Renowned Mystery Writer Hy Conrad Discusses His Bestselling Books ‘The Fixer’s Daughter’ and ‘Sins of the Family’ (Belmont Star 5/26/23)

May 26, 2023

Hy Conrad has built a successful career centered around homicide, receiving prestigious accolades such as the 2022 Independent Press Award for Best Mystery for “The Fixer’s Daughter” and the 2022 NYC Big Book Awards for Best Mystery Series for both “The Fixer’s Daughter” and “Sins of the Family.” Additionally, Conrad’s novel “Mr. Monk Helps Himself” earned him a Scribe Award for Best Novel, and he secured three Edgar nominations from the Mystery Writers of America for his work on the “Monk” TV series. Throughout his journey, Conrad has created an array of captivating games and interactive films, penned numerous short stories, and authored twelve books featuring solvable mysteries, which have been translated into more than 15 languages. Notably, Conrad’s notable contributions include serving as a writer/co-executive producer for the groundbreaking TV series “Monk” for eight seasons. He has also worked on other notable shows such as “White Collar” and “The Good Cop.”

He splits his time between Vermont and Key West with his husband and miniature schnauzers.

Your “Mr. Monk” book series is based on the popular TV show. How did you approach capturing the essence of the characters and translating them into the literary world?

After the Monk series ended, I went over to the Monk book side. By that time, the template had already been set by Lee Goldberg, the man who wrote the first fifteen Monk novels. One of the challenges he faced was creating the voice and the point of view. Quite rightly, Lee wrote it from the perspective of Natalie, Monk’s assistant. Just as Dr. Watson brought us into Sherlock Holmes’ world, Natalie brings us into Monk’s. The problem with this is that we never get to take part in events that happen when Natalie isn’t around. Another challenge was to get Natalie’s voice just right. She never makes fun of Monk. Other people do that. She’s there to be supportive, even when he does incomprehensible things.

Monk has a dedicated fan base that appreciates its attention to detail and continuity. How did you and the writing team manage to maintain consistency in the show’s narrative and character arcs over its run?

Most of it was accomplished by having a great team of actors and directors and people on the production end. Andy Breckman, the show’s creator, has a lot of Monk in him and much of the attitude and tone came from him. Another part of it was consistency. Three of the original writers on the show stayed with it for the entire eight-year run. We knew the characters from day one. Three of our four main actors were also there from the beginning. Tony Shalhoub, in particular, had a terrific sense of what Monk would do and wouldn’t do. He helped keep us in line.

Collaboration is a significant aspect of your career, having worked on TV shows and book series based on existing characters. How do you approach collaborating with others while maintaining your own creative voice and vision?

I feel that I work best when given constraints. There’s a kind of creativity that evolves from working within someone else’s vision. Someone else, I feel, has done the hard job of inventing this world, and I can now devote my energy to making their world work. Occasionally, there is more to it, of course. For example, when we changed Monk’s assistant in Season Three, we were under time pressure and basically used already-written Sharona scripts for Natalie, the new assistant. But the tone was off. The viewers loved the combative play of Monk and Sharona, but giving Sharona’s brassy attitude to a sweet, petite California girl didn’t work for the audience. I think I was instrumental in deciding that Natalie had to be the sweetest, most supportive person in the world, and that the comedy would come from pitting this against Monk’s naturally self-involved nature.

Are there any authors or books that have influenced your writing style or inspired you throughout your career?

I love it when an author adds humor and a light touch to a narrative. P.G. Wodehouse, the British creator of the Jeeves books, was a big influence on my style, even though he never wrote a mystery. Stephen King is also a master of style. Perhaps I would place myself between these two giants – and also a few rungs below them.

Can you share any upcoming projects or ideas that you’re currently working on or excited about?

A month ago, I would have had definite projects to talk about, but the current WGA writers’ strike has put my film and TV work into limbo for the near future. A long strike can make almost any project change or even disappear, unfortunately. I can say that the strike is not affecting my progress on a new Callie McFee mystery, “The Man on the Bench”. It’s a book I’m really excited about. I’m also involved in bringing the Monk franchise to a Hindi language version and an Italian language version. I’m particularly looking forward to being on a Monk set in Bollywood and helping to make the defective detective work in a different culture.

Renowned Mystery Writer Hy Conrad Releases New Thriller Novel: A Gripping Page-Turner!”