Heart to Hart: An intimate look at John Hart

by Jim Dowell Jr.

Greensboro resident and lawyer-turned-author John Hart has had quite a year so far. On June 11 his first-published book debuted on the New York Times bestseller list at number 23. The King Of Lies has stirred up a lot of attention and is selling briskly locally and all over the United States.

At a Barnes & Noble book signing in Greensboro the novel sold out before the signing began. In Salisbury, his native town, 50 couples threw a launch party and sold over 700 books in 24 hours. In Pawley’s Island 200 people paid $25 each to meet and greet the writer and hear him speak. He has signings scheduled for New York and Philadelphia later this month, and will also be in New Orleans June 25 and 26 to speak to the annual American Library Association.

Not bad for a first-time published author, huh?

Just who is John Hart? I had the chance to find out when I spent a couple of hours with him at his Greensboro home. First and foremost, John is a husband and a father. He is happily married for nine years to Katie and they have two daughters, Sophie and Saylor. He is a sensitive, strong man who captures an audience quickly with his tall, confident swagger and matinee idol looks. At the Greensboro signing you could see silent swoons and stares as he entered the forum where he spoke. Soft spoken, easily amused and enjoying this time in his life, he is totally unaffected by any celebrity status he may be achieving, and by all accounts is absolutely grounded and happy.

The King of Lies screenplay has already been sold to Galgos Entertainment in New York, and an Oscar-winning producer is attached to the project but cannot be named at this time. St. Martin’s Press, his publishers, have commissioned him for two more books, with the second one to be in print by the fall. The King Of Lies is in its second printing already, and his style has been compared to John Grisham.

The King Of Lies is a fast-paced roller coaster of a read. Set in Salisbury, it is about the murder of an awful but influential attorney, and how the murder affects his children and family, his town and, eventually, his legacy. Knowing that John was an attorney automatically makes it easier to believe the arrests, the entwined cases and the eventual results. Being an attorney also worked to his advantage in describing courtroom and jail scenarios so vividly.

The reader should note that none of the characters are real people, but inspired from amalgamations. Comparisons to actual places, organizations and people could be interpreted to places in Guilford and Forsyth counties as well as Rowan, but are not real.

His original title for the book was Ezra’s Way, after the deceased man’s name, but publishers pushed for The King Of Lies title, saying it would be more appealing and saleable. Apparently, they were right.

Jim Dowell: How does it feel to be compared to John Grisham, and his writing style?

John Hart: Well, it is a double-edged sword. Every lawyer-turned-author gets the same comparison. You can’t argue with success, but you don’t want to be a derivative of anyone either. I would rather be described as the love child of Pat Conroy and John Grisham! (laughs)

JD: Debuting on the Times bestseller list must feel really good. Describe how you found out.

JH: I must tell you I was on speakerphone to my editor. I don’t know what I said exactly, it just came out. I do know I spoke a lot of profanity, and said something about T-shirts, but it was just nuts just finding out’…. They kept telling me I was on speaker phone.

JD: How have the book signings been received?

JH: It has been good’…. really different in all places. Greensboro and Salisbury were great; it was fun at Pawley’s Island. Numbers vary from two to thirty, forty, fifty’… depends on the city. I’m a terrible writer though, so I have to make myself write legibly so they can read what I write.

JD: What will the future hold? Will you and Katie and the girls move or stay here?

JH: We have no plans to move. Katie is my partner for life. I am forty now, and we don’t plan on any more children. If this all ended, I could go back to work for Merrill Lynch.

JD: Goals for the future?

JH: To stay in the field. Make each book better than the one before, you know’… will you like yourself thirty years down the road? Every hard and good decision you make, you must be able to live with yourself.

JD:Sum up your life thus far, in one sentence or quote.

JH: I finally feel like I’ve gotten where I’m supposed to be!

JD: When you are gone, what would you like to be remembered for most?

JH: I would like for people to say that I was a good family man. When someone says they hate your book, it means to you that they hate you. I almost married the wrong person, but I married the right one for me.’”

JD: Anything to say to the Triad?

JH: Thanks! You guys have been so great. If you like the book, tell your friends; if not, be very quiet.

It was my pleasure to spend time with John Hart. I feel he is one of the most decent and likable people that I have ever met. I gained a friend and he gained a fan, for what it’s worth. I highly recommend the book, and cannot wait for the movie.

For author information and book signings go