The Last Detective

by Robert Crais

Published by Doubleday

273 pages, 2003

Buy it online



Demolition Angel

Demolition Angel

by Robert Crais

Published by Doubleday

384 pages, 2000


Novels by Robert Crais:

  • The Monkey's Raincoat (1987)*
  •  Stalking the Angel (1989)*
  •  Lullaby Town (1992)*
  •  Free Fall (1993)*
  •  Voodoo River (1995)*
  •  Sunset Express (1996)*
  •  Indigo Slam (1997)*
  •  L.A. Requiem (1999)*
  •  Demolition Angel (2000)

* Featuring private eye Elvis Cole








"I've never spent five seconds trying to decide if Elvis is hard-boiled or soft-boiled. I don't think there needs to be a laundry list of rules as to what detective fiction should be. You know, I'm a writer, I'm a storyteller, I'm using characters to explore things that I want to explore. I just hope that the books are entertaining."




Robert Crais is an easygoing, affable guy, with a lot of charm and California cool, but he can also be quite passionate in addressing the subjects that he cares about. Like his novels featuring Elvis Cole, the tough but somewhat flaky Los Angeles private eye who carries a Dan Wesson .38, favors Hawaiian shirts and says -- with a straight face -- that his dream in life is to be Peter Pan. Crais is serious and passionate about his writing, taking on the private eye traditions on his own terms and infusing his books with his personal concerns about modern life, his sometimes surreal sense of humor and wisecracks that make Spenser look like a straight man.

Still, nothing in the first seven Elvis Cole books (beginning with The Monkey's Raincoat, 1987) could have prepared readers for Crais' 1999 novel, L.A. Requiem. An ambitious, sprawling, multiple point-of-view tour de force, that book dropped most of the author's characteristic humor and, instead, headed straight for the jugular, straddling genre boundaries, merging the private detective novel, the police procedural and the thriller in a dark, engrossing and occasionally heartbreaking tale of murder, betrayal, corruption, child abuse and the painful secrets that lie buried in the human heart. You could practically hear the chains of various genres snapping all over the place.

The critical and commercial success of L.A. Requiem, combined with the prepublication buzz surrounding Demolition Angel, his brand-new novel, have brought Crais to something of a professional crossroads, offering him new choices and the confidence to pursue them. Demolition Angel isn't an Elvis novel, but rather a stand-alone thriller about a female LAPD detective assigned to investigate the murder of a former colleague from her days with the bomb squad. Like Requiem, Angel is an ambitious and emotional ride, and just one helluva read.

This is a busy time for the 40-something Crais, who grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, among a family of cops (three uncles and two cousins are or were police officers) before moving west to LA in the 1970s. Not only is he already writing a screenplay of Demolition Angel for Columbia Tri-Star, but he's preparing to embark on a tour promoting his latest novel and is anxious after that to get going on his next Elvis story, which he promises will be a stunner. When I phoned him recently at his home just outside of Los Angeles, it was clear that the man was jazzed. We chatted about Crais' past and future books, his experience writing TV dramas and the unexpected connections between Elvis Cole and Spider-Man.


Kevin Burton Smith: The last Elvis Cole novel, L.A. Requiem, was a real change of pace for you, and Demolition Angel is an even bigger step. Was the writing of Requiem part of the reason you decided to try Angel?

Robert Crais: On many levels. The writing of L.A. Requiem opened many, many doors for me, as a writer. The first four or five Elvis Coles were of a kind, in that they were written in the classic first-person detective novel style, that whole Raymond Chandler/Ross Macdonald/Robert B. Parker thing. And then I began to change the books a little bit. In Sunset Express, I broke the point of view for the first time and had a third-person omniscient prologue. I did it again in Indigo Slam and found I really enjoyed it. I began looking for ways to expand what I was doing, to combine different genres within the detective novel. So L.A. Requiem was a detective novel, but it was also a police procedural and a suspense thriller.

It was an extremely experimental book for me to write, and I wasn't sure it would be successful. In fact, there were an awful lot of mornings that I was working on it when I thought it would be not only a failure in literary terms, but would just be totally rejected by my readers. But, at the same time, it was a real adventure for me. I had a lot of fun with the experimentation of it, with the shifting points of view, moving through time, the flashback scenes, getting into Joe Pike's character, taking a multiple-character format. And I decided I wanted to write something completely different for my next book.

Elvis Cole, by the very nature of the beast, because he's a series character in detective novels, is...

Sort of hemmed in? Limited?

Yes, he's fully realized already. In those first eight books, he really serves more as the guide for other people who are in transition and are at extreme positions in their own lives. For example, in Lullaby Town, there's Peter Allen Nelson...

That's the Steven Spielberg-type character?

Right, the young film director. Elvis serves as a sort of personal guide to Nelson, helping him to self-realize himself. And in the first book, The Monkey's Raincoat, it's Ellen Lang who's in transition. She's got no self-esteem at all, she's the one who's coming apart. Elvis has to help her to stand on her own two feet.

So, Elvis is at a certain place in his life, a place of relative self-assurance. But it doesn't mean he was always at that place. Just like Joe Pike in L.A. Requiem, there are events in [Elvis'] life that led him to being that person. And I want to explore that. What I think I'm getting into now is a period where more and more outside influences are impacting. And I'm allowing them to impact on Elvis Cole. There's the stuff he's going through with [his girlfriend, TV legal analyst] Lucy Chenier and everything that happened in L.A. Requiem, what happened with Joe, what happened between Elvis and Lucy because of Joe.... Let me just hint that Elvis is looking at some pretty big changes in the future.

These things are going to allow Elvis' confidences, the ones he brought to earlier books, to become destabilized. Perhaps he's going to have to re-test himself, find a new set of bearings. For me, as his creator and as a writer, that's pretty exciting.

I thought L.A. Requiem was one of those rare books that takes everything that's happened in a series and just tosses it up in the air. Everything's up for grabs. Lawrence Block did something similar in Everybody Dies. With Requiem, I had no idea what would happen next, and the fact that you were using multiple viewpoints meant that anyone could die, that you were really playing for keeps this time around.

And that perhaps someone you didn't want to see die, dies.

Exactly. And I felt it was building up to that. It just seemed something had to give. I must admit, I thought for quite a while that Joe Pike was a goner.

[Laughs] Well, I'm a sneaky devil.

Yes, you are. And as if L.A. Requiem wasn't enough of a stretch, in Demolition Angel, you've written about not just a different hero -- but one who's a woman.

Right. Well, I'd written Elvis a certain way for eight books, and I wanted to deal with a character who wasn't at that place in their life. Carol Starkey [the troubled cop heroine of Demolition Angel] is still me, but in a profoundly different way. She's not just a deconstructed Elvis Cole. In fact, she's coming apart.

Isn't Carol Starkey really, in some respects, another version of Samantha Dolan, the strong female detective Elvis met in L.A. Requiem, a woman who was similarly damaged?

Yes, she definitely has roots in Samantha Dolan.

I'm sure, by now, that you've heard from a lot of people who weren't too pleased that you bumped off Samantha.

I've heard that more than once.

When she found out I was interviewing you, a friend of mine -- who's a really big fan of yours -- blurted out to me, rather indignantly, "Well, ask him why he killed off Samantha!" She was very angry about that. Do you regret killing off Samantha Dolan? In terms of your book, it worked very well. But she was such a great character, so strong. I'm sure you've also heard, "Well, gee, I liked her better than Lucy."

I've heard that more than once, also.

How do you reply to such criticisms?

Well, in a way, those very questions vindicate what I did.

I understand. When Samantha was killed, it was a jolt, a literary punch in the stomach. Yet, somehow it felt inevitable and right. And now, in the new book, we have not just Carol Starkey, but her underling, Beth Marzik, the Amway-selling single-mom detective. You've always done women characters well, but this really is something else.

I think I have a good sensibility for [writing about women]. But in the past, they've always been seen through Elvis Cole's eyes. In L.A. Requiem, when I created Samantha Dolan, I really felt I was plugged into her character so much. She's the one who put the notion in my head to write a flat-out suspense thriller with a woman as the main character.

I found Samantha intriguing. She's a woman who had given everything to the job. She had not married, she had not had children. She had chosen the job and the job had abandoned her.

Which in some ways is what happens to Carol. And she's suffered a bit of earthquake damage, as well.

That's one of the fascinations for me, and a counterpoint to Elvis Cole in the earlier books. You know Elvis isn't fragmented. He isn't coming apart. He's very solid. He deals with things on his own terms. And that's allowed me to tell the types of stories I wanted to tell.

So, it's fascinating to me as a writer to look at characters who aren't like him. In Demolition Angel, I think every character is in some way flawed, both men and women. Clearly, Carol Starkey is profoundly flawed. And Beth Marzik...

That scene in which Beth is bitching to Carol about her life, and she breaks down and says she sometimes hates her kids is a very powerful one.

I think that moment in that scene is really relevant and true to both women and men. You make your choices, you live your life, and if you get to a place that's frustrating enough -- and clearly Beth is frustrated enough -- there's that moment when you want to lash out and just walk away from everything. Only, of course, you really can't. You still have your two kids, you're still responsible for them, you still have to go to work, make a paycheck, take care of them and raise them the best that you can.

And then you have Jorge Santos, "Hooker." I didn't paint him as large as those other two. Here's a guy who's so tight that...

He leaves a room when Beth says "blowjob."

Exactly. He blushes, he's horribly embarrassed, he has to leave. I mean, he's a real tight-ass. When Beth and Carol are going at it, hissing at each other, he just walks away, because it's too painful for him. But in some ways, we're all Hookers.

You've often been quoted as saying that Elvis Cole is basically you with a bit of a spin.

Sure. In fact, all the characters are, in a way. But yes, Elvis Cole is certainly the lens through which I see the world. He's imbued with a lot of my world-view. I was perfectly content to let Elvis say everything I wanted to say. And then, when I was writing L.A. Requiem, it was like -- ah, Jesus, it sounds so cliché, but it was so true: It was like every day I'd walk through a different door and I would see different possibilities.

When I was writing the first seven Elvis Cole novels, if you had said, "Hey Bob, are you going to write a stand-alone?" I'd have said, "Gee, I don't know." And really, I had no thoughts on it or desire to do it.

So you find it liberating to write not just from a non-Elvis point of view, but from woman's point of view?

Yes, it's liberating in that it allows me to explore an area of life that, normally, I haven't in my books. I'm serious about my writing. I don't want to write the same story over and over and over again, I want my work to grow, to be a better writer. L.A. Requiem was a higher hurdle to jump than the other seven books, and I think Demolition Angel is a higher hurdle still.

How did you come to write, in Angel, about the Los Angeles bomb squad?

When I was researching L.A. Requiem, I wanted the police procedures to be as accurate as they could be, and I didn't really know anything about homicide investigations. Not really, not the way cops do homicide.

Because, hey, you write private eye novels.

Right! Exactly, because private eyes don't do homicide. So, I'm researching how the LAPD investigates a homicide, and one of the things I did was speak with a criminalist. I wanted to know how a homicide scene worked, what the homicide detectives controlled, how robbery/homicide interfaces with divisional homicide, and all the different players on a homicide scene, be it the investigator from the medical examiner's office or the criminalist from SID [the Scientific Investigation Division], etcetera, etcetera -- all these things. So I was talking to this criminalist, and I wanted to see their office space. One of my favorite characters in L.A. Requiem was John Chen [a junior criminalist in the SID], and I wanted to see where John would work.

I thought that name was familiar. Chen is also in Demolition Angel, right? So, in a different way, is Samantha Dolan: Carol tells a wonderful story about her. I thought that was a great touch, by the way.

Yeah, there're a couple of players from L.A. Requiem who appear in Demolition Angel.

So, anyway, I go to see SID, and it just so happens -- pure happenstance -- that SID shares a facility with the bomb squad. The parking lot is filled with all these black-and-white LAPD bomb squad Suburbans, and I'm seeing all the bomb techs, they're all walking around in their black commando fatigues. It really looks like an elite, high-risk special ops unit -- which, of course, it is. I met a couple of the [bomb techs], and I just grew fascinated with the technology and the types of personalities that would do the job. And I found I wanted to spend more time with these people. And then when I got the notion for Carol Starkey, I realized that was the world I wanted to put her in and write about.

I understand you've already sold the film rights to Demolition Angel and are going to write the screenplay. Now, this isn't something that's completely new to you, since you used to write for television. But isn't this the first time you've been involved with a film project?

It's not the first time, but it is the first time I've ever adapted one of my own works. And that makes it new and damned interesting to me. I mean, here's this big book -- 630 pages in manuscript -- and I've got to distill it down to a 120-page screenplay. So it's kinda fascinating, and at the same time it's wonderful, because I had finished the book; my time with Carol Starkey and Beth Marzik and Jack Pell and all those people was over. But now, writing the screenplay, I get to meet them all again, re-immerse myself. I get to come into scenes in different ways, and come at the story in a different way.

You worked on a lot of American TV shows, including Hill Street Blues, Quincy, M.E., L.A. Law and a bunch of others. Which one did you enjoy writing for the most?

That's easy: Cagney & Lacey. And that was because of the people involved and because, as a group, our talents melded so well. I was involved in the first full season [1982-83], as part of the writing staff, and I really think we were doing some of the best writing on television at that time. Just great people, they're still my close friends.

As for other things in television, the stuff that was fun for me to write were the pilots I wrote on over the years. They were a real variety of different, interesting projects. There were some cop shows, some comic-book shows, some science fiction. I was able to pick and choose, so, in a way, it was like writing short stories. They were fun to write, and then I could move on and do something else.

I've heard that one of the reasons you started writing the Elvis Cole series was because you were tired of writing for television? What was it about television that you wanted to escape from? The structure? The limitations?

That's a complex question. To give you as simple an answer as possible: none of the work was ever mine. It was always someone else's characters, always a collaborative effort.

With anything of a collaborative nature -- especially television, but feature films, too -- the writer is never truly responsible for what you see. The fact of the matter is, there're a lot of fingers in that pie. And when it comes out, there are good things in it and things that are not so good in it.

What I've truly enjoyed about my books is that when you read one, everything that you like in that book is mine. Of course, everything that you don't like in that book, that's mine, too.

Books are my Disneyland, my personal amusement park. I'm Walt Disney in them -- I get to design them and do whatever I want. I'm excited about writing the next Elvis Cole book, which will be to Elvis what L.A. Requiem was to Joe Pike. There are some new things, some new techniques I want to try out with [Elvis] as a character.

And, at the same time, there are stories and characters I want to deal with that aren't appropriate for the Elvis Cole series, and that's where books like Demolition Angel or characters like Carol Starkey come in. I already have ideas for other stand-alone suspense thrillers I'll write in the future.

One thing that I really like about Elvis is that he's of a certain generation and cultural attitude. Even though I'm not even sure how old Elvis is supposed to be.

And I'm not going to tell you. But the reality is that Elvis doesn't age as fast as I do.

Yeah, I've had weekends like that, too.


Anyway, though Elvis' age isn't specifically nailed down, I still feel that he's part of a later generation than those from which so many of today's other fictional private eyes come. Personally, I think there are too many eyes out there who are theoretically in their 30s or 40s, but act like the world stopped in 1959. They're listening to old jazz records, they're wearing trenchcoats.

Does anyone really do that now?

Evidently, not often enough for some folks. One thread of a recent hard-boiled listserv had a few people deciding there should be certain rules for this genre -- like a real hard-boiled P.I. couldn't wear running shoes or use a cel phone, and they all had to have the bottle in the drawer.

I don't believe there should be rules for this stuff.

That's one of the things I like about Elvis. He's his own man. He's not necessarily going to show up with a nose ring or nipple clamps, but he definitely seems part of a younger generation, and he's certainly a lot looser than many of his supposed contemporaries. His attitudes are "now." He speaks up, he's aware of the times in which he lives; he doesn't act like an old man. He knows who Spider-Man is, he makes references to Jiminy Cricket.

Well, that's a bad example, because Jiminy Cricket's almost as old as... well, he's real old. But I know what you mean. There is a youth to Elvis' spirit.

Yes, there's something about him. Not childish, but child-like.

Well, that's very important to who Elvis Cole is and to the ultimate purpose he serves. When I say that there shouldn't be rules to this stuff, what I mean is that publishers, bookstores and even fans, for some reason like to categorize all these different things. They like to be able to point and say, "This is what it is." If you're a bookseller, it's easy. You can put all the mysteries over here, and then if someone says they want a mystery you can say, "Oh! Go over there!"

But I've never spent five seconds trying to decide if Elvis is hard-boiled or soft-boiled. I don't think there needs to be a laundry list of rules as to what detective fiction should be. You know, I'm a writer, I'm a storyteller, I'm using characters to explore things that I want to explore. I just hope that the books are entertaining.

What you really need to do, as far as I'm concerned, is write what you personally love and enjoy. These books reflect what I love and what I enjoy, and I hope other people will come along for the ride.

And I don't put any store in all these discussions that are really just about attempting to pigeonhole certain characters or writers. As for this great sense of outrage you get when you violate somebody's arbitrary set of rules, well, (a) I don't get that at all, and (b) some of these people, their time might be better spent in a therapist's office.

Hmm. I might be due for a visit myself. I manage a Web site that's dedicated to private eyes. Though, in my own defense, I should point out that my definition of what a private eye is is so wide that almost anyone who isn't Batman or Joe Friday qualifies.

Batman was a private eye. He just wore a cape and was rich.

See what a slippery slope it is? Because I see Batman more as an amateur sleuth -- a particularly obsessed one, of course. But let me segue from there into another of my questions: You've been quoted several times in the past as saying that you won't sell off the film or TV rights to Elvis Cole at anytime soon. Have you ever, though, thought of having him appear in a comic book?

You know, I actually have considered that from time to time, and there have been discussions off and on about it. I certainly can see that happening a lot more than a television series or a film. But who knows?

What about short stories? You've only written a few in your time: a couple of science fiction tales when you were just starting out and then, a few years ago, a Philip Marlowe story for a Chandler tribute [Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe: A Centennial Celebration, edited by Byron Preiss]. Have you ever thought of writing a short story about Elvis Cole?

No. Never. But don't rule that out. I love writing short stories and I have in the past, but I am a very slow writer. I get asked all the time to write short stories now, and I just have to say "No." I don't have the time. Even "The Man Who Knew Dick Bong," the Marlowe story, took me a month. I'd go broke real fast if I wrote very many short stories. One day, if my career and my life are in order enough to return to the short form, maybe I will, because I do enjoy it. I just don't have the time to do it.

Los Angeles plays a large part in your books. It's almost like another character. L.A. Requiem, in particular, reads at times like a valentine to the city. Have you ever thought of setting your stories elsewhere? Or is LA your turf and you love it and that's it?

I don't approach these things with the notion that I'm going to set my shit here in Los Angeles. Voodoo River takes place mostly in Louisiana, in fact, but I certainly do love LA. I find it endlessly fascinating and interesting.

And because you know the city so well, it helps to ground your tales, to give them a sense of reality. Speaking of which, I think you really nailed office politics in Demolition Angel. The whispering about who knows what, the gossip, the backbiting, the little details, like Beth selling Amway or Carol constantly chomping down her antacid pills. I thought it was all right on. And it certainly helped bring the characters to life.

In certain ways, I think Demolition Angel is a much more realistic book than the Elvis novels.

That's because life in the bomb squad is more realistic than the often-fantastical world of private eyes.

Yes! What many people don't seem to get is that private eye fiction, in the main -- and certainly my stuff -- is heroic fiction. There is an element of fantasy to it.

There has to be. No one wants to read a 400-page book about a real P.I. -- some overweight guy with hemorrhoids, who sits in his car watching an empty house all day, waiting for something to happen.

Right! In the Elvis Cole books I'm not trying to show that everything is falling apart, that everyone is troubled and life is shit. That's not what the Elvis Cole books are about. But Demolition Angel is a different kind of book. With a different sensibility. The tasks I was setting for myself were different. It's a suspense thriller, very procedural, with a totally different feel, more reflective. Still, any fiction, if it's good fiction, is not going to be "real." Because reality is boring. I know a hundred cops and I've been on over 20 ride-alongs with police at every level. It's boring work.

Real cops are just like me and you. They have their own petty little crap that they have to deal with. Like people in any other job within a given organization, there are people that like each other, people that hate each other, people who backstab each other. And people change over the course of a day. They start out kind, friendly, feel terrific... and then they have a bad afternoon and they're rat bastards, ready to stab somebody in the back. By evening they feel bad about it, go home, have dinner, drink too much and fall asleep. Those are the kinds of elements I wanted to explore in Demolition Angel and that, as a matter of course, I typically don't cover in an Elvis Cole novel.

Yet even within the fantasy world of Elvis Cole, you've had him and Joe Pike try to deal with real-life sorts of problems. And in your Marlowe story, you had Chandler's P.I. dealing with a child who's become an afterthought in everyone's life. Helping the weak and defenseless -- this is a recurring theme of your books. I guess the question that all of this is leading up to is, What ticks you off?

The things I deal with in my books are what tick me off. The victimization ticks me off, adults victimizing children, men victimizing women, the strong victimizing the weak. That ticks me off. When people are not allowed or are in some way prevented from achieving a fullness in their lives, that really pisses me off. Assholes piss me off.

Oh, yeah! Put me down for that one, too.

You know, in every one of my books, there is some issue involved -- certainly in every one of the Elvis Cole novels. Just as a human being, I want to see people treat each other respectfully. This doesn't often happen in real life.

That's what Elvis is all about, that's what those books are all about. They're heroic fiction.

The token question: Which other writers have influenced you?

Well, the writers who made the biggest impact on me in the beginning, in my teenage years upward, were Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Ross Macdonald and Robert B. Parker. And Rex Stout -- I'm a huge Archie Goodwin fan. Never cared much for Nero Wolfe, but I loved Archie Goodwin. Those are, I think, the masters who really lit my fire when I was young, at least when it comes to the private eye genre.

Now, other writers who influenced me.... Well, Harlan Ellison's work was a major literary influence. So was dear old Ernest Hemingway's "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber" -- I still reread that every year. If I could write half that well, I'd be really impressed with myself.

And, of course, then there's Stan Lee [the Marvel Comics editor who gave us Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, The Incredible Hulk, et al]. I mean, what Stan did for comics and superheroes was amazing. Stan's choice of story selection and all those superheroes he created -- Spider-Man and all the others, but especially Spider-Man -- definitely had a huge childhood impact on me. Sure, here're these super-villains and superheroes swinging through the streets of Manhattan and all that other jive, but what each one of those stories was really about was the human heart.

In the Marvel Universe, it was accepted that a guy would dress up as a giant rhinoceros or rob banks dressed like a bargain-basement Tarzan, or a man really could be made of plastic. But within that fantasy, there was a kind of reality, because the characters' inter-reactions were always believable. Spider-Man was always at least as much about Peter Parker getting up the nerve to ask a girl out as it was about "Spidey" swinging from a web. Even the villains had real motivations. It took a long time for other comic-book companies to realize that their heroes could be human, as well. You're right: I think Lee's great talent was to take his readers, put them in costume and say, "Now you are the heroes."

That's exactly it. He was writing about human beings. And I think those stories I read at that time led into the types of stories I responded to later, and would eventually write. Elvis Cole is a superhero. Because in detective novels -- I don't care who they're written by or what category you shove them in -- the detective character is still essentially a superhero character.

I'll take your word for it. After all, it's not everyday that I get to talk to an actual winner of a Merry Marvel Marching Society No-Prize [one of several gag awards that Marvel Comics bestowed on fans back in the 1960s].

Yeah, I got that for having a letter printed in The Amazing Spider-Man. It's actually just an empty envelope they mail to you, but I have to tell you, that's one of my prized possessions, believe me. Several years ago when I was actively developing different projects and writing pilots, I had a business luncheon and I was able to meet Stan Lee. So I'm at this lunch, all these studio executives are sitting around, all these very straight all-business kind of people, and I'm so excited that I'm going to meet Stan Lee. And in walks Stan, so I whip out the No-Prize and ask him to autograph it.

Stan was thrilled! All these executives are sitting around asking, "What the fuck is going on?" And I look at them, and it's like, "Hey! This is a Merry Marvel Marching Society No-Prize!" They were just oblivious, not a clue, and Stan and I are cackling like two loons. He was just thrilled and complimented and genuinely touched, I think. And later on, we actually got to work together, developing a couple of TV pilots based on Marvel Comics' Spider-Man and Dr. Strange.

Do you plan your books very far in advance?

I'm usually thinking two or three projects ahead, but in very nebulous, loose terms. I knew for a long time that I wanted to write the Joe Pike book, L.A. Requiem. But I needed certain things to happen, to come to me, before I really knew what the framework, what the story would be. I know what I want to write vis-à-vis the next Elvis Cole book. And I think I see a place where I'm taking these characters, but it's only a couple of books ahead.

So, how's the writing going these days?

Right now, things are going great. The books are doing well, I'm super-busy, I'm writing the screenplay, then I'm going out on tour to promote Demolition Angel. And then, as soon as I get home, I've got to start on the next book. I'm already behind. It's one thing after another.

Let me ask you about the Nerf-ball "bombs" -- each complete with a fuse -- that were sent out with some review copies of Angel.

Ah, yes, the bomb. Doubleday's done a great job [of promoting the book]. They really got behind L.A. Requiem, too, really made that book a success, because they really showed it to people. And now they're doing a spectacular job with Demolition Angel.

Speaking of promotions, I ended up with a black T-shirt flogging L.A. Requiem with that rather somber line on the front, "No past is as dark as the present." As far as I remember, that's not a line from the book, right?

No, I just write the books, not the T-shirts.

Does that mean you also didn't make those little Nerf-ball bombs yourself?

Oh, actually I did, I've got seven dwarfs working in the cellar here at Robert Crais World Headquarters right now...   | May 2000


Kevin Burton Smith is the creator and editor of The Thrilling Detective Web Site, which is devoted to the appreciation of fictional private eyes -- hard-boiled and otherwise -- in literature, film, television and other media. He's planning to start checking under the hood before starting the car, just in case...