Spotlight on John Nardizzi – Interview with Author of ‘Telegraph Hill’

John Nardizzi is not only an author who writes about investigators; he is a Private Investigator himself! How cool is that?

He’s also a lawyer, and uses his experience to write. His debut novel, Telegraph Hill, has been receiving great reviews, and is definitely added to my (huge) TBR! 🙂

So, let’s learn more about him!

Please, tell us a little about yourself.

Photo on 2012-08-30 at 09.58Pleasure to be a part of your site Renata. I grew up in Boston and lived in San Francisco for a decade. It was in California that I started working as a private investigator and getting more serious about writing. For my crime novel Telegraph Hill, I based a lot of my characters on people I met while working as a PI: witnesses, cops, hookers, street people. While I was in law school, I represented people from a rough part of San Francisco called the Tenderloin, and spent a lot of time in this edgy colorful part of the city. Some of my research involved drinks, or ended up with me buying drinks at these old dive bars and talking to street dudes.

In California, I started to get published–poetry, short fiction and even a short film about some of my homeless clients. After law school, I started working for a well known detective agency in San Francisco. I got re-interested in reading some of the classic PI novels — Raymond Chandler and Robert Parker especially– and wanted to bring some of my real-life experiences to a novel.

A few agents were very high on Telegraph Hill but wanted me to slant it in a certain way. One suggested I make the protagonist an amateur. Which is ironic, of course, given I am a real PI–what was I going to do, write about a dentist who is a part-time sleuth? Then I came across a new publishing venture at They offered a great new platform for selling books and published an eBook version of Telegraph Hill. A talented artist named Aldren did the cover.

How long have you been writing?

I have been writing since I was 15 or so. Songs, poems, little biographical sketches of people. I was asked to write a biography of my soccer teammates and I would insert things like “led league in scoring and outstanding arrest warrants” and later I’d get calls from the guy, “Where
did that come from!” Just like to let off steam. Later I got more serious with it.

Do you remember the first story you wrote?

Yeah, it is buried in a box in my attic somewhere. I wrote a story about a piano and a young kid who dreams of being a musician. He becomes possessed by the music he plays. Twilight Zone stuff, I love that show.

 Can you tell us two eccentricities about yourself?

Eccentric–me? Everyone else around here is weird. 2 things I guess I have been told: I eat weird stuff like red cabbage, and pasta for breakfast. And I listen to music obsessively, the same album for 5-6 straight months in the car. Let It Bleed by the Stones was on there in 2012 almost exclusively.

What was the best thing you’ve ever heard (or read) from a reader?

That certain passages in Telegraph Hill have images that are startling and memorable. I like to hear that since I come at fiction from writing
poetry — trying to boil down the writing to hard, spare imagery. A lot of readers say they have a terrific view of San Francisco through the eyes of the characters. So I appreciate comments like that.

Do you have a good Indie author to recommend?

Yes, Thomas Davidson wrote a great thriller with awesome old school rock n’ roll references, it’s called The Museum of Sudden Disappearances. If you like creative language and humor and classic rock music, I definitely recommend it.

Who inspired and/or supported you to become a writer?

Reading J.R.R Tolkien‘s Lord of the Rings was a huge discovery for me as a young kid. Tolkien really lit the fire for me. And my parents always had books all over the house. They encouraged me to read and write, always took us to the library to get books. We were expected to read and be challenged. TV was limited, and while I resented it then, I appreciate that now.

Do you have a WIP (Working in progress)? If so, can you tell us a little about it?

I have 10 chapters done on a sequel to Telegraph Hill. I also have an agent reading chapters for a non-fiction book about some of the cases I have investigated, some big murder cases, cases involving con artists –basically what it is like to work as a PI. I started in this industry working for a flamboyant PI in California who said things like “No one leaves this firm, they either get fired or die.” So it was that kind of place. A weird corner of the legal profession that readers will get to see.

What is your favorite of your books? Why?

Telegraph Hill is my first full length novel so that would be it. I wanted to take some chances in the telling of a detective story, use language like Don DeLillo does in Libra, a novel filled with poetic riffs from a possessed mind. I stay true to the genre but readers are telling me the writing took them to a new places in San Francisco. Especially when the investigator Ray Infantino does interviews with witnesses.


What is your favorite of your characters? Why?

I would say the investigator Ray Infantino, since it is his journey. But my heart goes with his lover Dominique. She reminds me of a lot of the strong women in my family and ones I have met in my life. She has the star qualities–heart and intelligence and character.

Do you like to interact online? What’s your favorite social media?

I always appreciate anyone who takes time to write or email. Twitter is a blast, and perfect for quick jabs and comments. Don’t really do anything anymore on Facebook, irritating company with no sense of privacy.

How do you feel about marketing your books?

Libboo has been a great discovery. They took my novel, got it to eBook form and created a space where readers can discover it. Aside from that, marketing is a lot of work and you have to be a part of it. No one does it for you, even at the big publishing houses. You gotta get the word out and jump the train as it steams on by.

Please, give us all your links – where can your readers find you and your books?

Book sales (Kindle, Nook, iPad etc):


Author Site:

Thank you for the answers, John. I’m sure we will be reading and hearing about Investigator Ray Infantino for a long time. 

And readers, don’t go anywhere! Stay tuned for the next interview.

  • If you’re an author and want to be in my spotlight, contact me!

2 responses to “Spotlight on John Nardizzi – Interview with Author of ‘Telegraph Hill’

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