The first question most people ask writer John Lescroart is how to pronounce his name.
"I should have used Gregory, my mother's maiden name," said the author of 22 legal thrillers. "Then I would have been right there on the top next to (John) Grisham. Now I'm on the bottom.
"But it never occurred to me that I'd have a career."
The unfortunate shelf placement in bookstores hasn't hindered the affable author.
Lescroart estimates he has sold 12 million to 15 million copies of his 22 novels.
"When Lescroart publishes a new book, there's always a long waiting list for it at the library," said Helene Woodhams, literary-arts librarian for the Pima County Public Library and author committee co-chair for the Tucson Festival of Books. "He writes the kind of legal thriller that keeps you hanging right up until the end."
The Houston-born author grew up as the oldest boy with six siblings.
He received $2,500 for his first hardcover sale, 1982's "Sunburn."
"It was not a lucrative field for the first seven books," said Lescroart during a recent phone interview.
Then the O.J. Simpson trial took place in 1995, and Lescroart became famous when "The 13th Juror" was released.
"It was about the battered-woman syndrome," he said. "I was on the radio I think 140 times."
He was 45 years old. Now 63, Lescroart releases a book a year.
People have paid up to $37,000 to a charity to name a character in one of Lescroart's books. He has done this for the last 10 to 12 books.
Lescroart lives in El Macero, Calif., with his wife of 27 years, Lisa Sawyer. The two have a 22-year-old son and a 23-year-old daughter.
What's the worst question you've been asked?
"My favorite question is 'Is this your first book?' I was on a television show in Houston maybe 12 years ago. I was asked that, and I said, 'No, Bill, is this your first interview?' … I had written seven or eight books by then."
You've been writing mysteries for decades. How do you keep it fresh?
"You just have to have good scenes. Every scene has got to be good.
"You have to push your characters into places they're uncomfortable being and places you're uncomfortable being."
What do you hope to accomplish with your books?
"I think I'm trying to write the cultural history of the country that covers the years that I'm writing -racism, sexism, the HMO problem, the Iraq war - in the long term. In the short term, I want to write books that entertain people and that I would like to read."
Who's your favorite criminal?
"Ro Kurtlee. This guy is just a bad, bad guy. He's wonderful. I just love him. He's really great on the page."
Tell me about your favorite character overall.
"Silent Joe by T. Jefferson Parker. Most characters you get to know because of dialogue. You get to know Silent Joe for what he does."
What's your favorite from your books."
"Abe Glitsky. He's endlessly interesting. He's always unexpected, he's stoic, long-suffering and very sardonic."
From the pages of 'Damage'
John Lescroart selected this excerpt from "Damage" for Star readers:
On the morning of what was going to be his first day at his new job, a good-looking, casually buffed man pulled a t-shirt from the top of a large pile of them. Putting it on, he turned around. The t-shirt read: Shotgun wedding: A case of wife or death.
"No." His girlfriend sat up against the bed's headboard. "Absolutely not."
"I like it," he said.
"Wes, you like them all."
"True. It's a foolish man who buys a shirt he doesn't like."
"It's a more foolish man who goes to work as the District Attorney of San Francisco wearing a shirt that can only be misinterpreted, and will be."
"That you're in favor of shotgun weddings. That getting married isn't sacred. That you don't think women are equal. That you're not sensitive enough in general way."
"Well, we already know that."
"You laugh, but everything you do is going to be a political statement from now on. Don't you see that? I thought you would have learned that during the election."
"Nope. I guess not. And, might I remind you, I won."
Sam made a face. "Wes, you won by ninety votes out of three hundred and fifteen thousand after your opponent died the week before the election."
"As though it's a bad thing. No, listen. It's proof that God wanted me to win. It's self-evident. Maybe even cosmic."
"Well, I hope not that. It's only my first day. I'm sure I'll be way more hopeless as time goes by." He got up and crossed back to the closet. "But if you really think it's going to matter, I'll consider going with tomorrow's t-shirt instead." He turned and held out the next shirt on the pile: Heavily Medicated For Your Safety.
If You Go
John Lescroart will discuss "Ripped from the Headlines: Current Events in Crime" at 4 p.m. Saturday in the UA Mall tent, and "Kill All the Lawyers: Legal Thrillers," at 2:30 next Sunday in Modern Languages, Room 350.
Contact Valerie Vinyard at email@example.com or 573-4136.