Iowa City Author adorns writing career with his sixth novel


Jeff Sigmund

S.C. Sherman reads a few chapters from his book as seen at Big Groove Brewery on Tuesday, March 11, 2020.

Kyler Johnson, Arts Reporter

Historical fiction, young-adult fantasy, spiritual thriller — genres with each their own markets and writing styles, and local Iowa City author S.C. “Steve” Sherman has dabbled in all of them. With the official release of his sixth book, Beer Money, on Tuesday, the diverse author adds to a legacy that extends far beyond simply writing.

Beer Money is Sherman’s first and only re-visitation to a genre out of his already published books — historical fiction. The novel zooms into an 1880s Iowa City, when the city’s so-dubbed “Beer Mafia” begins to clash with an ever-growing temperance movement seeking to install prohibition. While a tale of fiction, the story’s “mafia” holds names familiar to the city: Conrad Graf, John Dostal, and — perhaps the most familiar name to Iowa City residents — J.J. Englert.

In his words, Sherman’s fascination and inspiration for the novel were spur of the moment. What brought him back to historical fiction, he said, was the result of a total accident. 

Sherman said he stumbled upon a beer cave tour given by Doug Alberhasky and Marlin Ingalls while he was in town one day. The tour revealed to him Iowa City’s history with the “beer mafia.” 90 or so days later, he imagines, the story was well under way.

On top of his writing career, Sherman is a father of four and a realtor. He grew up in Grinnell, Iowa before taking wing as a Hawkeye. His humble beginnings in writing, he said, began at the University of Iowa as an undergraduate student. However, he said he never anticipated actually enjoying writing — let alone making a career out of it and jumping from genre to genre.

Related: Big Grove toasts 100th anniversary of Women’s Suffrage with new drink

“I never really set out to create a methodical career,” Sherman said. “That’s not what traditional publishers like. They want you to find something you do well,  and keep doing it.”

The now 49-year-old said that, post-college, he never really imagined himself writing, despite encouragement from his freshman-year rhetoric teacher. However, it was only over a decade after his graduation from the UI that Sherman said he began his first historical fiction novel, titled Leaving Southfields.

“Obviously I’ve improved a lot since my first book,” the author said. “Now when I read the first novel I wrote, I want to throw it away and rewrite it.”

Leaving Southfields focuses on a historical migration of puritans to the United States, a lineage to which Sherman said his family claims a connection. Sherman said he stumbled upon a lot of prior research done by previous family members, and upon the discovery, wanted to spin the story into a work of historical fiction.

“The story came from my great uncle,” Sherman said. “And I thought that was all I was ever going to do.”

With six books now published — and a seventh on its way — Sherman said that life panned out a little differently than he expected.

“If I could have a full-time writing gig, I’ve often wondered how much I could write,” the author said with a smile. “But who knows? Maybe it’d just be harder.”