Interview with Robert Crais
Robert Crais launched his writing career selling stories to popular television series in the 1980s; he has since become a prolific, award-winning mystery writer. Crais’ latest, The Last Detective, continues the ongoing chronicle of private detectives Elvis Cole and Joe Pike.
Q. So, what’s it like being the rock star of mystery writers?
A. Am I? I’d like to be Dave Matthews but I’m probably more like Randy Newman. Send the private jet around, will you? And fill the hot tub with Dom.
Q. What made you decide to start writing mysteries?
A. I love this stuff. I’ve loved it since I stumbled across a second-hand paperback of Raymond Chandler’s The Little Sister when I was fifteen years old. It was never a question of “deciding” to write mysteries – this has always been my goal.
Q. Was it hard getting back into the world of Elvis Cole and Joe Pike after taking a few years off from the series?
A. Elvis and Joe haunted me as I wrote Hostage. They didn’t like being ignored, and they let me know. Here were these two characters who had been in my head every day for ten years. I missed them. By the time I finished Hostage I wanted back into their world. I was hungry for it.
Q. Any trepidation about the upcoming movie version of Hostage?
A. I’m feeling pretty good about it. Bruce Willis, Arnold Rifkin, David Wally, and the other people with Bruce’s company have been nothing but supportive. First time I spoke with Bruce, I told him as long as he didn’t want a talking dog in the movie, we’d get along fine. He laughed, and told me he didn’t do talking dogs. Now we have a director, Paul McGuigan, who made “Gangster No. 1” with Malcolm McDowell, which was just a tough, freaky, intense picture. They’re shooting for an October start date. The vibe I’m getting is that everyone involved is on the same page. They want to make the book, and they want to realize Jeff Talley. I’m good with that.
Q. Your characters, particularly Cole & Pike, seem to resonate so strongly with your readers. People talk about and discuss them as if they are real people. What do you think of this and to what do you attribute it?
A. Elvis and Joe believe something that most people want to believe, namely, that everyone matters. Not just the rich or the famous; each of us has depth, and that depth deserves respect. Elvis sees that depth in people, and he cares. Maybe my readers are responding to the subliminal message that we can affect the course of our own lives – we can make a difference. We can rise above ourselves. As for what I think about this – what’s not to like? If readers care, then I’m touching them, and that is every artist’s goal. Their response is the ultimate compliment.
Q. Do you read reviews of your books?
A. More than I should, but not as much as I used to.
Q. What advice would you give aspiring writers (10 words or less)?
A. Write what you love.
Q. What excites or distresses you about the mystery genre today?
A. The quality of the mysteries being written today is amazing. We’re seeing – in this genre – a new golden age of works that are raising the bar not only on the genre but on American literature. In other words, mysteries kick ass.
Q. What’s the last book you read?
A. Jarhead: A Marine’s Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles by Anthony Swofford.
Q. What’s next for you?
A. I’m writing the next Elvis Cole novel.