Bestselling Mystery Author Hy Conrad Returns with Gripping New Novel, ‘Sins of the Family’ (Madison Graph 6/21/23)

June 21, 2023

Hy Conrad has carved a remarkable path in the realm of crime fiction, where he has honed his expertise in crafting captivating murder mysteries. This prowess has earned him esteemed accolades, including a prestigious Scribe Award for his exceptional novel and three nominations for the esteemed Edgar Awards from the Mystery Writers of America. Throughout his illustrious career, Hy has not only penned an impressive array of popular games and interactive films but has also crafted hundreds of engaging short stories and a dozen books of solvable mysteries, which have been translated into multiple languages.

In the realm of television, Hy Conrad is widely recognized for his influential contributions as a writer and co-executive producer for the groundbreaking series Monk, spanning an impressive eight seasons. He has also lent his talents to other notable shows such as White Collar and The Good Cop, featuring esteemed actors Tony Danza and Josh Groban.

As a novelist, Hy has left an indelible mark with his work, particularly through his contributions to the Monk series as the author of the final four books. Additionally, he has delved into the realm of Amy’s Travel Mysteries, captivating readers with this intriguing series. Hy’s latest enthralling mystery novel, titled The Fixer’s Daughter, is now available for readers to immerse themselves in.

What inspired you to pursue a career in writing, particularly in the mystery genre?

From my mid-teens through my twenties, I was a mildly successful stage actor. Then, one year during a summer stock job, I got the idea for a musical based on Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” and was foolhardy enough to write the book, music and lyrics. It wasn’t very good and played for only a short run in New York, but it got me established as a writer.

One of the show’s backers happened to be involved with a company producing content for laserdiscs. They were an early competitor of the VCR, but had the capability of playing two audios for every scene and could instantly jump to any frame or piece of footage on the disc. He asked me if I had any ideas for a project that could use this early form of interactive video. I thought that a mystery game might work really well. The players could call up any piece of evidence or see a video with a different soundtrack to lead them down a different path in the mystery. The result was the MysteryDisc, which was fairly successful and drew a lot of media attention. From that point, people would just track me down and offer me jobs. Parker Brothers asked me to work on some “Clue”-based mystery games, including “Clue VCR.” That led to more games and books and to TV. Apparently, I had developed a skill in tricky plotting. To this day, it pays the bills.

How did your experience as a consulting producer and writer for “Monk” influence your approach to storytelling in both television and novels?

Actually, Consulting Producer was the one title I never had at “Monk”. I began as a story consultant and, after eight wonderful years, wound up as the show’s Co-Executive Producer and the Executive Producer of the “Little Monk” web series. Being thrown into a room with such great writers taught me how to craft a scene and weave together a plot. Now, even in my novels, I use a movie/TV structure, seeing things as scenes rather than chapters. It’s now the way I think about everything.

Can you share any interesting behind-the-scenes anecdotes or memorable moments from your time working on “Monk”?

Now you’re asking me to bore you. But one thing that springs to mind is a story I often tell about the importance of being in the writers’ room rather than working long distance. One day we were sitting around the table, developing a story. I had a definite point of view about how it should go and, after an hour of arguing, finally convinced the team to do it my way. Unfortunately, I then had an urgent need to go to the bathroom. I was gone only three minutes or so, but when I returned, they had already jettisoned my concept and replaced it. There was no going back. I shouldn’t have left the room.

Years later, I was a consulting producer on “White Collar”, working long-distance from the other writers. That didn’t work out as well. You need to physically be there to have any real impact. I know that, post-pandemic, a lot of this is changing. But in my mind, it’s still crucial to be present.

What are some of the key elements you believe are essential for crafting a compelling mystery novel?

I used to be all about plotting the mystery – making sure all the twisty, unexpected pieces fit and that the story plays fair with the viewer or reader. That’s still essential. But “Monk” taught me that a compelling story needs to have a personal angle, a reason for the audience to care. A favorite example is “Mr. Monk Goes to a Fashion Show”. We had a great plot twist and a fun venue, the world of fashion, but we needed a way to get personally invested. Then someone suggested that Monk, who always wears the same brand of shirt, only buys ones that were approved by Inspector #8 at the factory. When the quality of Inspector #8’s work goes downhill, Monk investigates and finds that she’s been distracted by her son’s arrest for murder. It was a very cool way to get Monk and the viewers into the case.

Are there any other mystery authors or books that you would recommend to fans of your work?

A lot of successful mystery authors have a formula. You love one of their books and that leads you to the next. You, as a reader, want the same experience as before but slightly different. One writer who is forgotten now is Dick Francis. Francis had been a jockey and wrote racetrack mysteries set in England. His heroes were always selfless amateur detectives, often jockeys, who are never paid attention to or appreciated until the end. It was a great formula.