Hoyt, Richard (Duane) 1941-(Nicholas Van Pelt)
HOYT, Richard (Duane) 1941-(Nicholas Van Pelt)
PERSONAL: Born January 28, 1941, in Hermiston, OR; son of Clyde Lorrain (a railroad laborer) and Nellie Beryl (a school cafeteria manager; maiden name, Allen) Hoyt; married Carole Lindell, 1967 (divorced, 1978); married, Sheila Burgard, 1980 (divorced, 1981); married Teresita Artes, 1992; children: Laura Lynne Dell, Teresita Nelli. Ethnicity: "Caucasian of Western European" Education: Columbia Basin College, A.A., 1961; University of Oregon, B.S. (journalism), 1963, M.S. (journalism), 1967; University of Hawaii, Ph.D., 1972. Politics: Independent Hobbies and other interests: "Speculation on the nature of folly and delusion, staying out of the noonday sun."
ADDRESSES: Home—#18 Garden Grove Villa, Sapangdaku, Guadeloupe, Cebu City 6000, Philippines. Agent—Jacques de Spoelberch, 9 Shagbark Rd., Wilson Pt., South Norwalk, CT 06854. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Novelist, journalist, and educator. Honolulu Star Bulletin, Honolulu, HI, reporter, 1967-70; Newsweek, New York, NY, correspondent, 1969-72; Honolulu Advertiser, Honolulu, HI, reporter, 1970-72; University of Maryland at College Park, assistant professor of journalism, 1973-76; Lewis and Clark College, Portland, OR, associate professor of communications, 1976-1982. Freelance writer, 1982—. Military service: U.S. Army, 1963-66, Intelligence Corps.
MEMBER: Authors Guild.
AWARDS, HONORS: Washington Journalism Center fellow, 1967; American Mystery Award for best espionage, 1987, for Siege.
The Manna Enzyme, Morrow (New York, NY), 1982.
Darwin's Secret, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1989.
Old Soldiers Sometimes Lie, Forge (New York, NY), 2001.
UNDER PSEUDONYM NICHOLAS VAN PELT
The Mongoose Man, Forge (New York, NY), 1998.
Stomp! Forge (New York, NY), 1999.
"JIM QUINT" SERIES
Cool Runnings, Viking (New York, NY), 1984.
Vivienne, Forge (New York, NY), 2000.
"JOHN DENSON" SERIES
Decoys, M. Evans (New York, NY), 1980.
Thirty for a Harry, M. Evans (New York, NY), 1981.
The Siskiyou Two-Step, Morrow (New York, NY), 1983.
Fish Story, Viking (New York, NY), 1985.
Whoo? T. Doherty (New York, NY), 1991.
Bigfoot, Tor (New York, NY), 1993.
Snake Eyes, Forge (New York, NY), 1995.
The Weatherman's Daughter, Forge, (New York, NY), 2003.
"JAMES BURLANE" SERIES
Trotsky's Run, Morrow (New York, NY), 1982.
Head of State, Tor (New York, NY), 1985.
The Dragon Portfolio, Tor (New York, NY), 1986.
Siege, Tor (New York, NY), 1987.
Marimba, Tor (New York, NY), 1992.
Red Card: A Novel of World Cup 1994, Forge (New York, NY), 1994.
Japanese Game, Forge (New York, NY), 1995.
(With Neil Abercrombie) Blood of Patriots, Forge (New York, NY), 1996.
Tyger! Tyger!, Forge (New York, NY), 1996.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Pony Girls, a "John Denson" mystery, for Forge (New York, NY), May 2004; Sonja's Run, a romantic novel of high adventure set in the Urals, Siberia, and the Asian steppe in 1853, for Forge, (New York, NY), 2005; Poor Do, a "John Denson" mystery; The Death of Magellan.
SIDELIGHTS: Richard Hoyt began writing mystery and suspense novels in 1980, and his books have been well received by critics in both genres. His writing style is characterized by well-plotted stories enhanced by attention to detail and skill in creating atmosphere. Curtis S. Gibson of Twentieth-Century Crime and Mystery Writers praised Hoyt's economical use of words, which guides the reader through the narrative easily and unobtrusively. Gibson added, "Hoyt has a considerable gift for comic writing but indulges it only where appropriate, that is to say, in the dialogue, which is generally trenchant and frequently hilarious."
In his first novel, Decoys, Hoyt introduces John Denson, a private investigator based in Seattle, Washington. Hired by a second investigator—attractive but duplicitous Pamela Yew—to help locate a vicious San Francisco-based pimp, Denson eventually becomes Yew's competitor in a race to retrieve a valuable Chinese vase from smugglers. New York Times Book Review critic Newgate Callendar welcomed Hoyt's "tough but attractive" protagonist, predicting that he "could well turn out to be a valuable addition to the private-eye genre." The reviewer deemed Hoyt "an expert writer" moving securely "within [the] established parameters" of his craft as well. Also judging Denson a "shamus who has promise" in a review for the Washington Post Book World, Jean M. White related: "Humor and witty dialogue lighten the grim proceedings of drugs, several slashed throats and kinky sex."
A former newspaper reporter, Hoyt exhibits his journalism background in Thirty for a Harry, his second Denson adventure. A Seattle Star investigative reporter is suspected of taking bribes and suppressing a news story that reveals corruption (such a journalist is called a "harry"). Denson is asked to investigate the matter and uncovers murder, corporate misdeeds, and police wrongdoing. While critics acknowledged a complicated plot in Thirty for a Harry, they also found much in the novel to admire. White, for example, commented that "Hoyt more than redeems his over-manipulated plot with his newsroom scenes and reporter's talk. He knows the newspaper business and its people." Hoyt "goes into a city room with the kind of authority that only experienced hands have," concurred Callendar, adding that Thirty for a Harry "is really a grand job." Writing that "the Seattle background provides a happy departure from the customary sleaze of southern California," New Republic reviewer Robin W. Winks decided that, despite the predictability inherent in detective fiction, Thirty for a Harry is "a good ride." "The story is well-written, tough, amusing, and highly readable," agreed Alice Cromie in her review for the Chicago Tribune Book World.
Private investigator Denson reappears in The Siskiyou Two-Step, drawn into a case involving an Elizabethan play that could definitively identify playwright William Shakespeare as the earl of Oxford. As the Federal Bureau of Investigation, British intelligence, and other operatives vie for control over the manuscript, violence and murder ensue. Reviewing the novel in the New York Times, Walter Goodman wrote that Hoyt "has plainly overdosed on Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. Denson is so tough that he passes off with an aside an attempt on his life. . . . Obviously, [he] is a jerk, and he keeps getting into enough trouble to satisfy the conventions of his craft." Callendar, however, came away with a more favorable impression of the novel: "The story unfolds in a good-humored, relaxed, cynical style," remarked the critic. "Nobody is going to take the hectic goings-on seriously, but the book is a lot of fun."
In Fish Story Denson tries to help a Cowlitz Indian friend—currently involved in a court case to reinstate his tribe's salmon-fishing rights—find the opposition fanatics who are using threats, beatings, murder, and dismemberment to strong-arm the decision. White observed that Hoyt "is back in . . . top form, . . . offer[ing] a difficult blend of bawdy comedy satire with hard-boiled detective fiction" that "works most of the time." While noting that the plot stretches plausibility, the critic offered commendations as well: "Some of the best moments in Fish Story . . . come when author Hoyt delves into Indian lore or history," stated White. "Seattle adds its own distinctive character to a private eye yarn . . . [that] ends with an eerie, thrilling case-confrontation in [a] 'buried' city of underground tunnels." "Confusing at times, but never dull" is how Cromie described Fish Story, deeming this tale "of far-out multiple mayhem . . . macabre but fast-moving." And, like White, Callendar particularly appreciated the novel's "eerie sequences" in Seattle's "city beneath the city," deciding that Fish Story "is a neat job, up to the high standard previously established by Mr. Hoyt."
Denson shows up again in Whoo?, a comical title for a mystery revolving around the murder of an ecologist who is studying the spotted owl population in Washington. Denson falls in love with the ecologist while on a marijuana investigation in the same area, motivating him to solve the crime. A Publisher's Weekly reviewer called the plot "complicated" and felt that while the book was suspenseful, it was "impeded by macho humor." In Snake Eyes, Denson and his sidekick William Pretty-Bird are hired by the lawyer of an anti-environmentalist rancher whose cows have contracted anthrax. Again, Denson gets the woman—this time a young widowed Native American—and there are murders to be solved among the dying cows. A critic for Publishers Weekly gave this mystery a mixed review, concluding that although the story is "observant and funny," "Hoyt needs either more satire or more suspense to carry his weak plot." In The Weatherman's Daughter, another Denson outing, the detective is hot on the trail of bear poachers in a novel Booklist contributor Frank Sennett dubbed "full of delightful surprises."
In the Toronto Globe and Mail Derrick Murdoch described Hoyt's spy novel Cool Runnings as "a thriller, a satire, a burlesque entertainment [and] a bawdy parable." Involving a Dutch pacifist organization whose reconstruction of a nuclear bomb is stolen and armed with plutonium, the novel has at its center Jim Quint, a roving Rolling Stone reporter who is chosen by a nuclear weapons monitoring consortium as the unlikely—and reluctant—principal agent in the case (he had been covering the Dutch group for an article). Also the pseudonymous author of thrillers about a James Bond-like superspy, Quint learns that real-life espionage is not nearly so straightforward or glamorous; "nothing about it makes anything remotely approximating sense," observed Washington Post Book World reviewer Jonathan Yardley; "each episode is more improbable that the one that went before, and most of it is quite thoroughly hilarious." Noting that Hoyt lampoons such targets as "pacifist extremists . . . British espionage professionals . . . the dope culture, . . . [and] the genre novel of macho sex and violence," the critic decided that Cool Runnings is "a clever, sophisticated, irreverent and witty send-up of just about everything worth sending up these days, and into the bargain it's a diverting suspense novel in its own right."
Writing in the New York Times Book Review that the premise of Cool Runnings "is not exceptionally outlandish," reviewer Arthur Krystal determined, "What makes this tale different from other similar scenarios is Mr. Hoyt's sense of humor, which is applied in the broadest possible strokes." With "none of [the] characters . . . presented seriously, and . . . the narrative . . . riddled with arch or just plain silly vignettes," continued the reviewer, "Mr. Hoyt does not require that we suspend belief, only that we find him amusing. Sometimes we do, sometimes we don't." Yardley was more taken with the novel, however, remarking that "there are enough wackos and weirdos in Cool Runnings to satisfy the most demanding appetite." He concluded that "if they gave out medals for skillful, intelligent light reading . . . Cool Runnings would be a leading contender for 1984 honors."
Jim Quint returns in 2000's Vivienne, a novel called a "masterful work, not for the faint of heart" by Affaire de Coeur critic Heather Nordahl. The book is set in 1968 and journalist Quint is now covering the Vietnam War. Vivienne is the Vietnamese wife of Colonel Del Lambert, an intelligence officer. The two men meet in Vietnam at a dinner where Lambert tries to bribe Quint with his wife's sexuality. Lambert offers to give Vivienne to Quint if the reporter can get her to reveal a secret: the location of a missing documentary on a Viet Cong massacre of a small village. The ensuing psychosexual thriller "weaves a vivid tapestry around the day-to-day headlines of the crucial presidential election year of 1968," explained a Publishers Weekly critic. Davis Pitt of Booklist remarked that this novel is "an intelligent rumination on the Vietnam War."
During the early 1960s Hoyt was a U.S. Army intelligence agent, an experience he draws on in his writings. His cold war-era thriller The Manna Enzyme tells of a biochemist who has discovered an enzyme capable of making all plant life edible and of the American, British, and Soviet agents—as well as Cuban dictator Fidel Castro—who pursue him during an Oregon fishing vacation. The focus of Trotsky's Run is infamous British traitor/Soviet spy Kim Philby—who in Hoyt's fictional account has information that America's president-elect is a puppet of the Soviet secret police; U.S. agent James Burlane is charged with secreting Philby out of Russia. Callendar wrote that the plot of Trotsky's Run "is a bit complicated, though always logically handled," adding, "[The book] is a stunner—superbly written, . . . a bit scary but believable despite its far-out premise." Also noting the author's "good deal of irony and cynicism . . . [and] realistic view of the fencing that goes on between American and Soviet intelligence agents," New York Times Book Review critic Callendar deemed Trotsky's Run "a potent package," instructing readers: "Put this book at the top of your list." Burlane is again a main character in Marimba,where he goes undercover as a cocaine cargo pilot and finds that other deep-cover officers are also consuming large quantities of the drug. "The plot quickly takes on a satisfying who's-with-who insolubility," noted a Publishers Weekly critic. The same reviewer said that the mystery has a "cheeky, over-thetop quality that makes it memorable."
Reviewing Head of State, another Hoyt thriller featuring Burlane, for the Toronto Globe and Mail, Margaret Cannon determined that it again shows the author's "ability to turn the conventional sex-and-action elements into a bizarre romp." Russian poet Isaac Ginsburg hatches a plan to avenge his years of Siberian exile by stealing Lenin's head from the revolutionary's Moscow sarcophagus and forcing the Soviet Union to declare a year of unrestricted emigration for its citizens; the incident necessitates the return of U.S. intelligence agent Burlane. While maintaining that Hoyt's zany "premise and people . . . should keep the reader guessing about what's next," the reviewer also noted: "Hoyt's research into the Soviet Union's past and present ideological currents is well done. . . . His descriptions, whether real or imagined, have the ring of authenticity." Cannon decided that "beneath the surface glitter . . . Head of State is a conventional actionthriller with all the expected confrontations and cliches," but added, "[It] is a brilliant twist to the old plot and readers will be charmed by Hoyt's macabre wit."
Central Intelligence Agency operative Burlane reappears in The Dragon Portfolio, accompanied by beautiful female agent Ellen Nidich; the spies are involved in purchasing Chinese secret documents—a pursuit complicated by the schemes of two kung-fu movie stars and a pair of rich, oil-dealing Texans. In his review for the New York Times Book Review, Stephen McCauley observed that "early on . . . it becomes clear that Mr. Hoyt is more interested in exercising his satiric wit than boiling a thoroughly plausible plot," adding, "His best scenes have the wild comic energy of very good farce," "leaving the reader little time to worry about political or emotional credibility." Cannon likewise observed that "as with all Hoyt novels the plot is enormously complicated"; noted too was the author's "tendency to overkill," with "some of the snide asides going on too long, turning into rants." Still, the critic decided that "for sheer inventive craziness, Hoyt is . . . difficult to beat"—his "unforgettable characters engaged in wild and wacky capers." In Siege Burlane and Nidich foil Arab terrorists occupying British Gibraltar. The novel pokes fun at assorted targets, including spy novelists, ratings-driven television employees, and Britain's prime minister.
In the mid-1990s Hoyt embarked on another string of mysteries featuring maverick ex-CIA man James Burlane. In Redcard, which a Booklist critic called a "terrific murder mystery," Burlane is hired by the international soccer organization to stop a terrorist who is killing star soccer players. A writer for Publishers Weekly thought that one of the most notable things about this novel was the fact that Hoyt clearly knows much about soccer and "manages to educate as he entertains." Japanese Game has Burlane tracking down the U.S. vice president's daughter, who has been kidnapped and sold to Japanese gangsters. The gangsters use the girl to blackmail Americans into halting their crackdown on unfair Japanese trade practices. A critic from Booklist, who said Hoyt should "return to his earlier approach,"and one from Publishers Weekly both agreed that Hoyt seems to have abandoned his sense of humor in the recent Burlane mysteries. The Publishers Weekly writer related that the author "seems torn between farce and melodrama."Burlane goes after tiger poachers in Tyger! Tyger! and meets up with a German detective tracking a serial killer who paints his victims with tiger stripes. Hoyt weaves magic and myth into the plot as Burlane travels to Siberia, Hong Kong, and the Philippines. The mystery was called "edifying and spirited entertainment" by a Booklist critic.
Continuing with the adventures of CIA operative Burlane, Hoyt tries something new, teaming up with U.S. Congressman-turned-writer Neil Abercrombie in writing Blood of Patriots. Abercrombie's personal insight into Washington, D.C., and its political environs enhanced the authors' story of terrorists who attack the House of Representatives and kill 124 people. A Publishers Weekly writer said that the politician's input "allows for some fresh local coloring," but admitted that the story feels "flat" and the dialogue "stilted."
A departure from his detective and spy novels, Hoyt's Darwin's Secret is an adventure story that takes place on the Amazon river boat Barco Igaranha. Its assortment of passengers includes an American physician, a writer, a Catholic priest, and a witch doctor; gold, a sacred object with healing powers, and a lost band of European utopians are the various grails these travelers seek. Their hostile journey culminates in the discovery of "a stunning secret" of "sheer terror," according to New York Times Book Review critic Ross Thomas, who added, "Hoyt handles [this development] very well indeed." Deeming Darwin's Secret a "wild, witty and often caustic novel" that targets religion, American medicine, and the destruction of Brazil's rain forest, the reviewer commented that "[Hoyt] blends accurate scientific facts with nicely confected ones into an intoxicating mixture that almost induces complete suspension of disbelief." Praising its author as "facile and energetic," Thomas concluded: "Darwin's Secret . . . is the best trip I've ever taken up the Amazon."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Twentieth-Century Crime and Mystery Writers, 3rd edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1991.
Armchair Detective, fall, 1993.
Booklist, July, 1992, Thomas Gaughan, review of Marimba, p. 1917; May 15, 1994, Thomas Gaughan, review of Red Card, p. 1667; June 1, 1994, Bill Ott, review of Marimba, p. 1778; January 15, 1995, Thomas Gaughan, review of Japanese Game, p. 899; December 1, 1995, Thomas Gaughan, review of Snake Eyes, p. 612; March 1, 1996, Thomas Gaughan, review of Tyger! Tyger!, p. 1124; October 15, 2000, David Pitt, review of Vivienne, p. 424; May 1, 2003, Frank Sennett, review of The Weatherman's Daughter, p. 1545.
Chicago Tribune Book World, September 20, 1981; March 24, 1985; November 3, 1991.
Globe and Mail (Toronto), August 18, 1984; October 19, 1985; December 6, 1986.
Library Journal, November, 1, 1991, Rex E. Klett, review of Whoo?, p. 135; July, 1992, Elsa Pendleton, review of Marimba, p. 124; March 1, 1995, Maria A. Perez-Stable, review of Japanese Game, p. 102.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, August 4, 1985; July 9, 1989.
New Republic, August 22, 1981.
New Yorker, August 26, 1985.
New York Times, August 6, 1983.
New York Times Book Review, January 4, 1981; November 15, 1981; August 22, 1982; August 7, 1983; November 13, 1983; September 9, 1984; June 9, 1985; December 21, 1986; July 26, 1992, review of Marimba, p. 13; June 26, 1994, Newgate Callendar, review of Red Card, p. 19; February 26, 1995, Newgate Callendar, review of Japanese Game, p. 29; July 20, 2003, Marilyn Stasio, review of The Weatherman's Daughter.
Publishers Weekly, September 20, 1991, review of Whoo?, p. 123; May 25, 1992, review of Marimba, p. 24; November 16, 1992, review of Bigfoot, p. 50; May 23, 1994, review of Red Card, p. 81; January 2, 1995, review of Japanese Game, p. 60; November 13, 1995, review of Snake Eyes, p. 51; February 19, 1996, review of Tyger! Tyger!, p. 243; April 15, 1996, review of Blood of Patriots, p. 51; October 16, 2000, review of Vivienne, p. 47; October 14, 2002, review of Old Soldiers Sometimes Lie, p. 66.
Seattle Times, March 28, 1999, p. B5.
Washington Post Book World, September 21, 1980; October 18, 1981; July 8, 1984; June 16, 1985; June 11, 1989; July 26, 1992; May 19, 1996.
Affaire de Coeur,http://www.affairedecoeur.com/ (June 26, 2002).
Stop You're Killing Me,http://stopyourekillingme.com/ (March 7, 2001).