Tuesday, June 22, 1999

Robert Crais talks about his life of crime

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Look who we ran into in the lobby of the Cincinnatian Hotel: high-end crime novelist Robert Crais.

        You know Mr. Crais: He's author of the popular private eye Elvis Cole book series, not to mention a veteran of any number of TV scripts, including L.A. Law, Hill Street Blues and Quincy.

        Mr. Crais knows about cops. A lifelong Southerner transplanted to Los Angeles, he comes from a family full of them (“When I left to become a writer, none of them would speak to me for a year). So, he spends a lot of time in his books drawing on personal experience.

        We caught up with him passing through Cincinnati on his way to Dayton to sign L.A. Requiem (Doubleday; $23.95). It's his eighth Elvis Cole novel.

        Good time to play a little game of five easy questions, don't you think?

        QUESTION: You're on a 26-city book signing tour. That's a long one. Do you have any idea what city you're in?

        ANSWER: Well, it's early in the tour (Cincinnati was the sixth stop), so I'm doing OK right now. Ask me at the end of the tour and I'll have no idea. I go on radio stations all the time and talk about how I like the city. Usually it's the wrong city.

        Q: What I miss most about life in the South ...

        A: Food. Far and away. They have the most incredible seafood in southern Louisiana. Nowhere else is it like that. You can't find that sensuous, texturous treatment anywhere else.

        Q: The one thing I need to do with Elvis Cole that I haven't yet ...

        A: Well, in this book I combined genres. It's not just a PI book — it's a suspense novel and a police procedural too. Sort of a three-way. I want to do more of that — develop stories that allow me to use other genre. Maybe even a touch of fantasy. I live in L.A., fantasy is easy.

        Q: When my family finally spoke to me again, the first thing I told them ...

        A: You mean a year later? They thought I was nuts because it's all a blue-collar family. They thought I was a Martian because I wanted to write. When my father and I finally spoke again, I told him that I'm following my dream. Be proud of me. I suspect he was, but he never could give it voice.

        Q: The question people ask most often at signings ...

        A: That's easy — where do my characters come from? In all honesty, it's all a product of me and my life experience. To write honestly and well, you have to invest yourself — even in the bad guys. So yeah, I'm the heroes, Elvis and Joe Pike, but I'm also the bad guys, the self-serving detective, the homeless guy, even the serial killer. It's all me in some way or another.


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- Robert Crais talks about his life of crime
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