Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Crime Fiction Masters: Robert Crais

Robert Crais is one of my must-read crime fiction novelists. His P. I.s, Elvis Cole and Joe Pike, partner to form yet another classic "buddy" team. The early Elvis Cole romps were told with a much more lighthearted and satirical slant than the later books, but every Crais novel is an enjoyable read. Crais' last few novels have shifted the focus over to Joe Pike, with Elvis appearing in a supporting role. Robert Crais is not a book factory like some of the other best-selling mystery writers. Each of his books is well-crafted and fast-moving. The supporting character, geeky LAPD criminalist John Chen, is a hoot.

From yee ol' Wiki: "Robert Crais (b. 1953) began his career writing scripts for television shows such as Hill Street Blues, Cagney & Lacey, Quincy, Miami Vice and L.A. Law. He lists amongst his literary influences the authors Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Ernest Hemingway, Robert B. Parker and John Steinbeck. (Note from Donno: How can you go wrong with that list?)

Crais's usual protagonist and first-person narrator is private detective Elvis Cole, an ex-Ranger. Cole's partner is Joe Pike, a former Marine. Except for Demolition Angel, Hostage and The Two-Minute Rule, all of Crais' books feature Cole and Pike, with The Watchman (2007), The First Rule (2010) and The Sentry (2011) centering on Joe Pike.

The author tackles a variety of subjects in his novels. Free Fall was inspired by the Rodney King riots and Sunset Express dealt with a killer who bore an uncanny resemblance to O. J. Simpson. The most frequently recurring theme in Crais's books is the value of honesty; in his works, the long-term value of coming clean always outweighs the short-term benefits of covering up the problem. Crais also delves into issues of family and loyalty

Robert Crais has stated that "Thematically, again and again my books are about people who are trying to be better than they have been."

In 2005, Bruce Willis appeared in Hostage, the first Hollywood adaptation of one of his books. Crais has no plans to sell the rights to his Elvis Cole novels, preferring to allow his readers to keep their own personal conceptions of the characters."

Elvis Cole/Joe Pike novels:

The Monkey's Raincoat -- 1987
Stalking the Angel -- 1989
Lullaby Town -- 1992
Free Fall -- 1993
Voodoo River -- 1995
Sunset Express -- 1996
Indigo Slam -- 1997
L. A. Requiem -- 1999
The Last Detective -- 2003
The Forgotten Man -- 2005
The Watchman -- 2007
Chasing Darkness -- 2008
The First Rule -- 2010
The Sentry -- 2011
Taken -- 2012

Other novels:

Demolition Angel -- 2000
Hostage -- 2001
The Two-Minute Rule -- 2006

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