Back to Baltimore without the rats;

Robert Crais is a charmer, even as he returns to Charm City, which once pelted him with a disgusting rodent.

(The Baltimore Sun, June 14, 1997)

Byline: Laura Lippman*

Robert Crais is in Pittsburgh when he discovers that his latest book,
"Indigo Slam," has entered the Los Angeles Times best seller list at
No. 9, the first time he has cracked the top 10 in his hometown. The
news makes him charming, convivial, an absolute joy to talk to.

In other words, it makes no difference at all.

A favorite on the mystery bookstore circuit precisely because of his
reliably good spirits,  Crais  is barnstorming the country in support
of his latest book  about Los Angeles private detective Elvis Cole.
The 22-city tour brings him to Baltimore's Mystery Loves Company
at 5 p.m. today for a book-signing party featuring free Guinness.

Crais  has particularly, um, pungent memories of Baltimore, but more
on that in a moment.

"Indigo Slam" centers on an old-before-her-time teen-ager who hires Cole
to find her missing father. Next thing Cole knows, he's in Seattle listening to
members of the Russian Mafia discuss the relative merits of American fast
food. He escapes. He finds Daddy. Daddy's a counterfeiter. Complications
ensue. The obligatory deadly sidekick, Joe Pike, is signed up for baby-sitting
duties. More complications ensue. In the end, they all go to Disneyland. With
assault weapons. Talk about Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.

We caught up with  Crais,  who turns 44 later this week, for a quick question-
and-answer session.

LL:   It's obligatory in a Robert Crais profile to explain how to pronounce
           your last name. What's your preferred rhyme?

RC:  I've seen face, place, trace. I don't care as long as it's spelled correctly
          on the checks.

LL:  Who's older, you or Elvis Cole?

RC:   When I started writing these things [in 1987, with "The Monkey's
            Raincoat"], Elvis was one year older, now he's a year or two

            I did that deliberately. I didn't want a geriatric detective duking it
            out with Russian thugs.

LL:    You once noted you never had to eat "rat meat" as a struggling writer.
            But it's my understanding that rat was almost served at your last
            Baltimore signing, at "The Butler Did It." Didn't a rat plunge through
            the ceiling onto the buffet table moments before the signing?

RC:   I think it had to do with a water problem and burst pipes. I'm bringing
           an elephant gun, anyway, just in case. Joe Pike is going to ride along
           with a .357 magnum.

           I have to say that [former owner] Gail Larson was terrific, classic.
           From Day One, Gail was a hard-core, 110 percent supporter of Elvis

LL:   You're a former television writer, yet you won't sell Elvis to the movies.

RC:   I've now turned down -- I know because I keep track -- 16 offers for
           options and buyouts on Elvis. I like him as books and I want to keep
           him in books. It's not because I loathe television and film, I love them
           both. He's meant to be a book.

LL:   But if Elvis were to be played by an actor, that actor would be --

RC:  I'm convinced now that writers should never be asked that, because
          we always give answers that people hate. I was asked this early on
          and I gave it serious thought and I said, "Well, I think Michael Keaton
          would be a good idea." I couldn't believe the outrage. That just seemed
          to shock and horrify fans of the  books. I don't know why, I still don't know.
          I still think Michael Keaton is a good actor.

*Laura Lippman is the author of the Tess Monaghan mystery series, which includes Baltimore Blues,
  Charm City, Butcher's Hill, In Big Trouble, and The Sugar House, and has won numerous awards for
  the books, all of them deserved.

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