John Searles

Best-selling Novelist, Today Show Literary Commentator, Editor-at-Large at Cosmopolitan


“John Searles gave a fabulous keynote address at the 2008 Backspace Writers Conference. Not only did he charm the audience with his enthusiasm and humor, but many said John’s keynote was the highlight of the conference, and worth the cost of the registration fee alone.”

—Karen Dionne, Administrator, Backspace LLC

John Searles is the author of the best-selling novels Boy Still Missing, Strange But True, and Help for the Haunted. Strange But True is soon to be a major motion picture starring Amy Ryan, Greg Kinnear, Nick Robinson, Margaret Qualley, directed by Rowan Athale, and produced by CBS Films. The thrilled is about a couple who receive a visit from a pregnant woman claiming their son who died five years ago on prom night is the father of her child.

For 10 years, Searles has appeared regularly as a book critic on NBC’s Today Show and CBS’s The Early Show. He is also the Editor-at-Large of Cosmopolitan. His essays have been published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Daily Beast, and other national publications. Searles has also appeared on CBS’s The Early Show, NPR’s “Fresh Air,” Live! With Regis and Kelly, and on CNN. As an editor-at-large at Cosmopolitan, he is involved with all book excerpts and reviews, the magazine’s best-selling book series, website, radio station, and iPad apps. Time magazine named him a “Person to Watch,” and the New York Daily News dubbed him a “New Yorker to Watch” when his first novel, Boy Still Missing, was published. Searles’s humor, affability and industry expertise make him a sought after keynote speaker for a variety of audiences including colleges and universities, publishing programs, writers’ retreats, literary festivals, libraries, and library conferences.

Help for the Haunted was winner of the American Library Association Alex Award, Boston Globe’s 2013 Best Crime Fiction, An Amazon Top 10 Mystery and Suspense Novel of 2013, and hit Entertainment Weekly’s Top 10 Must List.

Searles was born and raised in Monroe, Connecticut, the son of a truck driver and stay-at-home mom. After his high school graduation, he worked at the nearby Dupont factory. To save money for college tuition, he stayed on at the factory and worked a night-job as a telemarketer, keeping people on the phone for hours asking important questions like, “On a scale of one to ten, how do you rate Bubble Yum in terms of its chewability?” When he finally saved enough money, Searles quit the factory and began commuting to Southern Connecticut State University. He majored in business, because he thought it was practical, but minored in creative writing, because it was something he loved. He was fortunate to win a number of writing awards from the University. Encouraged by this recognition, he moved to New York City to pursue a master’s degree in creative writing at New York University.

Following his time at NYU, Searles waited tables and attempted to publish his novel. His most memorable rejection came when an editor mistakenly left this note inserted in the manuscript: “I could barely make it to page 60 and I feel really sorry for anyone who has to read the whole thing.” Soon afterward, Searles attended a writer’s conference in South Carolina, where he met the fiction editor of Redbook. She liked his writing and offered him a freelance job reading short story submissions for 50 cents a story. He took that job for over a year until he was offered what was at first meant to be a part-time position in the books department at Cosmopolitan.

John Searles lives in New York City and Sag Harbor, New York.

Praise for Help for the Haunted

“Part ghost story, part coming-of-age story, John Searles’ Help for the Haunted is a dazzling, dark portrait of a troubled family beset by the supernatural. Searles ratchets up the tension with every passing chapter, and delivers authentic and well-earned scares – all written through the lens of a lonely teenager searching for answers. The result is a novel both frightening and beautiful.”

—Gillian Flynn, author of Gone Girl

“[Searles] has crafted a strange, spooky world that is absolutely believable. Sweet precocious, desperate Sylvie is a memorable young striver in the tradition of Scout Finch, and Help for the Haunted is an exceptional piece of storytelling, finally not about demons, but human beings who are all too flawed and all too real.”

The Washington Post

“A compelling mystery… A poignant story of a family, of parents navigating an odd and dangerous career, of daughters shaken by doubt and loss and grief—and the gulf that widens between them all.”

The Miami Herald

“A rich and tense suspense story that serves up plenty of genuine thrills but also moves the reader with elegant insights into the enigma that is family.”

—Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner

“A masterful genre mash-up that’s part paranormal thriller, part coming-of-age story, part crime fiction, Searles’ eerie novel about a young girl uncovering the mystery of her parents’ murders builds to a stunning and poignant conclusion”

Entertainment Weekly

“The family demons are more troubling than the supernatural ones in John Searles’ new novel… Sylvie’s flashbacks and exploration of her mom and dad’s relationship will haunt readers’ hearts after they turn the final page.”


“[Searles’] new release, about a young girl whose parents are self-proclaimed ‘saviors of haunted souls,’ is his most engrossing yet.”

People Magazine

“The mystery of who killed Sylvie’s parents is only the first of many mysteries that unfold in John Searles’ Help for the Haunted, and expertly-wrought, coming-of-age story with a healthy dose of creepiness… The chills deliver, but the depth of the story is what really sets this book apart. Your parents are never gone from you… Sylvie remembers her father saying. And for some, that’s just another way of being haunted.”, “Best Book of the Month”

“The best scary stories unfold on the porous boundary between the supernatural and the ordinary. The moving and elegantly constructed Help for the Haunted by John Searles places a tense family drama in the context of a series of exorcisms… Searles craftily uses the conventions of the horror novel to cast light on the troubled dynamics at work inside a family, as well as the pressures from the outside world. His novel is both a suspenseful page turner and a provocative look at what it means to be haunted.”

The Columbus Dispatch

“A quickly paced and boldly rendered ghost story, Searles’ dark novel about a young girl haunted by the murder of her parents had me up reading all night. And checking the doors. I found it impossible to put down.”

—Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants

“I was completely consume by Help for the Haunted; I read it in one sitting. I just can’t decide what I loved the most: its perfectly pitched teenage narrator; the ghost story that kept me riveted; the thriller that made me say, Oh, just one more chapter. John Searles has drawn a delicate portrait of the gap between what we know to be true, and what we desperately want to believe. In fact the only flaw I can find is that I’ve finished the novel – and that it’s going to be awfully hard for my next reading choice to measure up.”

—Jodi Picoult, bestselling author of Lone Wolf and The Storyteller

Help for the Haunted grabs you by the throat in the opening chapter, and shakes you to the core, just as it sweeps up Sylvie, its young heroine who has to sift madly through a thousand twists and turns to try to tell the paranormal from the mundane in order to solve the unusual circumstances of her parents’ murder and her own part in it. This is edge-of-your-seat reading of a very high quality, and, be warned, it is seriously spine-tingling.”

—Robert Goolrick, author of A Reliable Wife

“John Searles has given us something wonderful with Help for the Haunted: a coming of age tale that is poignant and touching… and will scare the living hell out of you. I loved every page of this novel: I loved the sisters and the story and the page-turning mystery. I just may never go downstairs into my basement again.”

– Chris Bohjalian, bestselling author of Midwives and The Light in the Ruins

“[Searles] has a distinct talent for fashioning chilling, thrilling novels.”

New York Daily News

“Captivating… Involves both classic horror elements (a malevolent rag doll, a stolen diary, a hatchet, a scary basement) and contemporary ones (a prescription for Vicodin). Searles controls the plot with a sure hand and wraps up the situation on Butter Lane in a satisfying and believable way. The darkest secrets in this book are not paranormal at all, but chillingly ordinary.” – Newsday “A rich and tense suspense story that serves up plenty of genuine thrills but also moves the reader with elegant insights into the enigma that is Family.”

—Khaled Hosseini, best-selling author of And the Mountains Echoed

and The Kite Runner

Praise for Strange But True

“John Searles is my new favorite writer, and Strange But True is the absolute best novel I’ve read in a long, long time. Part psychological suspense, part character study, and all beautifully written, this is a page-turner with characters you can never forget.”

—Lisa Scottoline, best-selling author of Killer Smile

“The emotions ring true on every page. These are living, breathing characters and John Searles’ novel illuminates the intricate dynamics of families with humor, heart, and truth.”

—Augusten Burroughs, bestselling author of Running With Scissors and Dry

“A fine, unsettling novel with richly etched characters and a delicious sense of menace.”

—Dennis Lehane, author of Mystic River

“This tale has a light, eccentric aspect… You’ll race right through it.”

New York Times

“[Searles] shows how mundane events and discoveries can jump-start the spirit and bring us to terms with what and who we are… remarkably true to life.”

USA Today

“Wonderfully entertaining.”


“You know what’s coming next, but you don’t know all of it. This is the reason we keep reading.”

San Francisco Chronicle

“Part thriller, part mystery, part coming-of-age fable, this story of a high-school quarterback’s tragic death – and a most unlikely pregnancy – will hold you transfixed.”


“[Searles] wisely doesn’t make promises he can’t keep, and they may not be for everyone. That they one day, may, though, shimmers in the stalthy beauty of this novel.”

New York Daily News

Praise for Boy Still Missing

“I meant to get so much done on the day I picked up Boy Still Missing. Instead, my ‘things to do’ list blew away, the clock face blurred, and I read – hungrily, compulsively, worried sick for a troubled young character about whom I cared deeply.”

—Wally Lamb, author of I Know This Much Is True

“Once you get into this novel, you’ll forget the world – the book is that seductive, that suspenseful.”

—Frank McCourt, author of Angela’s Ashes and ‘Tis

“An impressively assured new voice.”



New York Times Book Review


Entertainment Weekly

“A lively thriller with a big heart.”


“A sensual debut novel… Builds up roller-coaster speed, careening to a dramatic, poignant finale.”


Boy Still Missing takes us to a small, hardscrabble town like the one where Searles grew up, and by bringing to life the primal emotions of a character shattered by a needless death, it conveys a message of hope” People can find peace by standing up for what they deeply believe in.”

New York Daily News

“A gritty, sometimes heartbreaking coming-of-age novel… Proof that a child of tragic parents can indeed break the cycle of misfortune.”

Redbook Magazine

“[A] vivid first novel… You’ll root for Dominick as he weather tough times and finds solace in love.”