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A farm boy turned novelist.

Photo of Richard Hoyt by Teresa Hoyt

So here I am, a farm boy who has strayed way, way off the expected path of a kid who had a renovated chicken coop as a bedroom and had to spring through winter wind and snow to an outhouse. Strange things happen.

I've written more than two dozen mysteries and thrillers with a novel of magical realism, a novel of speculative fiction and an historical romance thrown in for good measure. I think a novel should be fun to read. These are entertainments, after all. I don't confuse myself Proust or Dostoevsky or somebody. My stories typically imaginative and off-beat, given to irony with a soupçon of the sardonic. In reviewing my novels reviewers have mentioned Thomas Pyncheon twice and once in a novel that I published under a pseudonym. Dunno what that says. The New York Times put three of my novels on its year's end list of notable books and Mystery Scene Magazine named one of my books the best espionage novel of the year.

Writing entertaining stories is the art of what comes next. What came next for my story was unexpected for a farm boy. I was the first member of my extended family to go to college. I served as a counterintelligence agent for the army and in time I was a reporter for both of the daily newspapers in Honolulu, was a correspondent for Newsweek magazine and earned a PhD in American studies for the University of Hawaii. I taught at the University of Maryland and later for Lewis and Clark College in Portland. I lived worked for periods in Negril, Jamaica; Bray, Ireland; Torquay, southern England; Amsterdam; Seville; Lagos, Portugal; Sao Paulo; San Ignacio, Belize; Tangier; Hong Kong; and on the islands of Negros, Mindanao, and Cebu in the Philippines. I rode trains across the Soviet Union and riverboats from the headwaters of the Amazon to the Atlantic.

I've been married to Tessie, a Filipina from Cebu City, for more than 20 years. She's a terrific wife. I'm a lucky man. We have a daughter Teresa, a graduate of Washington State University-Vancouver, and I have a daughter Laura from a previous marriage. Laura works as a production assistant for Hollywood movies and television series.

Here's a quick introduction to my books:

John Denson, a private detective from the Pacific Northwest, a laid-back flake, is the first-person narrator of Decoys, 30 for a Harry, The Siskiyou Two-Step (Siskiyou in paperback editions), Fish Story, Whoo?, Bigfoot, Snake Eyes, The Weatherman’s Daughters, and Pony Girls.

The pot-smoking, wok-toting James Burlane, sometimes working under the nom de guerre of Maj. M. Sidarius Khartoum, is the protagonist of eight international thrillers that I wrote in the third person. These include Trotsky’s Run, Head of State, The Dragon Portfolio, Siege, Marimba, Red Card, Japanese Game, and Tyger, Tyger! The Manna Enzyme is classified as science fiction.

Cool Runnings (nothing to do with the movie about Jamaican bobsledders) is black humor. Jim Quint, the writer hero of Cool Runnings, reappears in Vivienne, in which a love triangle among a Honolulu newspaper reporter, a beautiful Vietnamese woman and an army officer is a metaphor for the Vietnam War.

Darwin’s Secret, set on Amazon riverboats, is a novel of magical realism featuring a lost utopia, XuXu.

Old Soldiers Sometimes Lie is a fictional inquiry into post World War II history and the issue of gold stolen by Japanese soldiers.

Sonja’s Run is a romantic adventure set in Russia, the Urals and the Asian steppe in 1855.

I wrote two novels under the nom de plume of Nicholas van Pelt, The Mongoose Man and Stomp, the latter being a novel of existentialism set in 1957 in Umatilla, Oregon, the small town where he grew up.

Here are some sample reviews:

(Cool Runnings was published before the movie about Jamaican bobsledders.The titles are the same but the novel and the movie are totally unrelated.)

Trotsky’s Run

“Trotsky’s Run is stunner–superbly written, brilliantly plotted… A potent package. Put this book at the top of your list.” The New York Times

Cool Runnings

“…skillful, intelligent light reading. It’s a clever, sophisticated, and witty send-up of just about everything worth sending up these days…” Jonathan Yardley in the Washington Post Book World.

“This is a book that defies any category, but it is brilliant, sensitive, and altogether unusual. Does for espionage and terrorism what Joseph Heller’s Catch 22 did for war.” The New York Times

The Dragon Portfolio

“Damned near perfect.” Kirkus starred review.

“This stratospheric tale is ribald entertainment on the grand scale.” Publisher’s Weekly

“A wildly wicked yarn about Asian politics, power and high finance. It’s worth ten routine cloak-and-swagger dramas.” New York Daily News


“Hoyt knows the political intricacies of the drug trade and its roots in Central America. He knows Miami, down to the…warm night breezes. He also knows how to construct a thriller. Marimba is a wild ride into Carl Hiassen territory, dark and nasty, with a dose of…casual evil added to the mix… Expert storytelling.” George Pelecanos, WashingtonPost Book World

“A superior (thriller)…with an amoral family that will chill the blood…double-dealing federal drug agents and nonstop action…” The New York Times

“A full-fledged member of the Wambaugh/​Leonard/​Westlake school of crime. Hoyt is a delight to discover and a treat to read.” Library Journal

“Hours of creepy, cynical, sophisticated thrills. Hoyt’s rapacious Miamians will leave you gasping.” Kirkus Review

“Street-smart realism with a Thomas Pynchon-like view of an off-kilter universe…A hip primer on cocaine economics.” Chicago Tribune

Japanese Game

“Cultural shock measuring 9.5 on the Richter scale… A searing, fast-moving, sophisticated book, full of action and social comment. Very well written and will hold your attention from the start.” The New York Times

“Snappy, fast-paced…James Burlane is slick, tough and lethal…Hoyt is an adroit and zestful writer.” Minneapolis Star-Tribune

Darwin’s Secret

“You need prodigious energy, a wild streak and a madcap sense of the zany to write a comic adventure story that transcends such funereal publicizing words as prodigious, wild, madcap, and zany.” Richard Eder, editor of the Los Angeles Times Book Review.

“Darwin’s Secret—and what a stunning trip it is—is the best trip I’ve ever taken up the Amazon, Ross Thomas, Washington Post Book World.


“Hoyt’s offbeat characters are a treat, and his dialogue can be woodsy without lapsing into parody. He teeters on the brink of Hemingway-speal occasionally but keeps his plot rolling along. This is Northern Exposure in a sholder holster.” Chicago Tribune

“Denson’s independent, clear-headed, humorous, and compassionate spirit makes him a most sympathetic hero as he deals with Indians, loggers and conservationists alike.”Library Journal

“Hoyt has a fresh, invigorating style that grabs the reader immediately. He is a master.” The New York Times


“An entertainly cynical adventure story, this clever new series installment sends Northwest detective John Denson and his partner, Indian shaman Willy Prettybird, on the trail of the legendary Sasquatch…a fast, funny and deliciously crazy story.” Publishers Weekly

“When was the last time you read a novel about a detective’s search for the legendary creature known as Bigfoot? Hoyt’s characters range from slightly off-center to full-tilt bizarre, with the Northwest setting serving as a welcome change from the usual mean streets…One expects to enjoy real cliffhangers in a setting such as this, and Hoyt delivers. Mostly Murder

“This story is told in pellucid English, illuminated with clever poems, and garnished with a wealth of Indian lore. The reader in search of a novel that is really novel look no further.” Rapport

Red Card

“Simple in concept but complex in execution, simultaneously violent and graceful…Hoyt has a clean, clear style and is adept at mixing the mundane and the insane…fine writing…” Mystery News.

“A fine book…Hoyt has a fresh invigorating style that grabs the reader immediately…The author has even devised a method of murder never before used in the history of crime fiction.” The New York Times


“Richard Hoyt is an expert writer,” The New York Times.

30 for a Harry

“His writing…is as good as it was on Decoys. This is really a grand job.” The New York Times

Fish Story

“Mr. Hoyt gives good measure.” The New Yorker

“A neat job, up to the high standard previously established by Mr. Hoyt.”New York Times

The Manna Enzyme

“This is a work of truly admirable originality. The satire is masterful. There is compassion too, and black humor, and the plot is laid out in all its intricacies by a master storyteller. I was reminded…of Aldous Huxley and Raymond Chandler, to whose talents Mr. Hoyt adds his own remarkable gifts. A splendid work then…a book to rejoice over.” Leonard Wibberly, author of The Mouse That Roared.

Tyger! Tyger!

“Authentic, deeply disturbing, and likely to make one think more than twice about the efficacy of ancient Chinese healing.” Boston Globe

Head of State

“Combing elements from Alexander Solzhenitsyn and John le Carré…a swiftly moving thriller that immerses the reader the reader in the Russia of the 1980s.” Library Journal


“An accomplished writer of thrillers…pens a powerful novel that re-creates the chaotic scene in Vietnam during the pivotal year of 1968. Seattle Post-Intelligence

The Weatherman’s Daughters

“Full of delightful surprises and envelope-pushing forays to the edge of the detective form, this book is as welcome and unexpected as a week of sunshine smiling down on the Pacific Northwest coast. Booklist