Wil Hardesty

Created by Richard Barre

It’s not all fun, fun, fun…

Presenting the surfer dude as angst-ridden P.I., SoCal’s WIL HARDESTY made an auspicious debut in 1995’s The Innocents, scooping up a Shamus for Best First Novel, and praise from folks like Michael Collins, Stephen Greenleaf, James Crumley and Ross Thomas.

Wil’s a Vietnam vet still trying to come to terms with not just his war experience, but the death of his young son in a surfing accident, which he blames on himself. Oh yeah, and his relationship with Lisa, his wife is oft-times strained. Seems no matter what mean streets he goes down, or which waves he’s catching up and down the Malibu coast (he lives in La Conchita),  he can always find a bit of time for a little hairshirt-wearing and soul-searching.

The intensity of  The Innocents and Wil’s seemingly unending self-flagellation can be be wearying, and even a little unnerving—and I wasn’t the only one on Rara-Avis to say so, but people there kept urging me to take another whack at him.

I’m here to say that Wil’s psychologically-bruising inner journey continues, but  the action, some great characterization and some vivid plotting (mostly) pull things along. Just beware the undertow…


Prior to writing The Innocents, California Boy Richard Barre was a a travel writer and editor, and a copywriter and creative director for fifteen years at his own advertising agency.  He lives in Santa Barbara with his wife, Susan.


  • “One of the best hard-boiled detective novelists of the ’90s”
    — San Francisco Chronicle Book Review
  • The plot is gripping, the dialogue sharp, and the villains very villainous indeed, but the character of Wil Hardesty is what separates this mystery from the rest of the pack. More than just another private-eye-with-a-troubled-past, Hardesty is both complicated and flawed, a very real human who brings a lifetime’s worth of pain, passion, and guilt to bear on solving this crime.”
    — Publishers Weekly on The Innocents.
  • “Barre has tapped into the psyche of a generation; The Ghosts of Morning is a ride as wild and exhilarating as the California surf.”
    –Nevada Barr
  • “I read two (of the series). The first was ok. The second was identical, and thus no good. Some people rave about this series, but it didn’t wear well with me. Guy is a surfer. Fights a drinking problem. Son died while surfing with him. Japanese wife plays him like a yoyo. Guilt trip. Gets in some shootouts with bad guys. Bad guys are real bad. But he wins. Oh yeah, he drives an old car. There, now you don’t have to read them.”
    Timothy S. Oliver (February 2000, Rara-Avis)




  • June 30, 2023
    The Bottom Line: Angst-ridden SoCal surfer dude and P.I.catches a wave of trouble in this Shamus-winning, action-packed series full of great characterization and sharp writing. Just beware the undertow…
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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