The Cypress House by Michael Koryta

Author of seven novels, Michael Koryta made a book signing appearance on February 7th at Murder By the Book Bookstore in Houston.

Michael has won the 2008 LA Times best mystery award for Envy The Night and has been nominated for the Edgar and Shamus awards.  His first novel Tonight I Said Goodbye won the St. Martin’s Press/PWA Best First Novel prize.  He was 20 years old at the time.

A graduate of Indiana University, Mr. Koryta has been both a private investigator and newspaper report.  But he has wanted to be a writer since he was 8 years old.

The Ridge

Before talking about the book he came to sign, Michael read from his latest novel in progress, The Ridge, which is due out in June.  He is still writing the book.  The first four pages are in the back of The Cypress House.  (These pages will not be in The Ridge).

The problem is that his editor told him he must change a character.  As a result, the plot was greatly affected and the protagonist changed. And therefore he had to delete 250 (not a typo) pages of the book – most books are normally 350-450 pages.  He is trying to frantically rewrite and tour for The Cypress House at the same time!

Michael said he went out to eat and commiserate with Michael Connelly last month.  Mr. Connelly told him he was making changes to a book to be released in April.

The Ridge is a supernatural thriller.  It is a standalone novel as are So Cold The River and Envy The Night.  The other four novels are Lincoln Perry detective novels.

The Cypress House

Mr. Koryta has a fascination with the weather and likes to read about it.  He features weather in most of his novels.  The Cypress House is set in 1935 Florida where two men are stranded in a boardinghouse run by Rebecca Cady as a category 5 hurricane approaches land.  The Cypress House is a fictional place but a hurricane did hit Florida that year.

Another of his books deals with a tornado and he is planning books containing a blizzard and a flood.

The Houston Chronicle’s take on The Cypress House: “Deftly blending all genres, Koryta balances the scary violence of Judge Solomon Ward and his tame sheriff — a nightmare of despotic small-town lawmen peculiar to a later South — with the sexual currents stirred up among the three people effectively trapped in the house: Arlen, the romantic, love-besotted Paul, and Rebecca, with her layers upon layers of secrets.”

The Early Years

I did not hear him mention his age but he must be 27 or 28.  He has been seriously writing for at least 10 years now.  In high school he wrote a 280 page young adult novel – still unpublished.  Then he wrote two other novels that were never published.  The second was the first Lincoln Perry book.  An editor friend at St. Martins read it but would not publish it.  Tonight I Say Goodbye was the sequel and was his first novel.

Mr. Koryta’s last two books were published by Little, Brown.  I asked him why he switched from St. Martins.  He said it was mostly … “the numbers” – the sales were not there.  Little, Brown has helped him push his sales up.  But it was more than just sales.  Michael wanted to do supernatural thrillers and St. Martins wanted him to stay with the Lincoln Perry series.

He persevered with So Cold The River and has the opportunity to turn it into a movie.  He will be one of the screenwriters meaning he will maintain some control of the storyline.  He previously turned down other movie opportunities where he would have had no control.

After The Ridge, his next four books will be a new series with a new protagonist.


A woman in the audience asked if his books will be on Kindle.  I did not catch his answer but he began talking about EBooks in general.  He said they are becoming a dominant force that can’t be ignored.  His house, he said, is filled with books and looks like a book store.  He would prefer all sales would be hardback (gives him the highest margin I’m sure).

Collecting Michael Koryta

Michael’s books are not expensive – Tonight I Say Good-bye, the first novel, is only $35-40.  I don’t know the printing but likely not more than 5,000 copies.  He is a very confident, hard-working author.  And so young.

I think he will hit the bestseller lists before he is 30.  The movie and Little, Brown should help him get more recognition along with friends whose names are Connelly and Lehane.

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