LOS Angeles thriller/detective novelist Robert Crais will probably always be known for his detective hero Elvis Cole, a rock n roll fan with a taste for loud shirts. His latest novel is the third to focus on Cole's sidekick Joe Pike, a laconic, unknowable badass: I've only just started The Sentry, which kicks off in New Orleans before moving to LA, but the damn thing takes off like a rocket. (The LA Times review of by Paula Woods.)
HERE is my profile of Crais, who is one of the best adjusted novelists I've ever spoken to -- someone who seems comfortable in this world as well as the imaginary world of his fiction. The piece tells the story of his long slog up from TV writing, his embracing and then (partial) outgrowing of Raymond Chandler's influence, the development of his private eye character Elvis Cole, and the emergence of Pike into the lead position in some of his novels, beginning with "The Watchman."
"Pike has always been this mysterious, enigmatic background character," Crais, with just a touch of his native Louisiana left in his voice, told me in '07. "But I knew there was more. His presence has been growing with each of the books, and I couldn't deny him anymore."
Crais is one of the most consistently strong writers I know, and he gets LA and its social geography better than just about anybody. Looking forward to digging deeper into The Sentry.
Update: I'm about 100 pages into the novel, which is so far set mostly in Venice gangland, and with Pike's well-earned rep as an ass kicker complicating his relationship with law enforcement. I'll say no more for now except that I can't put the damned thing down; it's my briskest read since the Keith Richards book.