Sunday, September 27, 2009

It's In The Bag!

Special Guest pic

Today The Cozy Chicks welcome our friend and fellow author Hank Phillippi Ryan, who writes the award-winning Charlotte McNally Mysteries.

Raise your hand—who loves designer purses? They’re gorgeous, glamorous and desirable—and they look like they cost a million bucks. But you see them sold for low-low prices it discount stores and street vendors' tables. You see them slung over the shoulders of college students and suburban moms. You know the scoop: many of those hot-looking bags are fakes! 

Ever wonder where those knock-offs come from? How does someone know what the new Prada will look like—before it’s even on the market? And who’s getting rich? And biggest question of all--how they sell obvious knock-offs without taking heat from the authorities? I mean—we can buy ‘em on the street corner. Don’t the cops care?

Knock off purses

I’ve spent the last thirty years chasing good stories—and I knew this was a great one! As an investigative reporter in Boston, I’ve gone in disguise and undercover to explore the world of counterfeit couture—and the behind-the-scenes business of high-fashion fakes.

We discovered there are investigators actually trained by the designers themselves to scout out what’s real and what’s fake. They have elaborate manuals chock full of trade secrets, revealing things like the actual number of stitches per square inch, placement of logos, arrangement of patterns--special hush-hush indicators that only the trained eye would know to look for.

But just for instance: Check the stitching. On a real designer bag it will be perfect and even. Metal and fabric logos will be attached in a way so they can’t be yanked off. (Can you pull that triangular metal PRADA logo off your fabric bag? Oops.) The real thing won't come with handles wrapped in plastic and the bags won’t be stuffed with old newspapers. (We found some purses with bags filled with periodicals from Asia! That would never happen with a real designer bag.)

But as a mystery author, I always ask—what if? And I began to imagine the fascinating possibilities in designer duplicates. One of the things I love to do in my novels is take something that’s familiar and give it a twist or two that turns it into something unexpected and unpredictable. Because I already knew the inside scoop—that helped me create a truly workable scheme for my fictional fashion crooks. (I can tell you, when I revealed it to law enforcement sources, they sheepishly admitted my plan was completely plausible!). 

So in AIR TIME, an investigation into the glam world of fashion fakes puts Charlie undercover and in disguise in the middle of a high-stakes scheme. (Sound familiar? Yes, I admit, she’s my almost alter-ego.) It’s all beautiful on the outside, but there’s a sinister secret inside one glamorous company. And in a life-changing split second, Charlie must decide what’s real—and what’s fake.

And going undercover is not her only dilemma—how about under the covers? Charlie’s long been married to her career, but now, at 47, there’s a man in her life. Is he—finally—‘the one? In life and in love—how do you tell the real thing?

So—do designer bags tempt you? Do you own an honest-to-goodness real one? Would you want one? Do you have a knock-off? What do you think of those?


Award-winning investigative reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan is currently on the air at Boston's NBC affiliate, where she's broken big stories for the past 22 years. Her stories have resulted in new laws, people sent to prison, homes removed from foreclosure, and millions of dollars in refunds and restitution for consumers.

Along with her 26 EMMYs, Hank’s won also won dozens of other journalism honors. She's been a legislative aide in the United States Senate (working on the Freedom of Information Act) and at Rolling Stone Magazine (working with Hunter S. Thompson).

Her first mysteries, Prime Time (which won the prestigious Agatha Award for Best First Novel, was a double RITA nominee for Best First Book and Best Romantic Suspense Novel, and a Reviewers' Choice Award Winner) and Face Time (Book Sense Notable Book), were best sellers. They were both re-issued this summer from MIRA Books. Suzanne Brockmann says: “I love this series!”


CONTEST! Commenters here at the Cozy Chicks will be entered to win a copy of PRIME TIME! (Or if you’ve already read it, hurray, Hank will send you the TIME book of your choice!) FIVE WINNERS!

Hank’s brand new book is AIR TIME-—where veteran TV reporter Charlotte McNally goes undercover into the dangerously high-stakes and not-always-pretty world of high-fashion fakes. AIR TIME is already on several best-seller lists, and Sue Grafton says: "Sassy, fast-paced and appealing. This is first-class entertainment." Hank says: “After you read it, I promise you’ll never look at air travel, fake purses or baggage claim the same way again!”

Watch for Drive Time from MIRA in February 2010.) Hank’s website is