Wednesday, February 29, 2012

MICHAEL CONNELLY & ROBERT CRAIS TALK RAYMOND CHANDLER IN SANTA MONICA A.K.A. BAY CITY (02-25-2012)

Michael Connelly & Robert Crais

As part of The City of Santa Monica’s Noirfest, I’m sure the highlight has to be last Saturday night’s conversation with bestselling LA crime novelists, Michael Connelly and Robert Crais, whose literary detective heroes, Harry Bosch and Elvis Cole (don’t worry, I didn’t forget Crais' Joe Pike) have continued to travel the mean streets and dark back alleys of The City of Angels, the way Raymond Chandler’s legendary Phillip Marlowe once had… there's still crime and murder in the city, just a couple newer guys getting the job done.

Michael Connelly
 I love writers and noir, so I couldn’t pass up the chance to see these to modern masters of the genre square off (well more like chat.)  Connelly seems to be the more stoic of the two. As Crais, was always good with a quick one liner… I could defiantly see the personalities of the writer’s fictional detectives showing their cards in their hour (plus) talk that night. As you'd expect, both Connelly and Crais spoke with great fondness of Raymond Chandler (whom they were both there to talk about.) Connelly spoke of how as a youth he had really no interest in old books (from the 40's & 50's.) But he loved the modern cop novels of former LAPD cop, Joseph Wambaugh. It wasn’t until college when Connelly happened to catch the film version of Robert Altman’s 70’s film version Chandler’s The Long Goodbye, which made him a fan of P.I. Phillip Marlowe. It was his life changing moment, Connelly soon found himself not going to his classes, but staying up all night reading the entire Chandler’s catalog of novels (eight by the way.)  Connelly soon changed his college major, with visions of becoming a writer someday. 


Chandler also had a strong grip on Crais, whose world was changed not in some many words when he read a paperback copy of Chandler’s Marlowe novel, Little Sister. Both men, cited chapter thirteen in that book as a source of inspiration for them as writers. The chapter’s core has Marlowe trying to find solace driving around the city which he both loves and loathes. Crais treated the crowd to a reading of some of the chapter, which he said he usually reads before starting his latest book. After Crais finished he exclaimed “That dude can write!” To which Connelly not missing a beat added; “It helps when you use the Joe Pike voice.”  Connelly even though seeming the more quite of the two, got some pretty good playful jabs at his pal,Crais. When Crais was trying to explain the nights homage to Chandler… he was looking for the right words to crystallize his thoughts; “I don’t know what you call it?” Then Connelly zinged him with “a homage to Bob Crais?” You could tell that these guys really respect and like each other.

These guys are quick with a one liner.
It was fun to hear two typewriter titans discuss the master Raymond Chandler. Crais said that Chandler had a problem with plots. But he also said how Chandler thought that a good scene in a novel, trumps the overall plot. And that the perfect mystery novel is one that you’d read even if there was no ending.

 
When they opened up the full house at Lincoln Middle School to questions, one of the funniest moments came when a film location scout asked Crais, how does he come up with all the great LA locations for his Elvis Cole novels? Without missing a beat Crais jokingly told her, “It’s called an automobile. I’m the guy who’s driving around at 3 o’clock in the morning.”

Robert Crais & socks
Someone in the audience asked about the next generation of mystery writers, and who will take over for them? Crais cracked, “God no, it stops with Michael and me.” Crais was decked out in all black with the exception of his colorful sock and shoes. It instigated one fan to ask where Crais got his socks? To which the affable author replied, “I sell them out of the trunk of my car. You didn’t think I make living selling books?” You gotta love the guy. I met Crais at a signing for his book The Sentry, which had most of its action set in my town of Venice, Ca, and I found him to be a heck of a likable fella. Crais started out writing TV scripts back in the 70’s & 80’s for such fare as Barreta and Hill Street Blues. Connelly on the other hand learned his craft as a journalist. He had a long stint on the crime beat for The Los Angeles Times. When someone asked the authors which book was their favorite? Connelly said, “The Last Coyote, because it was his first book published as a full time writer.” 

The 3 C's: Connelly, Chandler & Crais
The Packed Auditorium at Lincoln Middle School in Santa Monica

Another interesting (if not funny) question was, how interesting how Marlowe, Bosch and Pike lived in basically in the same Hollywood Hills neighborhood. By coincidence, both Connelly and Crais perched their heroes there to muse over the city that they both try and protect. It got a laugh when another fan asked how come Harry Bosch’s place got red tagged in the Northridge Earthquake and Elvis’s Cole’s didn’t? 

Rober Crais
Crais said “I’m from the flatlands of Louisiana, when I moved here, I fell in love with the hills.” He said, he was inspired to have his detective live in a place that he would have liked to have if he had the money (which, I’m sure is very possible now?) Connelly, said that he was inspired to put his character Harry Bosch at 8743 Woodrow Wilson drive after working on a murder story for The Times, that happened right in front famed artist David Hockney’s house… Connelly again got a laugh when he assured the crowd, that Hockney had nothing to do with it (the murder.)

Michael Connelly

Robert Crais & Michael Connelly sign books & take photos with their fans.


These two writers have such a following, one guy drove all the way from Arizona with a stack of books (even though it said a two book limit) for this summitt which were happily signed. Michael Connelly’s current Harry Bosch novel is called The Drop. Robert Crais’ Elvis Cole book is called, Taken. I haven’t gotten to them yet, but I’m sure it would make Chandler and Marlowe happy, these guys are out there getting the job done the way they used too.

I didn't read what Michael Connelly inscribed until I got home, I was quite surprised to see that he's signed it from "Harry Bosch and Michael Connelly.

5 comments:

  1. I am a fan of both these writers.
    Harry Bosch, Elvis Cole and Joe Pike are the kind of characters that I enjoy hanging out with and going along for the ride in each book. Thanks for sharing your words and pics of a terrific discussion.

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  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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