The Book Spy Blog #1: My Most Embarrassing Publishing Story + More!

Welcome to my new blog!

I know what you’re thinking.

“Ryan, isn’t what you already do on The Real Book Spy technically blogging?”

And the answer to that is yes, but also no. Hear me out . . .

For ten years now, I’ve been covering thrillers, writing reviews, interviewing authors, and breaking exclusive industry news. #1 New York Times bestselling author Mark Greaney once said of me, “He’s the guy people in the mystery/thriller world people talk to behind the scenes.”

That’s a great quote, right? Means a lot to me because I work really hard to try and make The Real Book Spy the gold standard when it comes to a website that functions as a one-stop shop for all things thriller. (Also, I’m a huge fan of Mark Greaney the person, and then his books—Back Blast is probably still my favorite.)

Over the last year or so, a lot has changed. I’ve tried really hard to find innovative new ways to reach new readers in hopes of connecting more people with great books. I’m over on Twitch now, and that’s been fun (I’ll get into that in a different blog post). I’m also on Instagram and Threads. I also started a Discord server, and that’s been so much fun (shout out to Shane Hall, aka Box, for running that). We’ve really started pushing the newsletter more, which, if you’re not already signed up for, please consider doing so. It’s free for you, and just means you’ll see emails from me in your inbox.

(I’m about to land this plane, promise!)

But the other thing that changed about a year ago was the fact that on top of covering books and tons of authors, I became an author when Fields of Fire came out in the fall of 2023. Now, this week, my second book, Lethal Range, is out in bookstores, and I’ve been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support so many have shown me. If you love thrillers, please consider checking it out. Truly, and I cannot say this any clearer, I wrote it for you—my fellow readers and thriller enthusiasts. My goal was to take everything I’ve learned from being a Book Spy (and a freelance editor) and apply it to a book of my own in hopes of creating a series and character you guys would enjoy. And so far, I am beyond thrilled that so many have posted on social media, tagging me to say they’re loving it.

However, it’s been a challenge at times to take off my Book Spy hat and put on my author cap. I don’t just want to shamelessly promote my own book on my own website. Then again, I do believe it’s a perfect fit for readers here, so I can’t not cover it. And no doubt, you’ve likely noticed that. You’ll see pics of the cover all over. You’ll see a guest review from fellow author Jack Stewart, a super-talented writer who is a really great guy too. So, I’ve covered it but tried to do so in a tasteful way.

(Landing gear is coming out.)

Then it hit me. The way to best connect with my readers—both of my books and right here on The Real Book Spy—is to reverse engineer that quote from Mark Greaney. I can still be the person people talk to behind the scenes because that’s how I do my job. But I can also talk to YOU all behind the scenes too, and that’s what this blog is about.

(Told you I’d land the plane eventually.)

To talk to you guys. As myself —Ryan—not just a Book Spy. I’m not going to break news in these blog posts or do full reviews here. All normal content will continue to function just as it always has on TRBS. Instead, I’ll use these blog posts to talk about other stuff and ramble on from time to time about whatever might be going on in the thriller/mystery world or my own. For example . . .

(Okay, full disclosure, I had a story to tell here, but I got up to get coffee and totally forgot what I was going to write.)

I’ve been trying to read a bit more for pleasure lately because I’ve not been able to do that since, well . . . I launched TRBS. Everything has been reading for work, and don’t get me wrong, it’s pretty cool that I get to read for a living, but normally I am reading in hopes of finding something you guys will like.

Oh! Wait! Before I finish that thought, I just remembered what I was going to say before. .  .

Okay, talking about Book Spy growth. We now consistently clear 2 million visitors per year on TRBS. That’s amazing. Recently, I got access to a whole bunch of other statistics and info about how we’ve grown. Wanna know the NUMBER #1 most searched term that has brought readers to The Real Book Spy over the last ten years? Guess.

Go ahead, really guess.

You’ll never guess it, I’m telling you that right now.

I could have had a million guesses, and I never would have gotten it.

Gun to my head, if asked what the number one most Googled phrase that brought new traffic to TRBS since 2014 is, I probably would have said “Vince Flynn” or “Mitch Rapp.”


“Brad Thor?” maybe “Scot Harvath?” Nope. “Thrillers” or “Spy Thrillers?”

Nope, and nope.

Believe it or not, the most Googled phrase that has brought and introduced readers to The Real Book Spy is . . .

“Craig Johnson Longmire.”

Look, I’m a big fan of Craig Johnson’s books and the Longmire TV show, but I never woulda guessed that. At the same time, though, since my books are set in Montana and billed as “Vince Flynn meets C.J. Box,” I suddenly felt even more sure that Book Spy readers might like Fields of Fire and Lethal Range.

My second thought was “I really need to start covering Craig Johnson and his stuff more.”

Ironically, armed with my new info about Craig and his books and how it’s brought traffic to TRBS, I reached out to his publisher . . . and they kinda just skipped right over my plea to find new ways to cover and feature the Longmore books, and hit me with “we’ll send you the new one,” which they did right away, but like, I still don’t know how I’m going to cover Longmire more.

That’s not a diss on anyone, BTW (that means By The Way, my kids taught me that), I sent the email over the weekend, and they got back to me Monday morning. Who knows, maybe they’ll follow up with some ideas for or suggestions. I’ve never even interviewed Craig Johnson, I don’t think, so that’s suddenly pretty high on my to-do list.

Anyways, who woulda thunk it, right?


Go figure.

Check his books out if you haven’t already, but considering many of you found me by searching for him, I’m going to go out on a limb, and guess most of you already have. And they’re great. For the record, I truly am a fan.

Back to what I was saying about reading for pleasure . . .

Lately, I’ve been binging on The Queen of Crime herself, the late great Agatha Christie. Did you know that Christie, best known for her Hercule Poirot books, has sold billions of copies of her books? Billions. With a B—as in boy.

In fact, only the bible and Shaksephere have outsold her. She is literally the world’s best-selling author. Ever.

Now, look, I’ve read a few here and there, and I’ve certainly read the recently commissioned Sophie Hannah Poirot books and covered them. But I had never really binged the whole series until now, and I’m thoroughly addicted to her work. Not for nothing, but if the final twist in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd ain’t the best twist ever, I don’t know what is.

That book blew me away. I read it in a single sitting, up in my office, and loved every page. Whereas most fiction books are around 100,000 words these days, Christie’s books are more like 40-60,000, so they’re shorter, quicker reads and a nice changeup from what I normally cover. I highly recommend them.

My reason for reading them is because, years back, before I set out to write Fields of Fire, I completed another manuscript called Silver Lake, which is kind of a murder mystery, and lately, I’ve considered seeing if my agent should shop it to publishers. I probably won’t just yet, but eventually, I do think it could be a series. I had written it originally to be a standalone, but the private detective—who travels to Mears, Michigan, in order to investigate the recently revealed skeletons that are falling out of the shifting Silver Lake sand dunes—grew on me. I think I might bring him back for another story, and so I wanted to do my homework. And who better to study than the woman who created one of the most iconic characters ever created and who’s sold more books than all of today’s biggest authors combined?

That’s a long way of teasing that I might publish a mystery one day (Silver Lake is on the back burner for now, though there is a strong chance you’ll soon hear that in addition to writing my own Matthew Redd series, I’m taking over another series for a late author I was very close with), but also to encourage you to read Agatha Christie’s books.

One last fun story to finish up this first blog post . . .

Years ago, I was asked to host an Agatha Christie/Hercule Poirot event to honor the beloved writer and celebrate her and her work. It was virtual, and New York Times bestselling novelist Sophie Hannah was the headline guest. I, of course, agreed to do it. I’m a fan of Sophie’s work and wanted to meet her. Plus, I had read a couple of Christie’s books at the time and really admired her work and legacy. It was a no-brainer to participate. There was just one problem.

A big problem . . .

Oh, I’d read the books, and I knew Christie’s Belgian detective quite well, but uh, I couldn’t say his name.

At all.

These days, Google will tell you that the correct way to pronounce his name is “hur·kyool pwaa·row.” Sure. That seems easy enough. But let me just tell you, saying “Hercule Poirot” in a flat American accent sounds positively awful. We were like two minutes—literally two minutes (I’m going to use “literally” less in my next blog post)—from going live. I was in a full panic. Like, shoulda taken a Xanax panic. It was bad. I’m fine talking to people, but when you’re hosting a legacy event for a character whose name you cannot pronounce whatsoever, well, it’ll get your heart rate up and make your hands a bit sweaty. Trust me.

In an act of desperation, I turned to the lovely, wonderful Sophie Hannah and confessed my secret to her. “I, uh, can’t say his name.”

“Whose name?” I remember her asking me.

“The detective! Agatha’s protagionist.”

“Oh, Hercule Poirot?” Ya’ll, she said it perfectly. Flawless. Rolled right off her tongue.

I repeated it back.

I’m not sure how to describe it, but it most definitely did not roll off my tongue. More like tripped and fell out of my mouth.

Sophie kind of blinked at me, then goes, “Okay, let’s just concentrate on the last name.”

That was fine with me because I had already been crafting the full interview in my head around the fact that I couldn’t say this name properly. I’d actually spent more time than I want to admit trying to mock up questions in a way that would allow me to omit Poirot’s name altogether. “So, Sophie, what’s it like to take over such an iconic character? … What does Agatha Christie’s work mean to you? … When you think of her beloved protagionist, what comes to mind, and why do you think he’s resonated with readers so much?”

Not bad, right? I was gonna make it work, or at least try. But if I could say his name, it would definitely help. Not to mention open up all kinds of new questions for me to ask.

For the next ninety seconds . . . and I will never forget this for as long as I live . . . Sophie Hannah, bless her, very sweetly (and desperately), with the sort of patience rarely seen in this industry, taught me how to say “Poirot.”

“Kind of like this,” she said, drawing out the syllables. “Like you’re saying mwah, but with a P on the front.” Then, “Good! Now put a row on the end of it.”

I’ve never felt more stupid and embarrassed while also feeling deeply thankful in my entire life. Sophie had to be thinking, “They couldn’t have gotten someone else for this?!” but she never got frustrated with me. She was amazing. I can’t tell you how much I appreciated her or how much I relaxed after that. A moment later, we went live, and we had a terrific event.

Oddly enough, I’ve never had the chance to talk to or interview Sophie Hannah since then. I’d love to, by the way (especially now that I can say Poirot with confidence), and I certainly hope I’m able to interview her again one day. But if nothing else, I hope the takeaways here are:

1.) Sophie Hannah is one of the sweetest people in all of publishing, and you should 1o0% go check out all her books. She’s an amazing talent.

2.) Agatha Christie’s work still holds up and should be required reading.

3.) And thirdly . . . how in the heck did a character with a name that hard to pronounce become one of the most famous characters ever created?!

(I’m kidding about the third one. Kind of.)

If you made it to the end, congrats. That was a lot, I know. But I’m going to post these types of blog posts weekly from now on, assuming people enjoy them, though I don’t know why they would, so prepare for more behind-the-scenes type stuff from me designed to get conversations started. And please, leave me a comment below.

Until then, and as always . . .

Happy Reading!



Praised as “One of the hardest working, most thoughtful, and fairest reviewers out there” by New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline, Ryan Steck has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and is building a growing community on Twitch. His debut thriller, FIELDS OF FIRE, which #1 New York Times bestselling author Jack Carr says “will leave you speechless and begging for more,” is now available. His second novel, LETHAL RANGE, was just released. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. And to take part in free, exclusive BOOK CLUBS each month, join The Real Book Spy on Discord.


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