Byline: Lane Crockett
Louisiana-born author Robert Crais
made a splash in 1987 when he
entered the crowded private-eye field with ''The Monkey's Raincoat.''
The novel captured the Anthony and Macavity mystery awards, as well
as best novel honors from the Mystery Readers of America and Mystery
Fans of America.
''My books have done very, very well,'' says 39-year-old
Crais in a
phone interview from his Sherman Oaks, Calif, home. '''The Monkey's
Raincoat' was kind of a mini-sensation and is now in its sixth printing.
'Stalking the Angel' is just out in paperback, and 'Lullaby Town' has
just come out in hardback.''
And ''Lullaby Town'' is not only gathering rave
reviews but threatening
to push Crais' career into high national gear.
''I didn't expect all this publicity,'' says
Crais, sounding a bit awed.
''I knew it would do well and probably get pretty good reviews like
the other two. But I didn't expect it to get so much national attention.''
Crais has appeared or will be appearing in issues
of People, Newsweek
and Premier magazines, among others.
The author's detective is the cleverly named Elvis
Cole, a sensitive sort
whose irreverent sense of humor often gets him into trouble.Single and in
his late 30s, Cole keeps an irascible pet cat, quotes Walt Disney characters,
practices yoga and has an enigmatic partner named Joe Pike, who shows up
when needed but doesn't have a lot to say. Cole has sometimes been called a
West Coast Spenser, a reference to Robert B. Parker's famous detective.
Most need not be told where the Elvis comes from.
But Cole? ''That has been
one of my favorite names,'' says the author. He pauses a moment, then laughs.
''I don't have a snappy answer. It's partly technical from a writer's point of
view. I wanted a one-syllable name that would fit rhythmically with Elvis.''
In ''Lullaby Town,'' Cole is hired by a tremendously
successful film producer-
director to find the wife and child he walked out on 10 years earlier. Cole finds
the woman in a small New England town, where she has become the vice
president of a bank and created a new life. Unfortunately, she has been duped
into a money laundering scheme by some underworld figures and therein lies a
tale. Crais has a bright, smart style of writing and, most importantly, his plots
are solidly constructed with more than one-dimensional characters.
When he started to write novels, he knew he wanted
to use a private eye. ''I am
a believer in the paradigm (model) for detectives that Raymond Chandler created ...
a knight, a do-gooder, and like those of Dashiell Hammett and Mickey Spillane.
They all serve a definite social position. I like that archetype. I wanted to create
my own version. Elvis' interests are my interests. He just does them far better. I
drink Falstaff beer and he drinks Falstaff beer, but I gain weight and he doesn't.
He's the person I wish I could be.''
Crais is in the midst of a fourth Elvis
Cole novel, which he says is due April 1993,
if he stays on schedule. When at work, he writes from morning until mid-afternoon
six days a week. ''I am very focused and rigid in the amount of work I produce.'' He
says his ideas come from the elements of the human condition he runs across. For
instance, in ''Lullaby Town,'' the woman has created a new life and Crais didn't
want Cole waltzing in and destroying that. ''The big-deal ex-husband enters and
shakes the foundations, but I wanted to say, 'Hey, wait a minute, hold on, she's
doing something very admirable. Why should she change?'''
The author already has a fifth book planned but
says there is a possibility he'll send
Cole to Louisiana in the sixth book. He left his Baton Rouge hometown in 1976 to
pursue a writing career in California, lacking one semester in graduating from LSU
with an engineering degree. He had been writing stories since junior high school days
and decided that was what he really wanted to do. He broke into television by writing
episodes for ''Cagney and Lacey,'' ''Hill Street Blues,'' ''L.A. Law'' and ''Quincy.''
Crais returns to Louisiana every couple
of years. His mother still lives in Baton Rouge.
He is married and has an 11-year-old daughter.
''I miss the food,'' he says. ''That happens when
you grow up on crawfish and gumbo.''
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