John Lescroart aka Johnny Capo

Hi.  I’m Walking Bob and recently I walked to Café Bernardo to meet my wife for lunch.  Across the room I saw that local bestselling author, John Lescroart, and his wife, Lisa Sawyer, holding hands and talking. I had been hoping to track John down for an interview, but I decided this wasn’t a time to interrupt their privacy.

I did get in touch with him the next week and walked downtown to interview him at the office where he does his writing.  John’s next novel, Damage, won’t appear until January when he’ll be able to add it to the wall of books shown above.  Since his books have been translated into 20 languages sold in 75 countries, they take up a full wall.  However, since Damage won’t be out for three months, I decided to write about the singer/songwriter/philanthropist/family man, John Lescroart, who is evident in other artifacts around the room.

Let’s start with the guitar that was sitting in the corner.  That is the guitar of the lead singer and songwriter of Johnny Capo and His Real Good Band, a band that never quite got that big record deal.  Fortunately, John now has his own record label, Crow Art Records, and has put out As the Crow Flies and Whiskey and Roses singing along with the support of many of our finest local musical talents like Rick Montgomery, Joe Craven, Tracy Walton, Chris Webster and Dave Nachmanoff.  Seven of the songs on those CD’s were Johnny Capo originals that never made it out on vinyl or 8-track, but they’re now available on CD.

Connecting the music to his writing, one of John’s recurring characters is named Wes Farrell.  John didn’t know that there was a real-life Wes Farrell who was the principal songwriter for The Partridge Family.  That Wes Farrell also wrote “Boys”, which was covered by The Beatles, and the official rock song of Ohio, “Hang On Sloopy.”  When John heard this, he picked up the guitar and sang a few verses of “Hang On Sloopy” and did his best Ringo Starr imitation singing “Boys.”  Thankfully, neither John Lescroart nor Johnny Capo knew any Partridge Family songs.

When I asked him how he ended up in Davis, John told about a parent meeting in the Southern California school where their daughter, Justine, was preparing to enter Kindergarten.  As they listened to a discussion about whether children who bring weapons to school should be expelled or just suspended, they decided that wasn’t where they wanted to raise their children.  Lisa had lived in Davis, as had siblings of both John and Lisa, and soon the family found a little home in South Davis and their children began their public education at Pioneer School.  Justine went on to Harvard and is currently in law school at U.C. Davis, Jack is finishing at Cal, and John has written fourteen New York Times bestsellers here, so the move clearly worked out for everyone concerned.

As for the philanthropy and mentoring, one of John’s earliest affirmations as a writer came from winning the Joseph Henry Jackson Award for his novel Sunburn.  In honor of that experience, U.C. Davis students can now compete for the Maurice Prize, using a fund set up by John in memory of his father.

I’m glad I didn’t interrupt John and Lisa at Café Bernardo, because John made it clear that she has no interest in the trappings of fame.  John describes his wife of 26 years as the “serenity engineer” of his family and the person who keeps John “perfectly content” with his life.  With the support of the love of his life and two children he is clearly proud of, it is no wonder that he is able to write a best seller a year from that office in downtown Davis.

I’ll touch back in again when it gets closer to the release of Damage so I can share John’s disciplined writing process and talk more about his novels.

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