PERSONAL: Born in San Antonio, TX; married; children: two sons.
CAREER: Writer. Middle school English teacher in San Francisco, CA, 1990–98; former teacher in San Antonio, TX, beginning 1998; currently full-time freelance writer. Workshop presenter for such organizations as the Texas Library Association, National Council for Teachers of English, International Reading Association, California Association of Independent Schools, and the Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute.
AWARDS, HONORS: Anthony Award for Best Original Paperback, and Shamus Award for Best First Private Eye Novel, both 1997, both for Big Red Tequila; Anthony Award for Best Original Paperback, Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Original Paperback, and Shamus Award nomination, all 1998, all for The Widower's Two-Step; Shamus Award nomination for Best Hardcover P.I. Novel, 2002, for The Devil Went down to Austin; Master Teacher Award, Saint Mary's Hall, 2002; inducted into the Texas Institute of Letters, 2003; The Lightning Thief was a New York Times Notable Book, 2005.
"TRES NAVARRE" SERIES; MYSTERY NOVELS
Big Red Tequila, Bantam (New York, NY), 1997.
The Widower's Two-Step, Bantam (New York, NY), 1998.
The Last King of Texas, Bantam (New York, NY), 2000.
The Devil Went down to Austin, Bantam (New York, NY), 2001.
Southtown, Bantam (New York, NY), 2004.
Mission Road, Bantam (New York, NY), 2005.
Cold Springs (novel), Bantam (New York, NY), 2003.
The Lightning Thief (young adult fantasy novel), Miramax Books/Hyperion Books for Children (New York, NY), 2005.
Contributor of short stories to magazines, including Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and Mary Higgins Clark Mystery Magazine.
ADAPTATIONS: The Lightning Thief has been adapted as a sound recording available on cassette and CD by Listening Library/Books on Tape, 2005; it has also been optioned by Twentieth Century-Fox for movie production.
SIDELIGHTS: Rick Riordan is an award-winning author of the mystery series featuring the private investigator Tres Navarre. Riordan's first mystery, Big Red Tequila, introduces Navarre, who has a doctoral degree in medieval studies from the University of California at Berkeley. He also has earned a few degrees from the streets and has an interest in the martial art of Tai Chi Chuan. Failing at academia, Navarre becomes a private investigator in the San Francisco Bay area. An alarming phone call from an old girlfriend sends Navarre back to his hometown of San Antonio, Texas, to investigate the unsolved murder of his father, who was the former sheriff of Bexar County. As the investigation proceeds, Tres stirs up a hornet's nest of politicians, mobsters, and crooked businessmen. "Riordan writes so well about the people and topography of his Texas hometown that he quickly marks the territory as his own," commented critic Dick Adler in the Chicago Tribune.
Riordan spent eight years teaching English in a San Francisco middle school before following in his hero's footsteps by returning to his hometown of San Antonio, Texas, in the summer of 1998. The author uses his own Tex-Mex style to describe the scenery, people, and popular places of south Texas. In The Widower's Two-Step, an old friend hires Tres—who is still an apprentice waiting for his P.I. license—to follow a musician suspected of stealing a demo tape of a budding young singer named Miranda Daniels. While on stakeout, the musician is gunned down, drawing Navarre into the arena of dirty dealings, double-crossings, greed, and murder in the country music business. Navarre must extricate Miranda from a tangle of music industry power games and professional grudges. At times Navarre finds himself on the wrong side of the law; local enforcers and the FBI are hot on his trail as he uncovers illegal dealings between local rednecks and European businessmen who have enough stake in country music to warrant murder. A Publishers Weekly reviewer commented: "Riordan showed real talent in Big Red Tequila, but here, he's relaxed enough to make it look easy."
The Last King of Texas involves an investigation by Navarre into a web of murderous family rivalries, missing persons, and heroin traffic, while The Devil Went down to Austin begins with Navarre renovating his greatgrandfather's ranch. He learns, however, that his older brother Garrett mortgaged it in the hopes of helping his failing software company. Tres goes to Austin to confront his brother, only to find Garrett arrested for the murder of his friend and business partner. Tres must sift through a complicated list of suspects in order to clear his brother. Booklist contributor Jenny McLarin wrote: "Navarre just may have become the most appealing mystery hero in Texas. His latest is pure heaven for mystery fans." A Publishers Weekly reviewer called it "a book sure to enhance the author's solid reputation."
Navarre appears more recently in the novels Southtown and Mission Road. In the former title, the P.I. is pitted against a murderer who is also a rapist, kidnapper, immigrant trafficker, and escaped prisoner. Although a Publishers Weekly critic admitted that Will Stirman makes for "a fairly standard villain," the reviewer declared Southtown to be a "superb" addition to the series "that should delight old Riordan fans and win new ones." A Kirkus Reviews contributor credited Riordan with helping to revive "the shamus subgenre" through "brisk pacing, smart plotting, and an immensely likable protagonist."
Booklist contributor Connie Fletcher, however, was a little less enthusiastic about Southtown, reporting that the author "slips badly in handing his characters." Some critics also had reservations about the next Navarre novel, Mission Road, which a Publishers Weekly reviewer described as a "relatively weak" installment. In this tale, Navarre tries to prove the innocence of former criminal Ralph Arguello, whose wife has been murdered and who police believe to be guilty both of that crime and of another killing eighteen years before. The Publishers Weekly critic felt that Riordan falls back too much on "sitcom-like" characterizations, while a Kirkus Reviews writer declared the novel to be merely "competent." In stark contrast to these opinions, Mike Shea asserted in the Texas Monthly that Mission Road is "the most fully realized of his six Tres Navarre novels."
Riordan started branching out as an author in 2003 with his first nonseries title, Cold Springs. Still drawing on his experience as a teacher in California and Texas, the author writes about a former teacher named Chadwick who has left San Francisco to work at Laurel Heights boarding school in rural Texas. The school is really a boot camp for disturbed students, many of whom have problems with drugs and violence. Chadwick himself is a troubled figure, having lost his own daughter, Katherine, to a drug overdose. To make things even more complicated, Chadwick is in love with the head of the school, Ann Zedman, for whom he was about to leave his wife when his daughter died. Matters become worse when Ann's own daughter comes to the school and Chadwick learns that a series of killings might lead all the way back to Katherine's death. A Publishers Weekly contributor commended Cold Springs, especially for its "believable and absorbing" characters.
With The Lightning Thief Riordan ventured further afield with a fantasy novel for young readers. Despite the abrupt change in genre, critics had considerable praise for this novel about a dyslexic boy who discovers that he is the son of the god Poseidon. In the author's hands, the Greek gods of classical literature are all alive and well and very active in the modern world. Young Percy Jackson is thrust into their complex machinations and rivalries when he is charged with locating Zeus's lightning bolt, which the king of the gods believes was stolen by Percy's father. Booklist contributor Chris Sherman called the story "fresh, dangerous, and funny," and Patricia D. Lothrop wrote in the School Library Journal that it is "an adventure-quest with a hip edge." Reviewers also noted that it would adapt well to the big screen, and plans were quickly made after its publication to film it for Twentieth Century-Fox.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, May 1, 2001, Jenny McLarin, review of The Devil Went down to Austin, p. 1640; April 15, 2004, Connie Fletcher, review of Southtown, p. 1428; September 15, 2005, Chris Sherman, review of The Lightning Thief, p. 59.
Chicago Tribune, July 6, 1997, Dick Adler, review of Big Red Tequila, p. 7.
Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2004, review of Southtown, p. 203; May 15, 2005, review of Mission Road, p. 566.
Publishers Weekly, March 23, 1998, review of The Widower's Two-Step, p. 96; April 30, 2001, review of The Devil Went Down to Austin, p. 59; April 7, 2003, review of Cold Springs, p. 45; April 5, 2004, review of Southtown, p. 44; May 16, 2005, review of Mission Road, p. 40.
School Library Journal, August, 2005, Patricia D. Lothrop, review of The Lightning Thief, p. 134.
Texas Monthly, July, 2005, Mike Shea, review of Mission Road, p. 64.
Rick Riordan Home Page, http://www.rickriordan.com (February 13, 2006).