Sex and Secrets: THE OTHER WOMAN

Guest Blogger: Hank Phillippi Ryan

Who would be “the other woman?”

The dentist’s office was a strange place to consider that. I was in having a root canal—sigh—and reading an old PEOPLE magazine in the waiting room. (That’s what you do, right, when your face is puffy and the dentist is late?)

I happened on an article about Mark Sanford, the now-ex-governor of South Carolina, and his bewildering story. He’d told his wife, staff, and constituents that he was out hiking the Appalachian Trail—when he was really off on a tryst with his Argentinean mistress.

I was fascinated. Because—who would do that? It’s an absurdly terrible decision. It’s career endingly, reputation-ruiningly dumb. Did he think he could get away with it? From Dwight Eisenhower to Gary Hart to Bill Clinton to John Edwards—it’s clear you can’t. It’s clear you’re on the road to disaster and humiliation.

Just as intriguing to me—who would become the other woman? What kind of person would agree to play that role—and why? Love? Lust? Power? Delusion? Certainly you’re going to ruin the live of the man you ostensibly love—that’s a bombshell conflict. You’ll make his wife and family miserable—who would be able to deal with those emotions? In this case, the guy was the governor of a state—so you’d also be creating a situation where his constituents—the voters—would become even more cynical and dismissive of politicians and their situational ethics.

I’ve worked in many political campaigns—and was a staffer in the US senate for a few years. I’ve watched—and participated it—politics from behind the scenes. As a TV reporter for the past 30-some years, I’ve covered how politicians and their entourages behave, and what they say, and what they do—and what they look like when the lie. I’ve watched them manipulate and rationalize—and I know how some who feel so entitled and powerful, they think they can get away with anything.

As I got into the world of Mark Sanford’s indiscretions—and the fallout, and the repercussions and the crashing dominoes—I began to wonder: Who would be the other woman? And would there possibly be a reason that would be—acceptable? Understandable? Even—sympathetic? And if so…what if…

And there, as any mystery aficionado recognizes, was the beginning of the book. At the end of the PEOPLE article, one person says: “You can choose your sin, but you cannot choose your consequences.”

And at that moment, I got goose bumps. Soon my tooth was fixed—and so was my future! I spent the next year finding the story that became THE OTHER WOMAN—a story of reporter Jane Ryland, who thinks she on the trail of a senate candidate’s secret mistress, a mysterious woman who keeps appearing in the campaign rally photographs. It’s just before a pivotal election—if Jane’s wrong, she could ruin people’s lives—not to mention her already-rickety career. Even if she’s right—should she tell?

I wanted THE OTHER WOMAN to be a page-turner of a suspense thriller about sex and secrets and duplicity and power—about how far a person will go to get what they want—and most of all, about consequences. And now BOOKLIST’s starred review calls it “The perfect thriller for an election season.

Are you interested in a candidate’s private life? And if you were a reporter with some inside scoop on an illicit affair—would you tell?

Hank Phillippi Ryan is the on-the-air investigative reporter for Boston’s NBC affiliate. A TV reporter since 1975, her work has resulted in new laws, people sent to prison, homes removed from foreclosure, and millions of dollars in restitution. Along with her 28 EMMYs, Hank’s won dozens of other journalism honors. She’s been a radio reporter, a political campaign staffer, a legislative aide in the United States Senate and an editorial assistant at ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE working with Hunter S. Thompson and Richard Avedon.

Her first mystery, the best-selling PRIME TIME, won the Agatha for Best First Novel. FACE TIME was a BookSense Notable Book, and AIR TIME and DRIVE TIME were nominated for the AGATHA and ANTHONY Awards. Hank’s short story “On the House” won the AGATHA, ANTHONY and MACAVITY.

Her newest thriller, THE OTHER WOMAN (an Indie Next Great Read) came out in hardcover September 4 from Forge.  Hank is president-elect of national Sisters in Crime and blogs at Jungle Red Writers. You can also find Hank on Facebook and Twitter.

Starred review for THE OTHER WOMAN from BOOKLIST:

Ryan knows her way around politics at high levels, and she uses that knowledge to fashion a revenge-fueled plot that twists and turns at breakneck speed. Political skullduggery and murder make a high-octane mix in this a perfect thriller for an election season.

Starred review for THE OTHER WOMAN from LIBRARY JOURNAL:

Ryan, the Anthony and Agatha Award–winning author… employs her much honored investigative reporting and political background to craft a dizzyingly wild labyrinth of exciting twists, turns, and surprises. Readers who crave mystery and political intrigue will be mesmerized by this first installment of her new series.


  1. Ah, so now I know the full story! What a great chain of events to inspiration.

  2. Bill Clinton doesn’t seem to be any worse for wear, unlike all those other schmucks. Of course, Hillary didn’t have cancer.

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