While Juhle works, Hunt plays, hooking up with TV star and legal analyst Andrea Parisi. But before Hunt knows it, Juhle's case will be of great interest to the members of The Hunt Club. Especially to Hunt himself-as Andrea's card is found in the wallet of one of the victims.
About the Author
Hometown:El Macero, California
Date of Birth:January 14, 1948
Place of Birth:Houston, Texas
Education:B.A. in English with Honors, UC Berkeley, 1970
Ransom Notes Interview with John Lescroart
Paul Goat Allen: John, after so many successful Hardy/Glitsky novels, what was the creative spark behind writing The Hunt Club? And how fun was it to include Diz Hardy as a peripheral character?
John Lescroart: To answer in the reverse order: Including Dismas Hardy in a couple of walk-on roles was one of the most fun things about writing this novel. Having been "inside" Hardy's head for all these years, I just had a blast looking at him through new eyes -- Wyatt Hunt's. As for the creative spark, this one was almost a literal spark. In the middle of writing my previous Hardy/Glitsky book, The Motive, in the course of my normal workday I was writing what I hoped would turn out to be a fun scene where Hardy essentially blackmails his client's husband into paying him his attorney's fee. To do this, he implies that he's discovered an adulterous secret about the husband, and (here's the spark) he refers to an invoice from his investigating firm, the Hunt Club. As soon as those words hit my computer screen, I knew I had an opportunity to expand my horizons in the San Francisco legal world that I've been chronicling. And just as suddenly, I knew that the owner of the Hunt Club was a guy named Wyatt Hunt. I didn't know him then, but I wanted to, and thought my readers would like him, too.
PGA: In the novel's acknowledgments, you described the idea of The Hunt Club as "perhaps risky." Can you elaborate?
JL: Well, when you've been as fortunate as I have been with my "franchise" characters over 13 previous books, you know that your readers have developed sometimes very strong bonds with your characters. You know that they're waiting for the next installment to catch up on what's happening with their "old friends." And I knew that by writing about an entirely new character, I wouldn't be delivering on this kind of implied promise that I'd always previously kept with my loyal and long-term readers. That fact alone might make some of them mad. Worse, maybe people wouldn't like Wyatt Hunt and Devin Juhle. Finally, the book has an entirely different structure (including a lengthy first-person section, which I'd never used before in the Hardy/Glitsky series) and contains no courtroom scenes. So I was in essence jettisoning my main characters, my narrative structure, and my genre all in one new book. I thought this was, in fact, quite a bit more than "perhaps" risky. But as they say: no guts, no glory. I think it has definitely been worth the risk, and I'm glad I took it -- and I hope my readers agree.
PGA: You're known for your unparalleled character development -- and the complex and compelling character of Wyatt Hunt was no exception. How do you go about constructing characters like Wyatt?
JL: I must admit that getting close to Wyatt was a bit of a challenge. He had to be a trained investigator, comfortable with weapons, good with his hands, and I didn't want him to be the "usual" ex-cop (even Hardy had been an ex-cop), so he had to have served in the Army, better in a war zone such as Desert Storm, better still with the Criminal Investigation Division. I also knew that I wanted him to be charismatic, athletic, musical, intelligent -- i.e., an active character. It was also a bit important, having written about those two quintessentially married men, Hardy and Glitsky, for 13 books, that Wyatt not be married. I wanted a little of that romantic and sexual buzz in this book.
The one thing I wanted to avoid was the clichéd hard-boiled private eye. As with my other characters, I wanted to give Wyatt a "real-life" background that hadn't been done to death in other people's fiction. I've got a great, long-standing friend named Andy Jalakas, who had spent about 30 years in Child Protective Services in New York. Some of his stories -- removing children from abusive parents -- were incredibly exciting and moving. I started to think that this was the kind of work toward which a guy like Wyatt Hunt might gravitate. After I read a book that Andy had recommended, Turning Stones: My Days and Nights with Children at Risk by Marc Parent, I was sure that this was the life from which Wyatt had come.
But that left the question of how he got from Child Protective Services to where he is now -- owner of a private investigation firm in San Francisco. Trying to answer this question led -- and again, it's based on some of Andy's "real" stories -- to the kind of bureaucratic/political shenanigans that I love writing about and that make up the final chapters in the first section of The Hunt Club: bad bosses, political cronyism, lies, and power.
Finally, I also wanted Wyatt to have a certain sense of loss deep in his soul -- and for a long time I couldn't quite discover what that had been. But I knew it had to be the thing that had driven him to work with abandoned or abused kids, and that left him seeking love and companionship -- and one day it came to me that, of course, he'd been orphaned himself, shunted around in the foster care system as a child until finally getting adopted by a loving and caring family.
PGA: The numerous plot threads running throughout The Hunt Club were amazingly dense. There's a lot going on here. And considering that you're introducing an entire cast of characters, how much more difficult -- if at all -- was writing The Hunt Club compared to recent Hardy/Glitsky novels?
JL: We're being honest here, so I can say that The Hunt Club was the most difficult book I've ever written. For the longest time, even after I more or less knew who Hunt was, I couldn't get my arms around a story that seemed to take advantage of the disparate elements of his character. I actually started the book -- and passed the 150-page mark -- three times between September and December.
I had several problems, some of them technical. In the first place, I had a huge backstory about Hunt to convey, and I hate exposition and expository dialogue. I need things to happen in the here and now. I think that's what narrative drive is all about. So how do I tell Wyatt's backstory, which really has nothing to do with the actual plot of The Hunt Club, without it feeling tacked on, expository, or boring? Secondly, I've always written with a third-person omniscient narrator -- but now I was "free" to do anything I wanted. This wasn't, after all, a Hardy/Glitsky book. So I experimented in all of my false starts with different tones, voices, past or present tense, points of view. (I even considered telling the whole story from the first-person point of view of Wyatt's female secretary!)
Also, I had just a ton of very cool research about the California Correctional Police Officers Association (the CCPOA), better known as the Prison Guards Union, and I wanted to somehow include that in the story, as soon as I knew what the story was.
At last, it got to be the end of January. The book was due at Dutton, my publishers, on the following May 1st -- 90 days away! Was I worried? Panicked? Even slightly concerned? Somewhat.
So then I did what I always do. I stop thinking and recite the old mantra that Thurber's editor at The New Yorker had said to him: Don't get it right, get it written. I literally didn't have time for all the soul-searching and nail-biting. I knew I had all the material. I had to just try to have fun with it and tell a story that was intriguing and amusing, scene by scene. So I started fresh again -- for the fourth time -- and found that a first-person narrative in Wyatt's voice brought him to life on page one, and also kept him active, front and center until the day he decides to become a private eye. At which point, I switched narrative styles, reverted to my comfortable narrative third-person voice, tried to channel through the Sun God Ra, and wrote like a madman, finishing the book with two days to spare. Whew!
But if The Hunt Club reads fast and fun, that's because that's how it was written.
PGA: The book's conclusion is pretty open-ended. Are you (hopefully) planning on writing any more novels featuring Hunt and Juhle?
JL: Hunt and Juhle are already in my next book, tentatively entitled A Domestic Disturbance, which now has about 100 pages written. Hardy is in it, too. But none of them are the center of the action. At least so far. In any event, I expect that over the coming years, both Juhle and Hunt will have cases and books of their own, à la Hardy and Glitsky.
PGA: I have to ask: What's the status regarding the next Hardy/Glitsky novel?
JL: It's on the burner right now -- the back burner to be sure, but simmering away. I expect I'll start on it next September. For now, I'm giving both of these guys a chance to have some time go by in their lives, so that when we revisit them, there'll be some new and interesting surprises.