You may know Hank Phillippi Ryan as the investigative reporter for Channel 7 in Boston. But she’s also an award-winning mystery writer. Join her at the launch party for her latest novel, “Truth Be Told,” at the Brookline Booksmith on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Congratulations on your newest book! Tell me about it.
The short version? It’s a big, exciting, entertaining thriller set in Boston. It’s about a diabolical mortgage fraud scheme and a notorious cold case murder. And also about a reporter who fabricates stories. But here’s a bit more: The thing that makes my dual career as investigative reporter and author so marvelous is the authenticity and realism my TV experience brings to my crime fiction. I have wired myself with hidden cameras, gone undercover and in disguise, chased down criminals and confronted corrupt politicians. I’ve covered fires and hostage situations and disasters, and I know how the system works. I’ve had people confess to murder and convicted killers insist they were innocent. So when I get to take this real world—how it sounds and feels and how people behave—and inject it with imagination, adrenaline and excitement, it makes terrific crime fiction.
The reviews for “Truth Be Told” are phenomenal! And New England readers will get a special treat from reading it because so many of the settings will be familiar. Readers who enjoy Harlan Coben, Lisa Scottoline, Lisa Gardner and Linda Fairstein will like this too. I always picture people reading my book on an airplane and being disappointed when they get to their destination because they’d rather keep reading!
You’ve won numerous awards as both an investigative journalist and an author. Which one are you most proud of?
Now there’s an impossible question! It’s another thing that’s so interesting about my dual careers. I’ve won 32 Emmy Awards for investigative journalism, which is so incredible! And they’re all arrayed on a shelf in my writing room. But each of the Emmy statues is about a secret, right? A secret someone didn’t want you to know. A secret someone didn’t want me to tell you. That’s exactly what crime fiction is about too. Secrets! Winning Emmy Awards for being able to bring the public compelling and life-changing information is so rewarding. We have changed laws and changed lives. We’ve gotten people’s homes out of foreclosure, and we’ve gotten millions of dollars in refunds and restitution. I’m really proud of that. But to win three Agatha Awards for my crime fiction? And the coveted Mary Higgins Clark Award? It still brings tears to my eyes to think about it. I’m the poster child for following your dreams in mid-life, and my crime fiction awards prove how well it can work!
What’s your take on the future of television journalism with so many people turning to their computers for news?
I have never worked harder as a TV reporter than I do today. The pressure of changing technology means there’s much less time to get a story on the air. You’ve seen it every day—breaking news, all the time. So it’s all the more important that television news reporters be thoughtful, careful, reliable and responsible. I think it’s incredibly exciting that we also have the capability of turning to our computers for news. But the news content has to come from somewhere, of course. And the respected, reliable and experienced TV news stations are the perfect place for that content to originate. I also think it’s exciting that we can watch the news whenever we want. With the popularity of DVRs, we’re not forced to watch the 6 p.m. news at 6 o’clock anymore! All of us in TV news are aware of that. But our goal is to bring you the most important stories we can. How and when you watch them is up to you. Sometimes people ask me, “What’s the best TV story you’ve ever done?” And I say it’s still to come.
Who’s your favorite mystery writer?
Oh, I’m laughing. Impossible! Because Shakespeare, of course, wrote mysteries. And so did Edith Wharton. Those are two of my very favorites, and I go back to them all the time. Their works are full of suspense, conflict, drama and terrific storytelling. But Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of “Sherlock Holmes,” introduced me to my love of mysteries. As the only Jewish child in my grade school, I was quite a fish out of water, so Sherlock Holmes became my best friend! I’ll also confess that in 1980 I called in sick to work so I could stay home and read “The Stand” by Stephen King. What a storyteller! And Sue Grafton is a wonderful friend and mentor, and I would not be where I am without her. And isn’t it great that there might be an additional favorite around the next corner?
Four Questions is a weekly interview column featuring interesting people connected with the Greater Boston Jewish community. Find past columns here. Have an idea of someone we should interview? Email Molly!