About the Author
Phil Ryan’s life reads like a novel, some say more like an opera. Nationally known as a high-priced entertainment trial lawyer, zero-losses murder trial attorney and high-powered counselor to California politicos, Ryan has sketched a life true to the bold, quirky and rich romanticism that characterizes San Francisco itself. And now, as a novelist, Ryan has used his experiences -as well as the rich history of San Francisco- as a blueprint for his first published novel, All Sins Remembered. (San Francisco City Press, Inc. 2008.)
Indeed, publication of All Sins Remembered adds yet another dynamic chapter to the life of this San Francisco native son whose own dramatic tale began at a very young age. Ryan made his initial foray into public service in 1962 when he became the youngest legislative aide in the California legislature and managed the campaigns of young politicians who would later serve in the governor’s office and as Speaker of the California Assembly.
However, Ryan says the defining moment of his life was his work as a civil rights organizer in the Mississippi Freedom Summer. Joining his generation as “outside agitators” in the South, he organized voter registration and non-violent resistance to Jim Crow that ultimately paved the way for Civil and Voting Rights Acts. “In the racially segregated South, I learned the limits of American law and the extent to which law had institutionalized bigotry,” he said. It is a source of enormous pride that Ryan lived to see Senator Barack Obama win the Mississippi Democratic Primary for President of the United States and then the Presidency!
Ryan attended Santa Clara University and graduated cum laude from Howard University School of Law in 1969. That same year, he served as project director of the New Mobilization to End the Vietnam War and organized protest that drew 250,000 people to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. He promoted the demonstration as a free rock concert with the likes of Crosby, Stills, Nash, the Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead and Country Joe, wedding rock n’ roll to radical anti-war politics.
Ryan went on to craft a high-profile four decade career as a trial lawyer, specializing in criminal defense and entertainment law. He had a perfect record murder cases. He did, however, gain a reputation for being as flamboyant as his celebrity clients, who included the late Robin Williams, Sylvester Stallone, the Jefferson Airplane, Paul Kantner (Ryan negotiated the artist’s bitter split from the Jefferson Starship), Grace Slick (who retained Ryan when she left the same band several years later), pop singer/actress Irene Cara, Huey Lewis, singer/songwriter Angela Winbush, Frankie Beverly and comedian Will Durst (S.F. Chronicle PEOPLE Section, June 8, 1988.) Along the way, Ryan also represented all-star MVP professional baseball players, NBA basketball and NFL football players. Institutional clients included Ticketmaster, Motown Records, the Recording Industry of America, and the Conference of Personal Managers. In addition, Ryan was retained by a few sitting judges, numerous legislators, anti-war demonstrators, accused drug dealers, record producers and record label brass. For more than a decade California Assembly Speaker Willie L.Brown was Of Counsel to Ryan’s law firms and, together, they negotiated black record company executives’ contracts with record companies MCA, Capitol Records, Polygram, Interscope Records. Three times Ryan’s cases were cover stories in Rolling Stone magazine and in a San Francisco Chronicle feature Ryan was dubbed, “San Francisco’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Lawyer.”
Ryan’s maiden novel, All Sins Remembered, is a multi-generational tale set in the first half of 20th Century San Francisco. It is the story of a high ranking court attaché who moonlights as a private investigator in a front-page San Francisco murder case and discovers dark secrets of prominent Irish and Italian families, including his own.
The publication of All Sins Remembered was interrupted when San Francisco’s first African American Police Chief Earl Sanders was indicted by the District Attorney Terence Hallinan. Ryan couldn’t say no to his friend of thirty years, so he put his novel aside to exonerate the Chief and his command staff. Ryan’s legal skills and media mastery forced the D.A. to dismiss Chief Sanders’ case in a mere eleven days. Ryan then won an unprecedented “factual finding of innocence” for Chief Sanders. Political pundits claim that Ryan’s defense of the Chief in court and in the press probably cost District Attorney Terence Hallinan his re-election bid.
Ryan is presently writing the “inside story” of this San Francisco national political scandal as well as editing his second novel, Bella Cora. Bella Cora is the tale of the most beautiful, wealthiest, woman in Gold Rush California whose defiance of Know Nothing values causes a violent insurrection in San Francisco and the lynching of her lover.