Robert Crais has a gift. He’s written twenty-two novels, sixteen of them New York Times bestsellers, so we know he’s a great writer, but he also has the unique ability to get readers emotionally involved in his books like no other thriller writer I’ve read.
The last time I saw Crais was at the Mysterious Book Store in Tribeca, where he told an enthusiastic group of fans that it’s not unusual for him to laugh or cry when writing a particularly intense passage or scene. This makes sense to Crais aficionado Yolanda, who feels that “if Crais is that emotionally committed to his writing, then his readers will certainly pick up on it. I definitely do,” she said.
My son Andrew and our family friend Joe have never forgiven Crais for killing off a popular character in “L.A. Requiem,” a book many consider to be his magnum opus.
“He writes real, believable flesh and blood characters,” said Joe. “I felt like I lost a friend when she died.”
This type of devotion has built a formidable Crais fan base, which I’ve encountered at book signings, airports, on Facebook and at dinners with friends. On a recent Sunday, on the way to “meet the parents” of my son’s girlfriend, I learned that they were huge Crais fans, and what could have been an awkward lunch turned into a freewheeling discussion about Crais, thrillers, and popular culture. It was like we were all members of the same club.
Crais’s ability to manipulate emotion wouldn’t exist without his straightforward writing style, which my friend and bestselling author Jon Land believes is absolutely crucial to Crais’s success.
“I think a big part of this is Crais’s economy of words, true to the tradition of Hammett and Chandler from which he comes. You hang on every one of his words because each and every one of them means something. There's no fluff, no filler. And that has the dual effect of making his characters, even minor ones, resonate and pop off the page.”
Fortunately, Crais is about to release “A Dangerous Man,” a new page-popper on sale August 6. In this new thriller, mercenary Joe Pike’s chance encounter with a bank teller Isabel Roland leads him to an explosive scene in which he saves her life from two kidnappers, conveyed by Crais in a mere 98 words. This moment alone is worth the entire price of the book.
Then, after the two kidnappers are found murdered and Isabel suddenly goes missing, Pike enlists the help of his partner, private investigator Elvis Cole, the self-described “World’s Greatest Detective.” They make it their mission to find Isabel, and along with the police, criminalist geek John Chen and a formidable U.S. Marshal, they uncover a mystery involving an enormous amount of stolen cash being pursued by very bad men who will stop at nothing to find it. As the bodies pile up, the tension mounts slowly yet steadily, eventually reaching a fever pitch that makes “A Dangerous Man” the must-read book of the summer and this year’s most engrossing thriller.
While other writers rely on templates and blueprints to recycle their characters, Crais always finds a new way to showcase Elvis Cole and Joe Pike. Welcome to the club.
Rob Taub works as a broker at CORE in NYC, where he hosts a weekly podcast. He has enjoyed an eclectic career in film, television, radio, and journalism. Rob has interviewed everyone from pop stars to presidents and has written for People Magazine, FoxNews.com, SI/Cauldron, The Huffington Post, and Thrive Global. Rob is a respected Diabetes Advocate and Obesity Ambassador, writing and speaking regularly about Type 2 diabetes and health. Follow him on Twitter @robmtaub or at www.RobTaub.com. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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