Where would a crime novelist be without bad guys,
unless he's Robert
''I really believe people are basically good,''
said Crais, 43, creator of
the popular Elvis Cole mystery series. The neighborhood of crime novels
is filled with murderers, sadists and cheats, but Crais is sounding like the
Mister Rogers of mystery. (Ed.: yeah, but can he tie his shoes as fast?)
''What I've tried to do is create a modern paradigm
of the detective. Instead
of the bitter guy sitting in his office over a blues joint and sipping his rye,
Elvis has a positive attitude. He wants to help people get to a better place
in their lives.''
Cole is a wisecracking private eye in Los Angeles
whose first name was
inspired by the late singer. Crais left a promising career as a scriptwriter
for the TV shows ''Hill Street Blues'' and ''Miami Vice'' to become a writer
of mysteries in 1987.
''It's still fun,'' he said. ''I get to
live the life of a superhero vicariously.
Punish the bad guys, help people in trouble.'' He also believes that the
mystery field, one of the most popular in fiction today, has a larger
message than ''crime does not pay.''
''We all have mysteries in our lives: Can we pay
the mortgage this month?
Can we make enough to cover our kid's tuition? There's uncertainity there.
In a mystery novel, the detective arrives in a chaotic situation and brings
order to it. Maybe the deeper message is that we can find order in our lives
Crais was in town this weekend promoting
the seventh Cole book, ''Indigo
Slam'' (Hyperion, $ 22.95). The series will continue; Crais has signed a new
three-book deal with the Disney-owned Hyperion. Pittsburgh is the halfway
point of a 22-city tour, a grueling schedule which the author believes is
essential to the success of his books.
''It's called the phenomenon of hand-selling,''
he said. ''I meet the booksellers
every time a book comes out and when somebody asks them for a recommend-
ation, there's a great chance my book will be mentioned.''
This is Crais' third coast-to-coast
tour and he says the road shows have
doubled the sales of his books.
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