Santa Clara Magazine
For the Alumni and Friends of Santa Clara University
Phil Ryan ’61 entwines a murder trial with the immigrant history of San Francisco in his first novel, All Sins Remembered (San Francisco City Press, 2008). The slaying of a young socialite unearths the city’s sometimes sordid and tragic past, including the Great Earthquake and Fire of 1906. There’s ample Hitchcockian suspense and veteran mystery writer Max Byrd dubs Ryan’s novel a “terrific debut”. While Ryan may be new to novel writing, he has more than four decades of experience as a high-profile trial lawyer under his belt.
Newsletter of the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society
October – December, 2008
What a treat to have a native San Franciscan with extraordinary intuition and perspicacity write a San Francisco mystery novel based on a famous murder trial some 60 years ago. The mystery itself excites, but it is Ryan’s sensitive attention to post-World War II San Francisco that entices the reader into a long-lost world. Ryan, of Irish and Italian parentage, creates subtle chords that marked the blending of the two cultures, an important part of San Francisco’s ethnicity during the first two-thirds of the 20th century. Splendid characters, a fast-paced narrative, and the intriguing dimensions of the plot combine to make All Sins Remembered a fascinating read, in addition to providing sociological insights into the ethnic world of San Francisco before the radical changes of the 1960s and beyond.
— Review written by Prof. Charles Fracchia and founder San Francisco Historical Society.
Marin Independent Journal
All Sins Remembered Listed in the Top Ten Marin Fiction
The Marin Independent Journal has reported in its listings of top-selling books that All Sins Remembered has risen into the top ten fiction list several times in recent months. On March 14 All Sins Remembered was #1 on best seller list. In the week of August 3, the book was ranked at number 6, and in the week of Sept. 14 it was ranked number 8. See the lists here:
Comments by Published Authors
“Phil Ryan is a gifted storyteller-witty, intense, with an amazing knowledge of San Francisco, then and now, and a wonderful eye for telling details. This is a terrific debut!”
— Max Byrd, best-selling and prize winning author of historical novels,
“Jefferson,” “Jackson” and “Grant.” (Bantam Books)
“The amazing thing about Phil Ryan is that he not only writes with refinement and rhythm, but speaks that way in the courtroom. To see and hear him in action is to be transported to the England of Winston Churchill.”
— James Kavanaugh, best-selling author/poet whom Larry King called, “The Peoples’ Poet.”
“All Sins Remembered is a great novel… and Phil Ryan has done an amazing job. The book is so well written, the characters so vividly real and the story so fascinating that I could barely put it down. The city of San Francisco became a living, breathing presence while I was reading the book. Its history utterly enthralled me. The complex sage of the Bertolli and Panforte families was so realistic that at times I felt I was reading a biography, rather than a novel. Allow me to also say that because I’m a life-long mystery buff, and quite a critical one at that, I can attest to the quality of this part of Ryan’s book as well. It’s a real ‘whodunnit’ in the best sense of the word! I had no who murdered Paula until the very end! Ryan expertly weaves the ideas of morality and redemption into the story in a deeply human and thoughtful way. I was very, very moved by these personal issues he raised, and how they were so authentically resolved.”
Wendy Werris, author of “An Alphabetical Life” (Carroll & Graf)
“All Sins Remembered is an exciting historical novel that colored and deepened my relationship with the California/ SF Bay Area people and places I’ve shared a lifetime of more than half a century with. Like other worthwhile literature in this genre, including Steinbeck’s works (Grapes of Wrath, In Dubious Battle, Cannery Row, The Red Pony, etc.) and especially Frank Norris’ The Octopus, it spurred me to talk things over with my relatives and neighbors and search the historical record to learn more about the events described.
Author Ryan indicates that “All characters and events in this book are fictitious”, but that isn’t strictly true… Important real local personages like AP Gianinni, Abraham Reuf, Luisa Tetrazinni, Gaetano Merola, Edmund G “Pat” Brown, and even William F Knowland make appearances that fit the facts of their famous lives. The remarkable success of Italian immigrants to Northern California is rationalized and explained.
There is much more value to this book than its historicity. Subtle workings of the legal system are described by an insider. (The author is a retired attorney). The elusive notions of truth and justice are explored. Important, well respected institutions like the Roman Catholic Church, the Jesuit Order, the SF Police Department, and the SF Opera become more familiar. The human condition, from slapstick humor, through torturous dilemmas whose hard choices mete out lasting impacts, to heart-breaking tragedy, are all on view in author Ryan’s vivid, expressive, engaging language.
I highly recommend this novel.
— R.S.Nelson – SF Bay Area
I have been staying up late for the last two nights reading this book and skipping the morning paper in favor of another chapter. It is impossible to put down – a compelling story, filled with San Francisco history and insider fun!
— Mary Berman
This is a fine scholarly effort, that vividly, with carefull precision, stages the background for a seminal period of the San Francisco Bay Area, and masterfully entwines the passions of a love story with a notorius murder mystery. It is a truly engrossing historical novel, not only for those who have fallen in love with San Francisco and are fascinated with the rich and eclectic pastiche, that is today’s legacy of the area, it will also absorb the interest of those who love good literature. Cudos to the author for this fine work!
— Arnold Melvin Johnson – Los Angeles, CA
I’ll keep this short… All Sins Remembered is a remarkable book that wraps the history of San Francisco; from just before the earthquake to the present, into a modern murder mystery.
As the thriller unfolds, the author tells the story of the Italian and Irish immigrants who built and rebuilt the City. Just to hear that history told is worth the price of admission.
But the story itself cannot be discounted. The characters are believable, the mystery is riveting, and there is a nice twist at the end. Finally, the prose is very special. I imagine that you’ll find yourself rereading paragraphs to savor the words…
So, obviously I liked the book… and can recommend it to you.
— R. Klopp – Zephyr Cove, NV
Phil Ryan’s All Sins Remembered is a marvelous page-turner of a novel. A compelling mystery and court room drama lie at the heart of the book, but it is more than a deftly-told tale. It is also a fascinating and faithful history of San Francisco and the memorable people, some fictional, others real, but all believable, who rebuilt a great city on the ruins of the devastating 1906 earthquake. Ryan is a first-time author, but writes fluently, with the poetic grace of a far-more seasoned novelist. All Sins Remembered is the first in a trilogy. Given the fertile inventiveness Ryan reveals here I can hardly wait for the next in the series.
— Judge Arline Pacht – Chevy Chase, MD
“You know when a novel is really good, when you walk about in your daily activities, thinking and living within the novel, and somewhat oblivious to the tasks at hand. Mesmerizing, I think you could call it. The prologue slowly draws you in, the characters introduced and shaped, until they take on a life of their own. Pat Kelly, the Panforte family, and inspectors O’Day and Murphy are all crafted so well, I could paint their portraits. I am going to savor this novel slowly, like a fine old Gran Cru Bordeaux. No rush, just pleasure in reading how it all unfolds.”
–Robert Burns – Mendocino, California