Novelist John Lescroart
makes new friends,
keeps the old
By John Lescroart
THERE I WAS IN 2004, 13 books into a bestselling series of novels set in San Francisco featuring attorney Dismas Hardy and his best
friend, Abe Glitsky. The latest installment, The
Motive, had just been released and praised in
The Washington Post as “a smashing legal
thriller that surpasses [anything] Grisham
ever wrote”—heady words indeed. I was on a
roll, with a cast of characters who, in spite of
their familiarity to my readers, somehow
managed to remain fresh and even intriguing.
The smart money had me getting to work
immediately on the next adventures of my
two well-known, well-liked heroes.
So what was I doing the next year, hand-ing my publisher an outline for a book called
The Hunt Club, featuring an all-new main
character, Wyatt Hunt, and a new cop sidekick
named Devin Juhle? And then, after The Hunt
Club came out last year and
spent several weeks on the
New York Times bestseller
list, what impelled me to
make essentially the same
decision again this year, and
to write The Suspect with
my first female protagonist,
Well . . . good question.
The simplest definition
of what makes good drama is the presence of
conflict. A murder or other crime, a disease, an
affair or a divorce, a move to a different locale,
a moral or spiritual crisis—when these or other
dramatic occurrences happen to a character
we care about, we need to find out how the
conflict gets resolved so that our hero can get
back to the way he or she had been before.
If all I needed was a conflict, surely
shouldn’t I have been able to conjure up
another one for Dismas Hardy and Abe
Glitsky? After I’d finished The Motive, I realized that perhaps I’d done my job too well.
That book drove Dismas and Abe to the limits
of their endurance. Threatened on all sides,
drawn into a case
from which there
seemed no possibility of extrication,
they managed not
only to survive, but
to attain a state of resolution, even contentment, that, frankly, took even me by surprise.
These two long-suffering guys were in a
good place, happy at last. Good for them! But
if I needed conflict for my next novel—and I
did—not so good for me.
Enter Wyatt Hunt, blank slate.
I resolved to make my hero younger, and
single. After years of writing about a couple of
(let’s face it) older, married men, I’d come to
realize that the opportunity for conflict is
inversely proportionate to youth and marital
status. We want to root for
Wyatt to be happy in love,
and when we meet him he
isn’t. He’s in (guess what?)
conflict. And as The Hunt
Club opens, he’s in a job
with an awful boss. More
conflict. As the book pro-gresses, his new girlfriend
becomes a suspect in his
cop best friend’s murder
investigation. And then she disappears! More
conflict! And more! Bring it on!
Before the story ends, the tension from
the conflicts all but bends the pages. Wow,
thought I. That was fun!
So this past year I looked in on my old
friends Diz and Abe and realized that they
were still hanging out, enjoying life, happily
employed and married—in short, still not
quite ready for a return to prime time.
And there, figuratively tugging at my
sleeve, was Gina Roake, who had appeared in
all my Hardy/Glitsky books, but who had
never carried a story on her own. As soon as I
gave her more than a fleeting glance, I recog-
The Lescroart file
John Lescroart, who has been
called “the thinking man’s
Grisham,” has published 16
novels since 1986. He lives in
Northern California with his
wife and two children.
nized that she was in so much conflict she
was about to burst. Her fiancé had died
three years before; she was still single; she’d
lost her faith in the law, which was her job; she
was trying and failing to write a book. What if
I gave her a murder case she had to defend
that conspired to play on all of her personal
demons, while putting her in tremendous
Her client, the suspect, is Stuart Gorman,
a successful writer, a man about Gina’s own
age. He’s accused of killing his wife, which
means that he is now single, too. And someone seems to have been threatening him as
well. And then Stuart decides to disregard
Gina’s specific instructions and . . .
I don’t want to give away any more of the
plot. Suffice it to say that there is conflict from
the first scene to the last, a full-bore dose that
I just didn’t see as possible without a new
character to carry the load. And in a little bit
of serendipity, because Gina’s been a longtime
law partner of Dismas Hardy, she also opened
the door to have Dismas show up for a couple
of large scenes in this book—and he was not
quite as content as I’d been imagining.
In fact, his home life seems to have gotten
more than a little bit away from him. And
have he and Glitsky had a falling out?
There’s silence from that quarter, and I wonder if it’s ominous.
Hmmm. Hardy and Glitsky. What have
they really been up to for all this time?
I’m sensing conflict. C
See The Connection’s Online
Edition for an excerpt of The
Suspect. Go to costco.com and click on
“Costco Connection Magazine.”