SUCH STUFF AS DREAMS ARE MADE ON. ..
Yeah, yeah…so I’m borrowing from Will – but I don’t think he’d mind all that much. I’ll bet he’d agree it fits John Hart. I mean, when is the last time you saw Pat Conroy blurb a writer? "The King of Lies moves and reads like a book on fire…an amazing new talent." And Janet Maslin? "There hasn’t been a thriller as showily literate as The King of Lies…since Scott Turow came along." And then there are raves from Entertainment Weekly, People Magazine gave him 3.5 stars out of 4! Even Barnes & Noble said – "Scott Turow meets William Faulkner. This amazing first effort by a former trial lawyer, John Hart, augurs a brilliant writing career-a relentless pace, emotionally gripping, and a beautifully written saga of a doomed family in a small southern city." And then, of course, starred reviews from Booklist, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and Bookpage. Well, actually, that’s not all…but I have to save room for the interview, right? But – I would be remiss not to tell you that John’s book has been selected as an Editor’s Pick by The Mystery Guild, a Featured Alternate by the Doubleday Book Club, the Book-of-the-Month Club, the Literary Guild and Smart Readers Rewards.
Pretty heady stuff, huh? How many debut writers would kill to have this said about their first book? Debut, hell! How many writers period! But seriously, don’t hate the guy. He has a lovely wife and two daughters, and loves dogs! Besides, he has a very charming soft southern drawl that just makes one…well, I’m happily married… but still… And did I mention a great sense of humor?
Come meet John Hart!
EE: So, John – now that you’ve joined the firm of Grisham, Turow, Margolin & Schaffer – are you going to throw away that sign you had in your office? You know the one I mean – that Shakespeare ditty from King Henry VI – ‘The first thing to do is to kill all the lawyers."?
JH: Kill all the lawyers? Who would buy my books? Actually, I’m pretty proud to be a lawyer. Believe it or not, it’s a great community. Shared experiences. Similar war stories. It’s funny, The King of Lies doesn’t really paint lawyers with a kind of stroke, yet some of my most outspoken fans are attorneys. Quite a few of them have gone out of their way to say that I nailed it. Of course, they’re referring mainly to criminal district court, which is a strange beast…you really have to see it to believe it. So, I’m still active in the bar. At the same time, I can’t say that I miss the practice. But I need to be careful. If book two blows up on me, I might be asking one of them for a job.
Attention to all lawyers in the audience! Don’t hold your breath waiting for John to send in his resume. It ain’t gonna happen. He’s locked into a contract with the above mentioned firm.
EE: Talk is, John – and I’ve got this from impeccable sources – that Mick Jagger said you could go along with the Stones on their new tour, but you had to pay your own way – so you wrote The King of Lies to finance it. Care to comment?
JH: That’s right. After I left the law, I ended up working for a major Wall Street firm, where I consulted on a billion dollars of other people’s money. The pay was unacceptable, so I went for the sure fire route of the thriller writer. Easy money. Guaranteed. So far I’ve earned enough to wave at the bus as is screams past my hometown on the interstate. But by the time the paperback comes out, I should own a squeegee: and I think that will put me over the top.
Uh, in that case…I wouldn’t worry about hangin’ with Mick just yet. Maybe next year?
EE: Gosh, after learning you won’t be going on tour with the guys, I almost hate to ask you about that ’61 Corvette. I mean, you must be pretty down about now, and I don’t mean to rub salt in the wound, but…
JH: That was a dark day. Candy-apple red, matching numbers, completely restored…and it flamed out on the side of the interstate after a freak accident. Melted to the frame. Backed traffic up all the way to Chapel Hill. I remember running down the shoulder and wondering, "Should I dive?" I guess cars don’t really blow up when they burn. Hollywood got that one wrong. I do have two hub caps, though, if anyone needs really expensive ash trays.
Ohhh…I really do hate myself now for asking.
EE: So John – rumors are rampant (I just love that term) around the Sundanceville that Robert Redford wants to play the role of Work Pickens but you turned him down because his face is too weathered. John!! You turned REDFORD DOWN??? Oh…I’m wilting here.
JH: I didn’t say that his ‘face’ was too weathered. I said his ‘ass’ was too weathered. I mean, come on, his face is perfect.
His what? Wait a minute. Work Pickens doesn’t strip in the book! So who the hell cares about… Well, anyway, you’re right about the face. He’s still to die over. I remember the day I met him. Stop laughing. I really did. It was…nevermind, my husband might be reading this. I’ll tell you all about it at Thrillerfest.
EE: Tess Gerritsen is gonna get a kick out of hearing you left med school when you decided you couldn’t do a cross-section of a cadavers penis. Bet you’re glad though, huh? I mean, you might have become a famous surgeon instead of a best seller. What a bummer that would have been.
JH: Actually, it wasn’t med school. It was pre-med in undergrad. But still, the same rule applies. Any job requiring me to saw off a man’s Johnson, be he dead or alive, just wasn’t in the cards. There is probably something dark and easily interpreted in that fact, either a metaphor or some quirk of mind that I would hide from most shrinks; but there it is. And my entire family history is built on medicine. A doctor father? Check. A doctor grandfather who was surgery chief at Duke? Check. Aunts and Uncles that could deliver babies, remove tumors and make you better than you were before (think Steve Austin)? Check. I don’t blame people like Tess for taking up writing. Tumors? Growths? Toenail fungus? No thanks.
But then again. Murderers, rapist, child molesters? I guess lawyers can’t talk. Bottom line, writing novels is pretty cool. Doing stuff like this is alright, too.
Good thing you didn’t see Tess’s mock autopsy at ThrillerFest! I covered my eyes during most of it! But look at it this way – you gave up toenail fungus to catch bad guys. You could say there is some sort of trade off here, couldn’t you?
EE: How’s your wife Katie handling all those women lining up at your book signings? You know what I mean (wink wink)…the Picken’s Chicks? I’ve been told the fan club is growing so fast, they’ve had to incorporate.
JH: E, my friend, if you saw my wife you would never ask that question. Suffice it to say that I consider myself a lucky man.
Ah, spoken like a truly smitten man. I love that in a guy. Really, I do.
EE: Okay, let’s get serious now John! This thing you have with beer and bacon for breakfast just has to stop. I mean, I know you Southerners have a different idea of healthy food groups, but really – this combo just won’t jump start your writing day.
JH: No, no, no. Beer and bacon is for dinner. You could never get through th day on that, especially not on the grueling schedule of a full-time writer. Why, I must sit perfectly still for as long as five or six hours a day. And then there’s the email, and the afternoon massage. And let’s not forget the need to sign all those royalty checks. I don’t know how it works for you, but I get a single check for each book sold. Why, just last week, I must have cashed seven or eight. And two people wanted autographs. Two! I mean, come on. There needs to be limits. I need at least ninety minutes for a nap. Two hours for coffee at Starbucks. Then there are the groupies. They have to be dealt with. My five year old has a school teacher right? And she asked me to sign a permission form for a field trip. Come on. Permission form? We all know what that really means. So I told her I was married, and that seemed to handle the problem. Now the principal is there every day when I come for my baby girl. I guess that teacher needs the moral support, you know? Just to keep her within limits. So, no, beer and bacon just won’t cut it for breakfast. I generally stick with bourbon and grits.
Royalty checks? You know some royals and they send you money? But, yeah…I can see how hard your days are. Whew. Glad I don’t have your problems! But, uh…John? I’d love to meet some of your royal friends. Maybe we could get together for breakfast? I’m good with the bourbon…but could we nix the grits?
EE: Talk around Lawyerville, John – is that you’ve broken the cardinal rule of ‘telling it like it is’ – and the boys and girls are gathering on the footsteps of court houses all over the country getting ready to march. How are you going to handle this?
JH: Are you kidding? The lawyers are rallying to my banner like I was William Wallace. Now there’s talk of forming some kind of professional group, like a bar, maybe. A state bar. And a national version, too. The American Bar Group, maybe. Frankly, we’ve had enough. We want reasonable compensation for reasonable work. You win a case, and then get one third of a million dollar verdict? That’s less than four hundred thousand dollars, which is just unacceptable for a hard week’s work. We demand more, and we’re going to get it!
Kidding? Me? Get serious. Listen Braveheart, I’ll run the bar, you take care of the dough problem, okay? We can make this thing work. Just don’t call me Kitty.
EE: Oh, John! I just got a call from one of your neighbors. Did you give my number? She’s in a snit and wants me to talk to you about your singing when you’re out on your hammock. She thinks it’s unseemly for a best selling author of your stature to be singing all those songs from Mary Poppins – and wants you to cool it. It doesn’t look good for the neighborhood. What do you want me to tell her? She’s on hold…
JH: Now you’ve hit the nail on the ugly side. Mary freakin’ Poppins, that good for nothing, nineteenth century London trollop! I don’t care if a spoonful of sugar does help the medicine go down. She needs to chill out, have a bad hair day. Something. She’s right up there with Shirley Temple and Cinderella. And don’t get me started on Ariel, Sleeping Beauty or that tramp Jasmine. I can’t get these songs out of my head. I feel like Jack Nicholson trapped in a long, dark winter. God knows what my next novel is going to look like. But I love my girls, you see, and they LOOOOOVE these songs. It makes me understand Prosac, alcoholism and vasectomies. Actually, not the vasectomy part. But the rest of it for sure. I have, quite literally, caught myself driving, alone and and singing, "So This Is Love" from Cinderella. When the bass pumping low rider pulled up next to me, I thought I’d hit new lows. Then the hot college girls pulled up at the next light. It’s not cool. Trust me.
Uh, John? You want me to tell her all that? Can I leave ‘Mary freakin’ Poppins’ out? Maybe the trollop description too? I mean, they like you now, and think you’re cool, but? This might backfire, you know? Tell you what, I’ll just say…well, I’ll think of something.
EE: Okay, here’s a tough one. What’s your Walter Mitty dream? I ask every guest that – and you’re not off the hook.
JH: This one is simple, and no BS. I’d be a search and rescue helicopter pilot. Those guys are just bad-ass. Can there be a better job? I doubt it.
And no BS from me either on this one. That’s admirable. And you’re right. True hero’s.
EE: So, John – which writer would you love to have all to yourself in a cozy corner of the bar at next year’s Bouchercon or ThrillerFest?
JH: Any of the authors who blurbed my book. It’s such a decent thing for an established writer to do for a new guy. I would listen to their stories, I would thank them profusely, and I would stand them to drinks from dusk until dawn.
That’s very nice. But, uh…I thought maybe you might say…well, I was hoping… Gosh, maybe I’ll wave as I pass by, okay? I mean, I wouldn’t want to barge in or anything.
EE: Okay, now that I know you’re not fooling around with choppers or sailing small boats across oceans anymore – so what would you be doing if you were not writing?
JH: That’s easy. I would be hating whatever job I happened to have. This whole writing thing may go nowhere, but, damn, I love it.
Get a grip here, John. Face facts – you’re in it for the duration. Get used to it.
EE: Besides Katie – who would you love to be on a deserted island with?
JH: My dog, Tom, who makes me laugh and would probably taste like chicken.
Very funny. What a sense of humor you have. I tell everyone I know that. He’s kidding, folks. Honest. He. Doesn’t. Mean A. Word. Of. It. Really. Really. Really.
EE: Rumors are running amok that residents of Salisbury, North Carolina are talking about erecting a statue of you in Hurley Park, but you’ve declined the honor because they want you to wear a baseball cap backwards.
JH: No, E. This one you truly misunderstood. You see, the book is set in my hometown of Salisbury. The folks who live there don’t want to erect a statue with my hat on backwards. There’s your confusion. They want to stand me up and kick my ass backwards. Big difference.
Oh, now I get it. Guess that’s what the mayor was trying to tell me. We had a bad connection. Poor man was shouting so damn much I thought…well, thanks for setting me straight.
And many, many thanks to you, John – for being such a grand guest, not a pain in the ass, at all…I mean, none of my guests are, you understand…but then…as I often say…I only know the best people and the finest writers. None of it has rubbed off on me yet, but hey – I’m working on it. And might I also add – congratulations for a stunning debut – and may the writing gods stay with you. Oh, if you happen to chat with one of them…mention I’m still on hold, okay? My ear is getting sore.