start over. After graduating from East High School and Le Mars, Iowa's Westmar College, he became a disc jockey for Sioux City's KG95-FM for six years.
Following his girlfriend (now wife) Kristi to Kansas City, Carl said he closed the chapter on both his career in radio as well as his hometown of Sioux City.
"I went into the packaging business because I needed a job," he said. "Also, we started a family when our daughter Presley was born."
However, Carl never really lost his love of literature. He's a fan of David Baldacci, Clive Cussler and James Patterson.
Plus he never lost his desire to write.
Originally, Carl began self-publishing books for sales people ("260 Best Inspirational Business Quotes") before venturing into rock criticism ("50 Songs From the 70s & 80s That Still Hold Up").
Yet he said he feels most at home when writing fiction.
"I like writing dialogue that brings characters to life while I prefer to keep the setting a bit murkier," Carl explained. "I want readers to paint their own picture."
After all, this was how Carl discovered a knack for writing updated versions of classic "Hardy Boys" tales.
It's also a trait he'd like to pass down to his 9-year-old daughter Presley.
"I've already made sure that Presley has a library of 'Nancy Drew' books," Carl said. "Presley may never discover a love of writing like dad but at least she'll see that reading is fun as well."