Please welcome Robert Crais, author of the exciting Elvis Cole series
and much much more!
Forgotten Man, the latest from Crais in book stores now!
Our long national nightmare is over.
Yes folks, Elvis Cole is back. And with big ups to
President Ford, the wait since Robert Crais delivered The Last Detective
has been, well, both long and nightmarish. And things weren't all rosy for the
World's Greatest Detective, either. We remembered. We waited.
The Forgotten Man, is the tenth (!) entry in
the continuing tale of the afore-mentioned private eye, and is easily the most
intense on various levels. What Crais accomplishes in this book will be
discussed beyond the normal news cycle for such things, this much is certain.
The Last Detective was Top 5 on the New York Times list, so the round is
chambered, and the safety is off. This book should ignite in the marketplace.
(for more of the review)
Unless you're stranded on a rock somewhere (in which
case, your wireless connection ROCKS!), you're aware that Robert Crais is one
hot writer. His books are regular residents of the New York Times Bestselling
Fiction lists, his fans are legion, women stalk him regularly (sorry girls, he's
married). But, he's also an amazingly regular human being. But don't believe us,
read on and learn....
Don: Hi Bob, and
thanks for being part of the conversation! OK, you've got a
best-selling book on the shelves, and a major motion picture starring a
Hollywood icon (Hostage, Bruce Willis) breaking across the country in a
matter of days. Just how cool is it to be you these days? Did you ever think
you'd be in such a position?
Robert: Cool to be me? Here I am on tour
with two weeks of dirty clothes in my bags, the crappy hotel I just left in
Miami failed--as in oops, sorry, we forgot--to do my laundry, and now I'm in
Chicago where my goal in life is a one-hour dry cleaner. (laughter) But, yeah,
man, things are going very very well. Hey, I'm just another overnight success.
It only took seventeen years.
When I consider Elvis Cole being a big hit the way he is now, and that I'll be
having one of my books open as a major Bruce Willis movie...no, I never used to
think that these things would happen, not 'think' as in anticipate or assume
they would. I just write these things, and try to say whatever it is I'm trying
to say, and hope for the best. I've always believed that my books rose to
a certain level, I've always believed in what I was trying to do even when so
many others didn't, and I've always believed that large numbers of people would
find something worthwhile in my work if they sampled it. There is a certain
amount of gratification in seeing that so many people have. But the feeling
isn't akin to crossing a finish line. You know, like, 'I've done it!' Not at
all. Whatever a writing career is, it's an ongoing evolution. We are on this
Don: Well, there's
a lot of people that visit this site that are VERY happy that it's happening
for you....OK, enough sucking up. Let's talk about the book. ((SPOILER WARNING))The
Forgotten Man seems almost like the end of a trilogy...a darkening of the
character, and a definite change in your style as a writer. Is any of that
valid, and if so , was it intentional, or evolutionary?
Robert: Depends on where you think things
begin and end. Maybe it's part of a quadrology...or pentology? Is quadrology a
word? If there is a darkening--and I acknowledge there is--I think it's a
neccessary evolutionary part of this series. So of course it's intentional on
my part. Since L. A. REQUIEM the books have begun to explore Elvis and Joe as
men. I have always seen them as complex men--not simply, and not cartoonish.
If you think Joe Pike is a clown in mirrorshades, think again. These are two
men who were forged in adversity. Once I began to explore that adversity, and
deal with it in a realistic way--much of Elvis's earlier humor seemed
Don: So, does that
mean that "early Elvis" (before he got fat and started playing Vegas) is gone
forever, or just, you know, for now?
Robert: The way I used to tell stories is
gone, but Elvis is still Elvis. Like anyone else, he has to deal with what's
been set before him. Lucy dumped him. A dead man claimed that he was Elvis's
father, and maybe he was. These are heavy things with which to deal. The light
moments and dark moments have to be appropriate to the issue at hand. And are.
Don: There's a lot
of Elvis' backstory here.....beyond what we've read in the
other books, was the history sitting in a doc file somewhere, waiting to be
used, or was it created recently?
Robert: Well, I've hinted at much of this
over the course of the series. I just hadn't presented the details. In most
cases, I didn't know the details. Think back to THE MONKEY'S RAINCOAT. In that
first book, Elvis tells us that his name of Philip James Cole until he was six
years old, when his mother changed his name. Ellen Lang also saw his battle
scars, so we knew he had seen serious action in Vietnam and was wounded. The
details came over time.
Don: It's obvious you spent some time going
back through the books.....did that process trigger any characters you'd like
to explore again?
Robert: Oh, sure. Several of the old
characters make cameos in THE FORGOTTEN MAN, and there are several more I'd like
to revisit in future books. The kids in INDIGO SLAM. Charles for sure. And
Ellen Lang again. I don't think I'm finished with that lady. But I have no
definite plans at this time.
Don: Let's talk
continuity. It seems as though you've chosen to age Elvis and Joe
slower as time goes on...or to not age them at all. We think it's interesting
that some writers take that road, while others, like Lawrence Block, choose to
age them in "real time". What lead you to go in the direction you did?
Robert: I'll be wrestling with this all the
way through the series, to age or not to age. When I started writing these
things, Elvis and Joe were a couple of years older than me. Now they feel a
couple of years younger. A large component of Elvis and Joe--their natures--is
physical violence...the poetry and the clarity of physical confrontation. I
enjoy writing it, and I enjoy that it is a part of Elvis and Joe, and
street-fighting is a younger man's game. Now, I might choose to write an older
investigator one day, and there are marvelous things you could do in portraying
such a character, but I don't see it in the cards for Elvis and Joe.
Don: All us guys
have fallen hard for Carol Starkey, can we assume she'll be part of Elvis'
world for the foreseeable future?
Robert: Carol rocks, m'man. She'll be
Don: Can you
re-assure us that you're no more inclined to let Elvis & Joe go to the movies
than you have been in recent years? And why is that?
Robert: I x'nayd on the movies for Elvis and
Joe. I have no interest in that. The standalones, sure, but not Elvis and Joe.
They are art created between myself and the reader. I don’t want more
collaborators intruding on that process
Don: Is that
conviction more, or less, firm now that HOSTAGE is ready to break?
Robert: HOSTAGE has little to do with my
feelings on this. I’m still being approached by various studios and actors who
want to acquire the Elvis books, and I still turn them down, so my feelings are
Don: Assuming we
have our facts straight, you wrote the first draft for the
screenplay, then when it changed directors, he brought in his guy. Talk a
please, about the kind of tweaks you had to make in your draft, and what kind
of changes were made to yours....
Robert: A new writer was brought in, but so
far as I know Florent Siri had nothing to do with that. I wrote the original
script, adapting my book, but when the film reached preproduction, Bruce brought
in a friend of his with whom he had worked before. I was out of the writing
loop by then, but my understanding is that Bruce and Doug sort of worked
together on the changes.
Don: The universal
agreement among us who talk about these things, is that Willis is pretty
well-cast. How'd the rest of the cast do with your characters? Any major
Robert: Bruce is terrific as Jeff Talley.
He was my choice for Talley since the beginning, and he really came through.
The highest compliment I could pay the guy is to say he looks like a cop. The
biggest and best casting surprise is Ben Foster as Mars. Physically, Ben isn’t
anything like I described Mars in the book. Ben is small and slight, but he
plays the character like a creepy Marilyn Manson. He created his own Mars, and
he totally won me over. He did a fantastic job.
Don: Ken Kesey
used a colorful scatalogical metaphor once to try to relate the
process of watching an intellectual property get translated to another medium,
that basically the writer has to "let it go". How easy or hard is that to do?
Robert: It can be difficult, but I’m a big
boy. You enter into this kind of thing with open eyes and hope for the best.
They made some changes in the script that I wouldn’t have made, but all in all
this movie is representative of the book, and Jeff Talley is still very much
Jeff Talley. It’s my baby.
Don: Let's take a
turn into another medium...television. As a pioneering writer
for some TV icons like Hill Street Blues and Miami Vice, you have major cred
here. What's your thinking of the current state of the genre on TV?
Robert: ARE there any tv cop shows on these
days? I used to watch CSI, but I don’t find it as interesting as in the first
couple of seasons. The only series television I watch these days are LOST and
ALIAS, and sometimes DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES. I’ll watch THE SOPRANOS when they
return, but that’s about it.
Don: You said, a long time ago, that the
writer's power in TV exceeded his in
film. Still believe it?
Robert: Oh, absolutely, but not in the sense
of being a writer. You must have the title ‘producer,’ and, next step, you have
to be the show-runner. The show-runner runs the show—duh—and controls the
scripts. The show-runner is almost always a writer, so if you’re that person
you have about as much control as is possible in this business. Film writers
have no control at all. The position of ‘writer’ is—tragically—a disdained and
disrespected position in the business, despite the lip service that is paid.
Everyone needs the writer, but everyone—including other writers—treats writers
as beside the point to the process. You are the victim of everyone else’s stray
thoughts and sudden inspirations, and if you won’t make the changes they’ll
simply fire you and hire a pimp who will. The town is filled with writers who
are anxious to kiss ass.
Don: When's your
episode of DEADWOOD going to air? That's another way of asking you what shows
are on the air now that you'd like to write?Is that an option, should the right
one present itself?
Robert: Right now? Nothing. I enjoy
watching LOST, and I play with ideas for the characters and stories for my own
enjoyment, but I would never write one. I might have written a BUFFY, but you
never know. See, I’m at a point in my life and career where I’m not going to be
treated like a secretary. I’m happy to take a good idea from anyone, but if I
don’t like the note, I’m not going to write it. I’m not going to sit in a
writer’s room, say, with a bunch of story editors and producers, and pretend
they all have something interesting to say, which is what writers do every day
in Hollywood. I’d rather write my books.
Don: Here's one
from deep in left field....with writers like Orson Scott Card,
Joss Whedon, Greg Rucka and Brad Metzler jumping into the comic book field, is
that something that an old Marvel Fanboy like yourself would want to do?
Robert: Yes, given the right time and place,
absolutely. I would much rather write a comic book than television or film, but
the auspices would have to be right. See, I could write my kind of stories and
characters with the control I require. I think about it, time to time. I don’t
have the time to pursue it, but I do think about it. Here's where I'm going to
knock you down--I would consider letting Elvis and Joe be adapted into a graphic
novel. Theoretically, I have no problem with that; graphic novels, comics—I
don’t see them as destructive to the art of my books as television or film. I
might go for that. Maybe.
Don: Well, you've
been a great sport with us, Bob, so let's wrap up by you
telling us what's in the foreseeable future for you...more Elvis?
Robert: More Elvis for sure, but my next
book is a standalone. I wish I could tell you more, but we all know how that
works... Columbia has just put DEMOLITION ANGEL back into development with yet
another writer, so we'll have to see how that goes. And after the standalone,
I'm planning two Elvis books back-to-back. The first of the two will feature
Joe Pike. In a very big way.
Don: We will certainly be paying attention,
Bob. Good luck with HOSTAGE, thanks so much for The Forgotten Man, and for
taking the time to talk with
us.....you're buying the drinks, yes?
Robert: How much are you paying me for this