Book Review: When No One Is Watching by Joseph Hayes

When No One Is Watching

Author: Joseph Hayes

Published By:Synergy Books

ISBN: 13: 978-0984387946

Genre: Thriller/suspense/morality tale




Synopsis: On the eve of announcing his run for Congress, a charismatic Chicago politician causes a deadly accident. Panicked, he frames his best friend, a good-hearted alcoholic, and flees the scene. As one man tries to pick up the pieces of his shattered life, the other embarks on a meteoric rise to political stardom. But when a dogged detective digs deeper into the case, the political superstar must decide just how far he is willing to go to keep his dark secret. Author Joseph combines page-turning suspense with a poignant tale of inspiration and redemption as he asks, is “the greater good” just a lie we tell ourselves to justify the sins we commit when no one is watching?


Author Bio: Joseph Hayes is a native of Chicago. He grew up in a family of eight children in the Beverly neighborhood on Chicago’s Far South Side, where the Irish-Catholic heritage and influence was strong and visible. Joe attended St. Barnabas Elementary School, Brother Rice High School and De Paul University before leaving Chicago to attend law school in California, at UC Berkeley. Since graduating from Berkeley, he has practiced law in Chicago, San Diego and Houston. Joe currently serves as chief ethics officer and assistant general counsel for a large, publicly held company based in Houston, Texas, and is widely recognized as one of the foremost experts in his field. In his professional capacity, he has written extensively about legal and ethical issues and frequently speaks about such issues be! fore employee and industry groups. When No One is Watching is his first work of fiction. His second novel, a legal thriller entitled Consequential Damages, is expected to be published soon Joe currently resides in The Woodlands, Texas, with his wife, Susan, and their three children, Amy, Sean and Erin.

Author Website:

My Review

[As a part of my review, Joseph Hayes very kindly agreed to answer a few questions regarding his first novel.  The Q&A can be found at the end of my review.]

Joseph Hayes writes a time spanning and life changing tale that covers over ten years, and is not so much a crime novel as an emotional rollercoaster for the reader, from shock and anger to sympathy and loss, they are all there.  The initial crime is a straightforward one, but shatters several lives.  It is not complicated, and it is clear who is guilty, but as events unfold and the plot develops there is little that remains straightforward.


 Mr Hayes makes sure the reader knows what’s going on, what the characters are thinking and carries his readers from scene to scene.


 Although the book is a relatively short one the main characters feel alive, how they react to each situation feels real and gives the reader a chance to empathise with some.  I had a feeling that Mr Hayes was going to develop one of those into a recurring character, that he would be the hero of this and future books, but this was not how Mr Hayes played out his tale.  This book is very much a stand-alone, and is his first novel, but I don’t think it will be his last.

Mr Hayes has a gift to tell a tale, to talk about crime but also the ethics of crime, how our choices might be quick but they can affect many for years to come. 

Each scene that Mr Hayes relates, makes it seem as though the story is only going to end one way, but some very clever plotting and interweaving of the characters brings the end to a different and perhaps more satisfactory conclusion.

4 out of 5 Stars – I really liked it!

Author Q & A:

Hello Mr Hayes,

Many thanks for agreeing to answer a few questions about your novel, “When No One is Watching.”

I’ve just finished reading it and I thoroughly enjoyed it, you raised many an interesting thought in my mind, as I work in a political field myself when I’m not reading I found some aspects particularly pertinent. 

So anyway, straight to those questions:


TW:  There’s a saying that “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”.  Did you intend for the character of Blair Van Howe to fall victim to this, and hence why he did what he did at the accident scene , or where there others who were perhaps more responsible for his actions than he was?

 JH:  Blair was certainly seduced by power, and his thirst for it was the primary motivation for the decision he made in the opening scene (the accident scene). However, in developing that scene and the rest of the story, I was more focused on capturing the ethical dilemma — the notion that character and integrity are defined by the decisions we make when no one is watching. I also tried to demonstrate how easy it is for us to try to rationalize such self-serving decisions (for example, Blair’s justification that getting elected would enable him to promote the greater good) and the fact that the consequences of those decisions can be far-reaching. 

TW:  Are any of your characters and story based upon real people or events, and if so who / what?

JH: The main character (Danny Moran) was modelled after my father, and his life story after getting sober was similar to my Dad’s. A number of the alcoholics portrayed in the story were composites of various people that my father became acquainted with through the AA program. Other than that, all of the characters were completely fictional.

TW:  I believe that this is your first novel, did you always have it in mind to be a stand-alone or were you ever thinking about there being potential for it to become a series?  For example, Detective Slazak seemed to be a strong character, and yet you effectively wrote him out of the book early on.  Did you ever conceive an ending where he might be the hero and crack the case?  Perhaps becoming a recurring character?

JH: I never considered the concept of making this novel the first in a series. Honestly, that just never occurred to me — probably a reflection of my inexperience when it comes to publishing, although I now clearly recognize the fact that a series can be very marketable due to the built-in audience that exists after the first story is successful. Anyway, in my mind, it made sense to write Detective Slazak out of the story because I was working toward the point of making it seem utterly hopeless that the truth would surface. The incriminating evidence was gradually disappearing, and the last and most compelling piece of that was Slazak himself. I wanted to get back to the “when no one is watching” dilemma facing Blair. In other words, knowing that he truly got away with his betrayal and deception, can he live with himself?

 TW:  How did you research the AA element of Danny’s character?

JH: I didn’t need to research the AA part of Danny’s life — I lived it. My father joined AA when I was twelve years old and spent the remainder of his life (30 years) devoted to that cause. I watched him as he developed his own routines to maintain his grip on sobriety. I watched him as he tried to help those who were battling their addictions. I would often wake up in the morning and find some unknown soul sleeping one off in our house after my Dad had responded to a desperate call for help the night before. Through those firsthand experiences, I got a pretty good glimpse of the heartaches and tragedies surrounding alcoholism, but also witnessed many stories of hope and inspiration as I saw my Dad and others in the recovery community selflessly devoting themselves to others who were suffering from this addiction — and making a difference. That was the real inspiration for this story, and I dedicated the book to those quiet, selfless heroes.

TW:  Without giving too much away, the story had a “tidy” ending.  Did you always plan it that way or did you consider a different out-turn?

JH: I never really considered a different ending to the story because that ending was my starting point. The final scene at the funeral home and cemetery were based on an actual event in my life, and that was the inspiration for the story. So I wound up creating a fictional story that lead into that ending.

TW:  Where do you draw your inspiration as an author from, is it from other writers or somewhere else?  Do you have any particularly favourite authors?

JH: I don’t really draw my writing inspiration from other authors. I think it comes from real life experiences that strike me as profound in some way, and motivate me to tell a story that entertaining but also has something valuable and meaningful to say. That’s what I attempted to do with When No One is Watching, and it is also what inspired my next novel, entitled Consequential Damages. As for my favourite books and authors, I really gravitate toward the classics. I like Dickens, Dostoyevsky, Mark Twain, and many others whose writings have withstood the test of time. As for modern authors, I enjoy John Grisham, Nicholas Sparks, David Baldacci and Mitch Albom, among others. I really liked the Harry Potter books. With regard to nonfiction, I’ve recently read and enjoyed The Tipping Point and Freakonomics.

Review Disclaimer:  I received a free e-book version of When No One Is Watching to review as a part of this book tour. I have received no other endorsement for this review.


As I was going to press with this review, I received the following additional information.  Congratualtions to Joseph Hayes!



 Contests recognize outstanding independently published books

 THE WOODLANDS, TEXAS. Joseph Hayes, author of the highly acclaimed When No One is Watching, has been named as a finalist in the category of Inspirational Fiction by the 2011 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Aspiring to be the “Sundance” for indie books, this is the nation’s largest nonprofit awards program for small presses, larger independent publishers, university presses, e-book publishers and self-published authors.

 Hayes was also recognized as a finalist in the category of New Fiction (First Book) by the National Indie Excellence Awards, which celebrates the “best of the best” in independent press.

 In When No One is Watching, Hayes spins a tale involving ambition, corruption and scandal within Chicago political circles. Within the framework of this page-turning thriller is a compelling contemporary morality play dealing with ethics, personal responsibility and making a difference. It explores the rationalizations our political leaders often make – justifying their self-serving personal agendas in the name of promoting the “greater good.” It examines the notion that character and integrity are defined by how we behave when no one is watching, and the far-reaching consequences of the decisions we make when facing ethical dilemmas. It also explores the impact of guilt on the human mind and heart and searches for inspiration and heroism in unexpected places.

 Joseph Hayes is a native of Beverly on the city’s South Side. He graduated from St. Barnabas elementary school, Brother Rice High School and De Paul University before attending law school at the University of California at Berkeley. Hayes is an attorney and currently serves as chief ethics officer for a Fortune 1000 Company based in Houston, Texas.

 More information about the book can be found at

One thought on “Book Review: When No One Is Watching by Joseph Hayes

Comments are closed.