MysteryPeople Q&A: Scott Butki Interviews Robert Crais

  • Review by Scott Butki

With The Promise, Robert Crais has taken on a difficult challenge. The Promise combines two sets of characters from separate books and puts them all in a new book. I think we have all read books where authors have tried something like this and it just didn’t work. Well, good news – this one works! Crais takes K9 handler Scott James and his dog Maggie and brings them together with smartass private eye Elvis Cole and his business partner Joe Pike.

Cole has been hired to track down a woman who has disappeared, along with almost $500,000. She may be looking to contact Al-Queda regarding the death of her son in Nigeria. Unfortunately, the home Cole is staking out, hoping for a possible break in the case, turns out to be a site used for illicit drug manufacturing. When police become aware something shady is happening there James and Maggie are brought in to check the area and Maggie, following scents, takes them to the house.

In a key moment, James, exiting the house, sees Cole and almost shoots him before realizing he’s an innocent… or is he? Higher-ups who don’t know Cole consider the odds of Cole being there at the same time this all went down as suspicious, not just a coincidence. And there are moments where superiors suggest James did something wrong. This leads James to seek a meeting with Cole, much to the consternation of higher-ups convinced James has compromised the case.

Throughout all of this we have Cole’s usual wit (a part of me wishes I was as cool and funny as Cole), his strong but mostly silent business partner, Pike, and his friend, Jon Stone. Plus here, as with Suspect, the author takes us not only inside the head of James but also inside the head of Maggie. This is a difficult task but he pulls it off.

I have been praising and recommending Crais and many of his contemporaries, including Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly, for more than ten years. It’s great to see all of them getting their due. And it’s excellent to see them getting recognition, not only via awards and book sales and huge followings, but also from other authors. Lee Child, another great, has often cited Crais as one of his favorite authors.

The Promise is a fun, good read. Check it out and thank me later. You can read an excerpt of the book here.

MysteryPeople Q&A with Robert Crais

  • Scott Butki interviewed Robert Crais by email.

Scott Butki: When you wrote Suspect did you imagine it would bring you a whole different audience in addition to your usual one?

Robert Crais: No, the amazing response Suspect received never occurred to me.  All I knew was, I had these two characters I wanted to write about, Scott James and his police service dog, Maggie, and their story compelled me.  If I’d known so many people would fall in love with Maggie, I would’ve written about her years ago!

SB: Was it hard to come up with a good plotline for a novel combining those characters with Cole and Pike?

RC: Not hard, but I wanted to find a story that rang true.  I didn’t want to toss Elvis and Joe together with Scott and Maggie on a whim.  If their paths were to cross, as it does in The Promise, the story and situation had to be believable and uncontrived.

SB: Is it true that you ran away to join a circus? What happened there?

RC:True. It wasn’t a circus. It was a touring midway. Bill Hayne’s Century 21 Shows and Midway. I worked in a ball-toss concession for a lady who was a retired tumbler. Her family had been circus performers for generations.

SB: You got your start in Hollywood writing For Hill Street Blues and other shows before, thankfully, becoming a novelist.  Do you find yourself still paying a lot of attention to writing on television shows? What shows would you recommend your readers watch?

RC:Well, I have my favorites, and, yes, I pay attention. Orphan Black, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones. I loved the first season of True Detective. Silicon Valley is another show I enjoy.

SB: What’s the status of the adaptation of Suspect?

RC: Last I heard, they’re working on the script. I stay out of the loop by design. I keep my head in the books.

SB: Is it true you don’t want your Cole and Pike novels to be adapted? Why are you with Suspect and Hostage being adapted but not Cole and Pike?

RC:True. Elvis and Joe are my life’s work. I like keeping them between myself and my readers. The standalone books are a little different. Maybe because they’re one-shots.

SB: What’s it like to have Lee Child cite you as one of his favorite writers?

RC:Did Lee say that? Man, that’s so great. Listen, of course I’m a fan. I love Lee’s work, and have since the beginning.  When someone you admire enjoys your work, it’s the best kind of compliment.

SB: What are you working on next?

RC: My next book stars Joe Pike, and Jon Stone helps out. I love writing the Pike books. Putting myself into Pike’s head is a different experience. Very, very different.

You can find Crais’ latest on our shelves and via

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