Lutz, John 1939- (John Thomas Lutz)

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Lutz, John 1939- (John Thomas Lutz)


Born September 11, 1939, in Dallas, TX; son of John Peter (a photographer) and Jane (a homemaker) Lutz; married Barbara Jean Bradley, March 25, 1958; children: Steven, Jennifer Lutz-Bauer, Wendy Murray. Education: Attended Meramec Community College, 1966. Politics: "Reasonable."


Home and office—Webster Groves, MO; Sarasota, FL. Agent—Dominick Abel Literary Agency Inc., 146 W. 82nd St., Ste 1B, New York, NY 10024. E-mail—[email protected].


Writer. Has worked in construction, as a civilian police employee, and as a truck driver.


Mystery Writers of America (former president), Private Eye Writers of America (former president).

Awards, Honors

Mystery Writers of America scroll, 1981, for short story "Until You Are Dead," Edgar Allan Poe Award, 1986, for short story "Ride the Lightning," and Edgar Allan Poe Award nomination for best paperback original, 2003, for The Night Watcher; Private Eye Writers of America Shamus Award, 1982, and 1989, for Kiss, and Shamus Award for lifetime achievement, 1995; Gold Derringer Life Achievement Award, Short Mystery Fiction Society, 2001; Trophee 813 Award, for best mystery collection translated into French; honorary degree from University of Missouri, 2007.



The Truth of the Matter, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1971.

Bonegrinder, Putnam (New York, NY), 1976.

Lazarus Man, Morrow (New York, NY), 1979.

Jericho Man, Morrow (New York, NY), 1980.

The Shadow Man, Morrow (New York, NY), 1981.

(With Steve Greene; uncredited) Exiled, Fawcett (New York, NY), 1982.

(With Bill Pronzini) The Eye, Mysterious Press (New York, NY), 1984.

Shadowtown, Mysterious Press (New York, NY), 1988.

SWF Seeks Same, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1990.

Dancing with the Dead, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1992.

The Ex, Kensington (San Diego, CA), 1996.

(With David August) Final Seconds, Kensington (San Diego, CA), 1998.

The Night Caller, Pinnacle Books (New York, NY), 2001.

The Night Watcher, Pinnacle Books (New York, NY), 2002.

The Night Spider, Pinnacle Books (New York, NY), 2003.

Darker than Night, Pinnacle Books (New York, NY), 2004.

Fear the Night, Pinnacle Books (New York, NY), 2005.

Chill of Night, Pinnacle Books (New York, NY), 2006.

In for the Kill, Pinnacle Books (New York, NY), 2007.

Author's works have been translated into numerous languages.


Buyer Beware, Putnam (New York, NY), 1976.

Nightlines, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1984.

The Right to Sing the Blues, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1986.

Ride the Lightning, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1987.

Dancer's Debt, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1988.

Time Exposure, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1989.

Diamond Eyes, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1990.

Thicker than Blood, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1993.

Death by Jury, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1995.

Oops!, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1998.


Tropical Heat, Holt (New York, NY), 1986.

Scorcher, Holt (New York, NY), 1987.

Flame, Holt (New York, NY), 1989.

Kiss, Holt (New York, NY), 1990.

Bloodfire, Holt (New York, NY), 1991.

Hot, Holt (New York, NY), 1992.

Spark, Holt (New York, NY), 1993.

Torch, Holt (New York, NY), 1994.

Burn, Holt (New York, NY), 1995.

Lightning, Holt (New York, NY), 1996.


Better Mousetraps, edited by Francis M. Nevins, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1988.

Shadows Everywhere, Mystery Scene Press, 1994.

Until You Are Dead, Five Star (Waterville, ME), 1998.

The Nudger Dilemmas, Five Star (Waterville, ME), 2001.

Endless Road, and Other Stories, Five Star (Waterville, ME), 2003.


Author (with Larry Cohen) of screenplay adaptation The Ex, based on Lutz's novel of the same title. Contributor to anthologies, including Alfred Hitchcock's Tales to Make Your Blood Run Cold, edited by Eleanor Sullivan, Dial (New York, NY), 1978; Ellery Queen's Circumstantial Evidence, edited by Queen, Dial, 1980; Arbor House Treasury of Mystery and Suspense, edited by Martin Greenberg, Malzberg, and Pronzini, Arbor House (New York, NY), 1981; Arbor House Treasury of Horror and the Supernatural, Arbor House, 1981; Creature, edited by Pronzini, Arbor House, 1981; and Irreconcilable Differences, edited by Lia Matera, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999. Contributor of hundreds of stories to magazines.


SWF Seeks Same was adapted as the film Single White Female, starring Bridget Fonda and Jennifer Jason Leigh. The Ex was adapted as a film produced by Home Box Office. Several of Lutz's novels have been adapted as audiobooks.


In popular novels such as SWF Seeks Same, The Night Watcher, and Chill of Night, award-winning writer John Lutz experiments with the limits of the thriller genre. A typical Lutz outing is tense and tightly plotted, but the author also emphasizes character and theme as he makes even the most despicable villains well-rounded and believable individuals. As the novelist himself noted in a Writer article, "The modern mystery should be much more than a simple deductive puzzle; it should mean something." According to New York Times Book Review contributor Newgate Callendar, Lutz achieves his end. In his review of Tropical Heat, Callendar asserted that "professionalism marks every page." As the critic added, "the plotting is tight, the characterizations are sharp, the police work has an authentic feeling, and there is an ending that may make the reader gulp once or twice."

Lutz began his career as a short-story writer, selling his first story to Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine in 1966. His many stories, which include suspense, humor, the occult, and espionage, have been published in magazines and anthologies ever since and have also been translated into many languages. According to Francis M. Nevins in the St. James Guide to Crime and Mystery Writers, Lutz's stories are characterized by "the wildest premises [and] … a strong anti-business viewpoint with imaginative bizarrerie, as if Kafka had come back from the grave to collaborate on fiction with Ralph Nader." The best of the author's short fiction has been collected in several volumes, among them Better Mousetraps, Shadows Everywhere, and Endless Road, and Other Stories.

Among Lutz's best-known novels are those featuring Florida detective Fred Carver. Forced out of police work when a street punk shoots him in the knee, Carver turns to private detection—cane in hand—and solves a series of dark and twisted crimes in the Florida Keys. A Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote of the "Carver" series: "Tense and relentless tales, they are essentially linear stories in which the reader is drawn along in the wake of brutal and seemingly unrelated events." The same reviewer described Carver as "a believably heroic guy, tough, scarred and able to exhibit fear and courage at the same time."

First introduced to readers in the 1986 novel Tropical Heat, the "Carver" series plays out in Kiss, Bloodfire, Torch, and Lightning. Some critics have commended the "Carver" books for their evocation of the Florida environs. As a Publishers Weekly reviewer noted in a review of Burn, "Lutz's eye for Florida noir (fast food joints, trailer parks and ‘local criminals’ who ‘view tourists as game animals’) is impeccable," and "it's easy to see why [he] … has won an Edgar and two Shamuses." Reviewing Torch in the New York Times Book Review, Marilyn Stasio stated her admiration for "the palpable sense of place in this series, and especially the author's bottomless stock of heat imagery." In a review of the same novel for Publishers Weekly, a contributor dubbed the series "tense and relentless … linear stories in which the reader is drawn along in the wake of brutal and seemingly unrelated events." As Stasio concluded of the "Carver" books, "the dialogue is brisk and brittle, the action gets nasty when it must, and the characters are as shady as the sunny climate allows. For a long-running series, this one is still hot."

Another favorite Lutz character is Alo Nudger, a St. Louis, Missouri-based private eye who stars in his own series of mystery novels. Nevins characterized Nudger as "one of the most fascinating protagonists in recent detective fiction, a near-total loser plagued by overdue bills, deadbeat clients, and a bloodsucking ex-wife but most of all by his near-paralyzing unaggressiveness and compassion." Lutz's ironic protagonist "shares the word with Charlie Chaplin's tramp," the critic added: "whatever can go wrong for him, will." A Publishers Weekly contributor cited Nudger for his "piranha of an ex-wife and an office above a shop selling the world's greasiest doughnuts," claiming that in a typical "Nudger" novel "the pieces all fit and the fade from humor to homicide is never less than convincing." Death by Jury finds Lutz's "tough-as-push-pins hero" hired by a sleezy lawyer to trail a local banker about to stand trial for murder, resulting in what Booklist contributor Wes Lukowsky characterized as "an intricate masterpiece" of suspense plotting. In Thicker than Blood the PI is hired to track down a swindling securities salesman but winds up in a tangle involving incest, blackmail, drug deals, and even murder, resulting in what Lukowsky dubbed "a fine addition to an outstanding series." Bearing a title appropriate to the plot, Oops! finds the cash-strapped sleuth taking on a client convinced that his daughter's death was not an accident. When his client dies, Nudger persists, true to form, fueled by what Lukowsky characterized as "loyalty, a sense of justice, morality, and a desire to fix the world."

In addition to his "Nudger" and "Carver" mysteries, Lutz has authored a number of stand-alone novels. In SWF Seeks Same Allie tells her live-in boyfriend to hit the road, then finds a new roommate in Hedra. At first quiet and likeable, Hedra eventually shows her less-agreeable nature as she slowly begins infiltrating Allie's personal life and ruthlessly eliminates a number of human obstacles in the process. Retired and recently widowed New York City detective Artemis Beam trails a serial killer targeting former jury foremen in Chill of Night, while in Fear the Night a lone sniper terrorizes Manhattan. Another retired cop is on the case in the latter novel, the story strengthened by Lutz's creation of "layered and three-dimensional characters," according to a Publishers Weekly contributor. Described by another Publishers Weekly writer as a "gritty psychological thriller" featuring "a fully realized villain who simultaneously inspires the reader's sympathy and revulsion," The Night Watcher returns readers to the mean streets of the Big Apple, as former NYPD homicide detectives Rica Lopez and Ben Stack trail a murderous arsonist who targets wealthy individuals living in high-rise apartments.

Discussing his decision to become a writer, Lutz once noted: "It would be difficult for me to say exactly what motivated me to begin writing; it's possible that the original motivation is gone, much as a match that starts a forest fire is consumed in the early moments of the fire. I continue writing for selfish reasons. I thoroughly enjoy it."

Biographical and Critical Sources


St. James Guide to Crime and Mystery Writers, 4th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.


Booklist, May 1, 1992, Peter Robertson, review of Dancing with the Dead, p. 1586; December 15, 1992, Bill Ott, review of Spark, p. 717; October 15, 1993, Wes Lukowsky, review of Thicker than Blood, p. 421; March 15, 1994, Bill Ott, review of Torch, p. 1331; June 1, 1994, Bill Ott, review of Spark, p. 1779; March 1, 1995, Wes Lukowsky, review of Burn, p. 1182; October 1, 1995, Wes Lukowsky, review of Death by Jury, p. 254; June 1, 1996, Thomas Gaughan, review of Lightning, p. 1679; August, 1996, Wes Lukowsky, review of The Ex, p. 1886; February 1, 1998, Wes Lukowsky, review of Oops!, p. 903; March 15, 1998, Wes Lukowsky, review of Final Seconds, p. p. 1205; May 1, 2001, Bill Ott, review of Spark, p. 1602, and Wes Lukowsky, review of The Nudger Dilemmas, p. 1636; September 15, 2001, Wes Lukowsky, review of The Night Caller, p. 199; September 15, 2003, Wes Lukowsky, review of Endless Road, and Other Stories, p. 216.

New York Times Book Review, August 17, 1980, review of Lazarus Man, p. 27; May 5, 1985, review of Nightlines, p. 35; September 21, 1986, Newgate Callendar, review of Tropical Heat, p. 36; January 19, 1992, Marilyn Stasio, review of Hot, p. 20; January 3, 1993; April 3, 1994, Marilyn Stasio, review of Torch, p. 22.

Publishers Weekly, November 22, 1985, review of The Right to Sing the Blues, p. 49; May 23, 1986, review of Tropical Heat, p. 92; September 7, 1992, review of SWF Seeks Same, p. 30; September 6, 1993, review of Thicker than Blood, p. 85; January 24, 1994, review of Torch, p. 42; February 6, 1995, review of Burn, p. 79; July 17, 1995, review of Death by Jury, p. 223; May 6, 1996, review of Lighning, p. 72; July 8, 1996, review of The Ex, p. 75; March 9, 1998, review of Final Seconds, p. 49; June 25, 2001, review of The Nudger Dilemmas, p. 55; October 7, 2002, review of The Night Watcher, p. 58; August 11, 2003, review of Endless Road, and Other Stories, p. 262; October 3, 2005, review of Fear the Night, p. 52; September 4, 2006, review of Chill of Night, p. 44.

Writer, December, 1994, John Lutz, "Beyond Good and Evil," pp. 9-13.

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Lutz, John 1939- (John Thomas Lutz)

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