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Kozak, Harley Jane 1957–

Kozak, Harley Jane 1957–

(Susan Jane Kozak)


Born January 28, 1957, in Wilkes-Barre, PA; daughter of Joseph Aloysius (an attorney) and Dorothy (a music instructor) Kozak; married Van Santvoord (an actor), c. 1982 (divorced, 1983); married Gregory Aldisert (an attorney); children: (second marriage) Audrey, Lorenzo and Gianna (twins). Education: Graduate of New York University's School of the Arts (now Tisch School of the Arts).


Home—Topanga Canyon, CA. Agent—Renee Zuckerbrot, Renee Zuckerbrot Literary Agency, 115 West 29th St., New York, NY 10001.


Actor and author. Worked as a waitress in New York, NY, for ten years; actor in films, including The House on Sorority Row (also known as House of Evil and Seven Sisters), Associated Releasing Corp., 1983; Clean and Sober, Warner Bros., 1988; When Harry Met Sally, Columbia Pictures, 1989; Parenthood, Universal Pictures, 1989; Arachnophobia, Buena Vista, 1990; Side Out, TriStar, 1990; All I Want for Christmas, Paramount Pictures, 1991; Necessary Roughness, Paramount Pictures, 1991; The Taking of Beverly Hills (also known as Boomer: The Taking of Beverly Hills), Columbia Pictures, 1991; The Favor, Orion, 1994; Magic in the Water (also known as Glenorky), TriStar, 1995; and The LoveMaster, Rocket Pictures, 1996. Actor in television movies, including So Proudly We Hail (also known as Skinheads), Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), 1990; Beyond Control: The Amy Fisher Story, American Broadcasting Companies (ABC), 1993; The Android Affair (also known as The Human Touch and Teach 905), USA Network, 1995; A Friend's Betrayal (also known as Stolen Youth), National Broadcasting Company (NBC), 1996; Unforgivable, CBS, 1996; Titanic (miniseries), CBS, 1996; Dark Planet, Sci-Fi Channel, 1997; and Emma's Wish, CBS, 1998. Actor in television series, including Texas (also known as Texas, The New Generation), NBC, 1980-82; The Guiding Light, CBS, 1983-85; Santa Barbara, 1985-86; Knightwatch, ABC, 1988-89; Harts of the West, CBS, 1993-94; Bringing up Jack, ABC, 1995; and You Wish (also known as Genie), ABC, 1997-98. Actor in television episodes of series such as Highway to Heaven, L.A. Law, Dream On, Charlie Grace, Strangers, Stargate SG-1, Teen Angel, The Secret Lives of Men, The Love Boat: Next Wave, and The Hidden Room. Appeared in television specials and acted in stage productions of The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Seagull, Twelfth Night, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, A Streetcar Named Desire, Love Letters, Man of the Moment, Lost in Yonkers, and Born Yesterday.


Agatha Award, Macavity Award, Anthony Award, all for best first novel, Toby Bromberg Award, Most Humorous Mystery, Nebraska Book Award, Best Fiction, all 2005, all for Dating Dead Men.



Dating Dead Men, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2004.

Dating Is Murder, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2005.

(Editor, with others) Landmarked for Murder, Top (Dallas, TX), 2006.

Dead Ex, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2007.

A Date You Can't Refuse, Broadway (New York, NY), 2009.

Contributor of essays to Soap Opera Digest.


Actress and author Harley Jane Kozak was inspired to take the name Harley by the motorcycle her first husband, actor Van Santvoor, parked in their Manhattan loft. Born in Pennsylvania, she was one year old when her father died, and her mother, a music teacher, moved first to North Dakota, then to Lincoln, Nebraska, to teach at the university there. Kozak was five when she first appeared on stage, and she was part of the cast on her mother's television show, Music with Mrs. Kozak. As a high school senior, Kozak had a paid summer job playing Indian maiden number two in The Legend of Daniel Boone in Harrodsburg, Kentucky. Moving to New York, she studied acting and was able to give up her waitressing job when she landed her first role in The House on Sorority Row. She next acted in a number of television soaps, both in New York and Los Angeles, and now has a long list of films to her credit, including a role as Billy Crystal's ex-wife in the hit movie When Harry Met Sally.

As Kozak notes on her Web site, she became less interested in acting, and more interested in writing, as she approached her forties and the parts she was being offered were no longer for a leading lady but rather for the mother of the leading lady. In the meantime, she remarried and had three children in quick succession, including twins. Having always enjoyed writing, she had a play, a novel, a screenplay, and a musical stashed away. She decided to return to writing and finished her first published novel, Dating Dead Men, the first in a light mystery series featuring Wollie Shelley.

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, who goes by "Wollie," is a greeting card designer and owner of the shop Wollie Welcome. Wollie is worried about the status of her franchise, as well as the well-being of her institutionalized, paranoid schizophrenic brother, P.B. She is also involved in a research project being conducted by a radio celebrity psychotherapist, who is paying her to date 411 men in sixty days. One day, P.B. calls Wollie to say that there has been a murder at his hospital, Rio Pescado. She dashes off to check out his claim and does, in fact, find a body, which she nearly runs over on her way. While there, she meets a man disguised as a doctor who enlists her help to escape from the Mafia. Doc's problems are complicating Wollie's life, and worse, she may be falling in love with the man, who is a former cop. Library Journal contributor Shelley Mosley called Dating Dead Men a "rollicking caper, an exuberant, fun-filled roller-coaster ride." A Publishers Weekly critic wrote that Kozak "has struck gold first time out with a wacky, high-octane plot and characters to match."

Kozak's debut novel charmed readers, critics, and awards committees alike, earning her major awards for a first mystery. Her second novel in the "Wollie Shelley" series, Dating Is Murder, was thus eagerly awaited by fans and reviewers. In this outing, readers discover that Wollie, having been left by her new love, Doc, and badly in need of extra income, is now participating in a reality dating show named Biological Clock. Here the audience chooses from three couples to determine which would make the best parents. At six feet, the well-endowed Wollie is a perfect foil for the other, smaller women on the show, but her fifteen minutes of fame are blemished by the sudden disappearance of Annika, her German math tutor and a production assistant on the show. The Los Angeles police are hugely uninterested in this missing person, so Wollie takes it upon herself to track down the missing girl. Wollie has several lines of inquiry to pursue, for in addition to her job as a math tutor and production assistant, Annika works as an au pair for an exceedingly busy and successful mother in Encino. Quickly, Wollie discovers that Annika may not be so above-board after all, for it appears the girl may be connected to a drug ring. Worse, a male friend of Annika's is found murdered, and a handsome but thuggish stalker begins tailing Wollie, warning her to drop her inquiries. But Wollie, being Wollie, is not to be put off by a stalker, handsome or not.

Kozak's second novel received a warm reception from critics. Booklist contributor Kristine Huntley found it a "delightful follow-up" to her first novel and commended the author's development of her "appealingly quirky heroine." Similar praise came from a Kirkus Reviews critic who concluded: "Lively prose, seamless plotting—and, good golly, there's Wollie." Likewise, Library Journal reviewer Mosley termed Dating Is Murder a "smart whodunit [that] is as fresh and funny as her first ‘dating’ mystery." A Publishers Weekly reviewer also found this second novel rewarding, commenting: "Kozak establishes her unique voice in Wollie's wistful, self-deprecating but stubborn working-class persona that fans of diva lit (chick lit that's grown up and added a body count) will love." A reviewer for MBR Bookwatch added to the chorus of praise, noting: "The story line never takes itself seriously as it spoofs reality TV, chick lit novels, and amateur sleuth who-done-its." And Missy Schwartz, writing for Entertainment Weekly, felt that Kozak's "breezy style and delightful wit … leave us with just one question: When's book 3?"

Kozak did not keep fans waiting long for that third novel, the 2007 Dead Ex. Wollie is up to her neck in soap—that is, of the soap opera variety. Still making nice with her new boyfriend, FBI agent Simon Alexander, whom she met in Dating Is Murder, Wollie is drawn out of this comfortable niche when her old flame, soap opera producer and director David Zetrakis, is found with a bullet in his head. Hearing of his death, Wollie thought he had died of cancer; now she wonders if it was not assisted suicide. Whatever the cause, her close friend Joey is the prime suspect of the L.A. police, for it becomes known that Zetrakis, also a former lover of Joey, has left that woman an invaluable Klimt painting. Wollie knows Joey is not capable of such a crime and sets out to prove her innocent. Joey needs all the help she can get, for soon her ex-husband, Eliot, is found dead. Trouble is, Wollie's investigation also gets in the way of her relationship with Simon, and he decides to put space between them for a time. Undaunted, Wollie, assisted by her Uncle Theo and his boarder, a student from Greece, continues to focus on her investigation, delving deeper and deeper into the world of soap opera.

Kozak's third installment in the series received critical applause, as had her first two novels. A Kirkus Reviews critic, for example, observed: "For drama, wit and just plain fun, every life (and death) needs a little Wollie." Similarly, Booklist reviewer Allison Block noted that Kozak's own show-business background comes into play in the book: "[Kozak] vividly evokes a world where seemingly innocuous missteps (a bad dye job, for example) can get folks into a lather." A Publishers Weekly reviewer also commended this third novel, noting: "A Greek mythology twist and crackling insider insight into the fascinating soap opera world enhance this clever whodunit," while Library Journal contributor Mosley found that "quirky characters with witty dialog and snappy comebacks make the writing sparkle."

Speaking with Tayler Bloom on Bloom's MySpace blog, Kozak elaborated on the ways in which her former acting career aided her as an author: "It makes dialogue fun. I've suffered through some dreadful dialogue in my acting days, working hard to make it work, so I try to give my characters an easier time of it. And just in general, the fun for me is in inventing the characters. Plot is far less compelling to me than people."



Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television, Volume 22, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1999.


Booklist, November 15, 2003, Kristine Huntley, review of Dating Dead Men, p. 576; November 1, 2004, Kristine Huntley, review of Dating Is Murder, p. 468; May 1, 2007, Allison Block, review of Dead Ex, p. 32.

Entertainment Weekly, March 18, 2005, Missy Schwartz, review of Dating Is Murder, p. 75.

Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 2003, review of Dating Dead Men, p. 1295; December 1, 2004, review of Dating Is Murder, p. 1121; July 1, 2007, review of Dead Ex.

Library Journal, October 1, 2003, Shelley Mosley, review of Dating Dead Men, p. 122; November 1, 2004, Shelley Mosley, review of Dating Is Murder, p. 63; June 15, 2007, Shelley Mosley, review of Dead Ex, p. 63.

MBR Bookwatch, April 1, 2005, review of Dating Is Murder.

Mystery Scene, winter, 2005, Brian Skupin, interview with Harley Jane Kozak, p. 48.

Publishers Weekly, August 11, 2003, Robert Dahlin, review of Dating Dead Men, p. 139; December 8, 2003, review of Dating Dead Men, p. 49; February 7, 2005, review of Dating Is Murder, and Melissa Mia Hall, "Dating for Bullets," p. 45; June 4, 2007, review of Dead Ex, p. 32.


BK Writer, (May 9, 2006), "Author Answers with Harley Jane Kozak."

Book Browse, (May 19, 2008), "An Interview with Harley Jane Kozak."

BookLoons, (May 19, 2008), Mary Ann Smyth, review of Dead Ex., (April 14, 2006), "Interview: Harley Jane Kozak"; (May 19, 2008), Andi Shechter, review of Dating Is Murder.

Curled up with a Good Book, (May 19, 2008), Luan Gaines, review of Dating Is Murder.

Dana Diamond Weblog, (July 1, 2006), "Ten Questions with Harley Jane Kozak."

Harley Jane Kozak Home Page, (August 1, 2004).

Internet Movie Database, (May 19, 2008), "Harley Jane Kozak."

Love Romances and More, (May 19, 2008), interview with Harley Jane Kozak.

Midwest Book Review, (May 19, 2008), Harriet Klausner, review of Dead Ex.

Mystery Ink, (March 17, 2005), "Interview with Harley Jane Kozak"; (May 19, 2008), David J. Montgomery, review of Dating Is Murder.

Over My Dead Body, (May 19, 2008), Cherie Jung, review of Dating Is Murder and interview with Harley Jane Kozak

Romance Divas, (May 19, 2008), Rhonda Stapleton, review of Dead Ex.

Romantic Times Online, (May 19, 2008), Cindy Harrison, review of Dating Is Murder, and Pat Cooper, review of Dead Ex.

Tayler Bloom MySpace, taylerbloom/ (May 19, 2008), interview with Harley Jane Kozak and Hailey Lind.

Whodunit Canada, (May 19, 2008), Barbara Coombs, review of Dating Is Murder.

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