Friday, May 23, 2014

I Know I've Seen This Place Before

(Look above my head.)

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: This photo certainly proves it. Location definitely matters. See? My husband insisted he did not place us in the bookstore like this on purpose, but I bet he did. Isn’t it hilarious?

This is John Lescroart with me, by the way. One of the most brilliant mystery writers anywhere. I interviewed him for this 20th book—THE KEEPER--and he’s fantastic. If you don’t know him, he writes the Dismas Hardy books, and pretty much invented the sort of—domestic legal thriller/mystery. You know? Where the sleuth has a family that he loves,  a wonderful daughter and a wife he adores, and good dear friends--and problems. Not huge ones, but the day to day little things that can make our live misera—I mean, interesting.

His characters are real people, and the situations are realistic—and his setting—San Francisco—is just as much a part of the books as the people.

We talked about that in the interview (here I am describing the moment I had a good idea in my upcoming book TRUTH BE TOLD),  and about his relationship with San Francisco—he loves it (except for the weather) and lives there part of the time. But  he’s very careful to make sure that when he writes about “real” San Francisco, that it’s accurate. He says—if he made a mistake he’d be flooded with complaints. (The “that street isn’t one way!” type of thing.   (Do you see geographical mistakes in books? What do you do when you find one?)

In my books, set in Boston, I try for the same authenticity. If I had the Red Line trains going to Newton, or the Mass Turnpike going north and south, or –well you get the picture. Real Boston has to be accurate Boston.
And it’s easy for my brain to conflate reality with the books, sadly. My husband and I will be driving down the Mass Pike and I’ll say, oooh, exit 17! Here’s where Jane was chased by the bad guys! And then I realize, no—I made that up.

John described the exact same brainwaves in almost exactly the same ways—he says he’ll walk around SF and say oh, here’s where a certain character in THE KEEPER was killed!

And that’s great, right? Because it feels real.  I’m now writing WHAT YOU SEE, which is about  murder that takes place in a little park near Boston’s famous Quincy Market. And since it’s on a public street, I’ve used the exact real place. It’s creepy, now, for me to go by the Mayor Curley statue. I think—ooh, this is where my book begins! And I almost believe it’s true. 

When you write about a real place, does the reality of the place fade away, and be replaced by what happened in your fictional world?  

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN is the on-air investigative reporter for Boston's NBC affiliate. She's won 30 EMMYs, 12 Edward R. Murrow awards and dozens of other honors for her ground-breaking journalism. A bestselling author of six mystery novels, Ryan has won multiple prestigious awards for her crime fiction: the Agatha, Anthony, Macavity, and for THE OTHER WOMAN, the coveted Mary Higgins Clark Award. National reviews have called her a "master at crafting suspenseful mysteries" and "a superb and gifted storyteller." Her newest thriller, THE WRONG GIRL, has the extraordinary honor of winning the 2013 Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel! A four-week Boston Globe bestseller, it was dubbed "Another winner" in a Booklist starred review and "Stellar" by Library Journal.  She's on the national board of Mystery Writers of America and 2013 president of national Sisters in Crime. Watch for her next novel, TRUTH BE TOLD, on October 7, 2014.
Visit her online at, on Twitter @hank_phillippi and Facebook at HankPhillippiRyanAuthorPage.


  1. I see you on FB all the time! I like getting this insight into your writing.

  2. Thanks for this post, Hank. I'm a HUGE John Lescroart fan. Not only is he a wonderful writer, but also a very nice guy--and like Dismas Hardy, he's a fantastic family man... Cheers! BCC (Your hubby is a great photographer...)

  3. I was there that night..what an awesome night for me. Thank you both ...

  4. I was there that night..what an awesome night for me. Thank you both ...

  5. John, SO great! And he is marvelous. Thank you, so much!

  6. Book CLub Cheerleader--thank you! I know--hilarious, huh? And yes, I so agree, John is incredible. Such a terrific guy..and a real inspiration in so many ways.

  7. Nancy, hi! Off to find YOU on Facebook..thank you! Message me so I know who you are...and thank you!

  8. Hank, thank you so much for introducing me to John Lescroart's books. I'm looking forward to reading THE KEEPER.

    And Hank—the Mayor Curly statue is scary all by itself! I'm looking forward to reading WHAT YOU SEE!

    :-) Did you know there's an arrow pointing at your head in that picture?

  9. Oh, Reine, I know--that's exactly what I meant! Jonathan insists he did not do that on purpose... xoxo

  10. Hi Hank Love John's books too and am sooo looking forward to your October release