By Joe Tash
Robert Crais’ latest thriller, “Suspect,” grew out of his need to heal after losing a beloved canine companion, and a desire to better understand the bonds between dogs and humans.
Crais will be the featured speaker at the Jan. 24 luncheon meeting of the Rancho Santa Fe Library Guild. “Suspect,” published by Putnam Adult, comes out Jan. 22.
Members of the guild and their guests can attend the luncheon and author talk, and receive a signed copy of the book for a $40 admission price. Non-members can attend the talk and purchase a book at the event, which runs from noon to 2 p.m. on Thursday at the Rancho Santa Fe Library, 17040 Avenida de Acacias. Those attending just the talk can arrive at 12:30 p.m.
Reservations for the lunch can be made by calling the Guild at 858-756-4780, or visiting its website at
- Individual guild memberships are $50 per year, and a family membership costs $100.
Crais, 59, a resident of West Hollywood, is best-known as the author of a series of crime novels featuring private detectives Elvis Cole and Joe Pike. “Suspect,” a standalone novel that doesn’t feature Cole or Pike, is his 19th book.
The story centers on a Los Angeles Police Department officer whose partner is murdered. The officer partners with Maggie, a former Marine Corps patrol German Shepherd who lost her handler in Afghanistan. The duo teams up in an effort to find the killer of the officer’s partner.
The story came out of the author’s desire to find out why he was having such a hard time moving on after his own dog, an Akita he owned for 12 years since it was a puppy, had died, said Crais. He thought about getting another dog, but somehow felt that would be disloyal.
As he began to research about the bonds between dogs and humans, and learn more about military and police dogs and their interactions with their handlers, the character of Maggie emerged, Crais said.
From the start, Crais said he wanted to avoid turning Maggie into a four-legged person.
“It was really important to me to try to make her real. I like to think that I did. I wanted her to be a real dog, not a cartoon,” Crais said.
After writing the book and now embarking on a book tour to promote it, Crais said he feels ready to get a new dog when he returns home.
“It opened doors for me so I think it’s time,” he said.
According to his online bio, Crais is a Louisiana native who grew up on the banks of the Mississippi River in a blue collar family of oil refinery workers and police officers. His literary influences include Dashiell Hammett, Ernest Hemingway, Robert B. Parker and John Steinbeck.
He moved to Hollywood in the 1970s and began writing scripts for such TV shows as Hill Street Blues, Cagney & Lacey and Miami Vice, along with pilots and movies-of-the-week for networks.
In the mid-80s, he published his first Elvis Cole novel, “The Monkey’s Raincoat.”
Crime and mystery novels remain the most popular genre in American literature because they offer “clarity” to their readers, Crais said.
We all face unknowns in our lives, he said, and therefore we can relate to fictional detectives who must come into a chaotic situation and try to make sense of it, and separate what is real from what is not.
“We want to be part of that successful journey,” Crais said.
Crais gravitated toward crime fiction because he loves that type of story, he said.
“I write the story for me. Because I just happen to love this stuff is why I write the type of fiction I write,” he said.
What he didn’t count on, Crais said, was the popularity that his books would achieve. At last count, he said, his books are available in 56 or 58 countries, and some 40 million copies of his books are in print.
“That’s the kind of thing that happens to someone else,” he said.
Even today, he still gets a kick out of seeing someone reading one of his books in an airport or other public place.
“If I see someone reading my book, I turn away, I break into a big smile, I can’t believe there’s anybody out there reading it,” he said.
The presentation by Crais is one of four or five author talks sponsored annually by the RSF Library Guild. Along with sponsoring author talks, the guild also holds fundraisers, and pays for such services as a children’s librarian at the Rancho Santa Fe Library, as well as library materials including books, magazines and audio books.