Nerd Chat with Robert Crais Plus Giveaway of THE FIRST RULE

Though he’s busy gearing up for the release of The First Rule next month (January 12), Robert Crais generously took time from shopping for loud socks to do an e-mail interview with me.

If you’re already a fan, you know the basics. If not, visit his website for all the dish, then check out his tour schedule.

I’m giving away some goodies, with details below the interview. But first, read on as we discuss Joe Pike, who’s center stage in The First Rule. The novel is a blood-pumping, rocket-paced adventure with all the usual Pike-isms, but it also reveals an unexpectedly tender side of him that makes your chest clench a little.

PCN: Since there’s a heartrending twist in TFR that I don’t want to spoil, I’ll just ask vague, possibly irrelevant questions. Hopefully, this will entice people even more to pick up the book to see what the hell I’m talking about.

Pike goes where we’ve never seen him go emotionally and it changes him. How will that affect his future actions?

Robert Crais: Maybe it won’t. Pike has been Pike for a long time, so he’s good at repressing his feelings.

PCN: Does he repress his, um, urges, too? I don’t recall any girlfriends since Karen Garcia in L.A. Requiem and even she was in flashbacks. When’s he gonna get some again?

RC: You offering?

PCN: I’d ruin him. He’d start knitting me sweaters and calling me “Pumpkin.” Who would want that? Could he remain an interesting character if he were in a happy relationship?

RC: I doubt it. Part of Pike’s appeal is his “other-ness.” He’s a strange cat and readers like those aspects of his character. If he were “normal,” I don’t think people would find him as interesting. Could Pike be in a happy relationship? I don’t know. He probably wants to be in a happy place, but I don’t think he knows how to get there.

PCN: I could draw him diagrams but I don’t really want him to go there. Now, some actors do Method Acting. Ever do Method Writing as Pike?

RC: That’s how I write. I put myself in his place, feel what he feels, share the moments with him. If I don’t feel what Pike feels, if I’m not there in the moment, the scene won’t work.

PCN: What does putting yourself in his place entail? Knocking heads, eating vegetables, then running at night with coyotes?

RC: Pike does those things to put himself in MY headspace.

PCN: When he’s not on a case with Elvis, at the gun shop, working out or cleaning his Jeep, what does Pike do? Pottery? Watch Glee?

RC: Decorative macramé. It’s all the rage. And Pike loves Glee. You going to make fun of him for that? Go ahead—I dare you.

PCN: Nah, I like him more for it, especially if he does the “Single Ladies” routine to warm up before a run. You excel in showing how Pike feels about people and things through his actions so I’m happy with the third-person perspective. Hypothetically, though, could you write him in first person?

RC: Of course. I am the World’s Greatest Writer.

PCN: What kind of book would that be?

RC: Short. He doesn’t say much.

PCN: In TFR, Elvis goes to eat at the Sidewalk Café in Venice. I’d bet he’s there to sample the Robert Crais pizza. Why does your namesake pie have way more meat than the Cormac McCarthy pizza?

RC: Have you eaten me yet? I’m pretty good.

PCN: I have, and thought you were cheesy and meaty. And cheap!

RC: You should tell your readers the Sidewalk Café in Venice is a real place. They named a pizza after me, so I like them a lot.  Also, they make a dynamite pie.

PCN: I see you’ll be signing at a Costco on tour. Which aisle is your favorite place to sit?

RC: Big screen TVs. There’s something to watch after the crowd thins.

PCN: Right, once you tell people where to find hams and batteries. What’s the next book about? Is it an Elvis? Standalone?

RC: Another Joe Pike book. I want to write something else, but Pike won’t let me.

PCN: Have you publicly announced that anywhere else? Can I claim it as a world exclusive due to my intrepid scoop-breaking abilities?

RC: Probably, but you can tell everyone I’m announcing it here first. I won’t tell.

And that concludes my world exclusive scoopy interview. Deep, massive thanks to Robert for chatting and not telling. (To see and hear him read excerpts from TFR, click here.)

Now, for the giveaway…

Prizes and Rules:

Up for grabs is an ARC of The First Rule, which will come gift-wrapped from Lydia at Putnam, who has mad wrapping skills. The winner will be randomly selected.

A second name will be randomly chosen to receive a set of four picture cards, autographed by Robert. (See closeups below.) They feature locations from the Elvis Cole and Joe Pike books—including Elvis’s house!—with text from the novels in which they were mentioned.

Robert Crais, happy to see me

These aren’t available anywhere else because I made them, then ambushed Robert at a restaurant and got him to sign. (If the pictures look familiar, some were used in the video “Elvis Cole’s Los Angeles,” which can be viewed here.) They can be used as postcards, bookmarks, coasters, refrigerator art, etc. I haven’t even offered them to my own mother but will give a set to one of you.

Temporary red arrow tattoos might also be included with the prizes if I can resist putting them all over myself first.

In The First Rule, Joe Pike goes to great lengths to defend the name and memory of his friend, Frank. To enter, answer the following question:

  • What’s the most heroic thing you’ve ever done for a friend? This includes acts big and small.

You must also be a:

  • U.S. or Canada resident
  • subscriber or Twitter follower

New subscribers/followers get 1 entry, current ones get 2, people who tweet about this giveaway (and let me know) get 3 entries. Giveaway ends Dec. 14, 5 p.m. PST.

Winners will be announced only here and via Twitter; no e-mail notifications will be done. If winners don’t respond within 48 hours, alternate names will be chosen.

Good luck!


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  • Reply
    Jen Forbus
    December 2, 2009 at 5:17 am

    Oh, oh, oh…I’m first, I’m first…Does that make me the First Rule? LOL This was so fantastic, PCN. I love it. I’m at work, laughing out loud, probably set to get in trouble for not doing what I’m supposed to be doing! Ha!!

    Most heroic thing I’ve done? Wow! I don’t know if I’ve done anything I’d consider heroic.

    Although I will admit that I’ll stand up for people when I think they’re being mistreated. I have a thing about hypocrisy. If I don’t think something is right, I’ll say so. I won’t be silent and approve through my silence. That’s why I commented to the “reviewer” on his personal attack of an author. Just can’t take that.

    I also give blood regularly…does that count?

    This is fun! Please don’t consider me for the book, though. I already have my ARC copy and I’ll be buying a final copy when I see the big man in Dayton…hope he’s bringing loud and WARM socks when he comes in January!! 🙂

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      December 2, 2009 at 7:32 pm

      Jen, giving blood and standing up against wrongs definitely count. Sometimes the smaller, everyday acts are more impressive than the big, attention-grabbing ones.

  • Reply
    Naomi Johnson
    December 2, 2009 at 6:25 am

    My gosh, I could eat this man with a spoon! Great work, PCN.

    I can’t think of one heroic thing I’ve ever done for a friend. I can think of a friend who did something heroic for me. Years ago, in college, I experienced my one and only bout with clinical depression. I didn’t know enough to get or be willing to get help. My friend made me withdraw from school temporarily, and took me to her relatives’ farm in Kentucky. There I sweated away the summer peeling wallpaper, feeding calves, rounding up the ever-escaping bull, taking lunches to the men working the fields, and walking miles in the worst humidity I’ve ever experienced. By the time I found a ride back to Columbus at summer’s end, the depression was gone. I’ve never forgotten that my friend put her own life on hold to be with me and help me through that dark time.

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      December 2, 2009 at 7:36 pm

      Naomi, I’m out of spoons. Can you fork him instead?

      Your friend did an amazing thing. I’m glad you got through that dark time. And I’d bet if you keep mulling it over, you’d think of something incredible you did for someone, too.

  • Reply
    Jen Forbus
    December 2, 2009 at 9:04 am

    I also need to add that I’ll volunteer to be Joe’s date ANYTIME! 🙂

  • Reply
    December 2, 2009 at 9:26 am


    Okay, most heroic thing to defend a friend’s honor/name:

    A close friend in college lit the curtains in his room on fire. He was threatened with expulsion and I said that it was an accident, then they threatened me with expulsion, but I wouldn’t back down. He ended up leaving voluntarily.

    Doesn’t sound all that heroic now, I suppose. Still count?

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      December 2, 2009 at 7:47 pm

      Um, did your friend set the curtains on fire on purpose? If so, I’m a little scared. Perhaps you’re heroic for surviving the semester with him as your roommie.

  • Reply
    December 2, 2009 at 9:32 am

    Hahahaha! Funniest Robert Crais interview ever! This is great, PCN. I’d be thrilled with either/any prize.

    My most heroic act: I got out of bed in the middle of the night (3 a.m.) to go down to a seedy part of Hollywood Blvd. to pick up a friend who called to say he was too drunk to drive. I like to think I saved his life and perhaps those of other motorists that night.

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      December 2, 2009 at 7:54 pm

      I’ve been on Hollywood Blvd. at that hour—never mind why—so I think you were very brave going down there to get your friend.

  • Reply
    December 2, 2009 at 10:32 am

    Oh, this is ridiculous in the BEST way. Thanks for the laugh. You two need to take it on the road.

    Hmm, most heroic…I’m usually the one being rescued. Ha! OK, how about this:

    I saw a little girl at the mall who was lost and looking really scared. I walked with her to the Customer Service desk and had them page her mother. There was a shoe sale going on at Macy’s so that was pretty heroic of me to stop and do that.

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      December 2, 2009 at 7:58 pm

      We could take it on the road but then we’d fight over who gets the sausage that comes with the gift baskets in the dressing rooms.

      I was lost once in a huge outdoor crowd when I was 5 and was absolutely terrified. A stranger helped me find my mother and I’ve never forgotten him. I’m thinking that little girl won’t forget you, either.

  • Reply
    December 2, 2009 at 11:33 am

    I expected nothing less than sharp and witty repartee with this, and I wasn’t disappointed, PCN. Another Joe Pike is brewing? That’s some scoop! I don’t think I’ve ever done something truly heroic (at least not in the Elvis Cole, Joe Pike-class). Hmm… I used to give blood (before I tainted it with too much tequila and guacamole – at least that’s what the nurses told me ;-).

    Would that count? No? Okay. A friend of my girlfriend at the time in high school (and not my friend, at all) ingested a barbiturate she shouldn’t have, and I helped watch over her till she got over the worst of it (plus, promised to keep my mouth shut about it so she wouldn’t get in trouble). After almost 40 years, I guess it’s okay to talk about it now.

    Thanks, PCN>

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      December 2, 2009 at 8:01 pm

      I got you to reveal a 40-year-old secret? Score!

      Was it that girl Nancy with the snorting laugh you’re always talking about? No? Then I have no clue. I think you’re safe.

  • Reply
    December 2, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    I didn’t know the next book will be another Pike novel, and I also didn’t know about the RC pizza so this interview is definitely scoopy, PCN! Next time I’m in Venice, I’ll go eat RC. 😀

    As for something heroic, I once rescued a dog nobody wanted. I think she’d been abused but she finally started trusting me. I hope I made a difference.

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      December 2, 2009 at 8:17 pm

      I hope you enjoy eating Robert. He’s best with some Tabasco because it makes him extra spicy.

      You saved that dog’s life. I think you made a huge difference.

  • Reply
    December 2, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    Since you and Joe Pike are already painting pottery together, can I have him for ice skating at Rockefeller Center this holiday? Can you just imagine a hot toddie in front of a roaring fireplace with Joe Pike on a cold winter night… Yum.

    Heroic for a friend, let’s see… I love Hayley’s, since I think preventing drinking and driving is always heroic (and not always easy; I know some angry drunks!). Back when I was younger, I used to think it was heroic to support your friend against some other poor girl in the case of a boys’ wrongdoing, but I’ve mended those ways. I think my heroic ways may be quieter and less physical than Pike’s and found over support and a glass of wine, since no one wants to see me flailing about in hand-to-hand combat.

    PCN – thanks for a wonderful interview with Crais!

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      December 2, 2009 at 8:26 pm

      I’m not painting pottery with Joe. We’re singing Glee tunes on karaoke, with him taking the Diana Ross part on “Endless Love.”

      Quiet acts of heroism are admirable because they’re done every day and not just because someone wants to get on TV. That said, I’d pay to see you kick some ass!

  • Reply
    December 3, 2009 at 11:18 am

    I’m here in my cube at work, uh working, and everyone is wondering what I’m laughing at. Nice interview, PCN. Christmas is just a few weeks away–I’m putting a Joe Pike macramed belt at the top of my list. Alas, I have no heroic acts to report, but I’ll keep reading Elvis & Joe and maybe a bit of their goodness will rub
    off on me.

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      December 3, 2009 at 12:52 pm

      You just gave me an idea. I want a macraméd poncho from Pike!

      You’re being modest. I have seen vids of you delivering babies in taxi cabs and wrestling with bears in the wild.

  • Reply
    December 3, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    pulled them out of the way of oncoming traffic something very small but at least they did not squooshed by a garbage truck

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      December 3, 2009 at 12:53 pm

      Yikes. What/who did you pull out of the way?

  • Reply
    Woman on the Verge
    December 3, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    Most heroic thing for a friend? Telling the truth – even if it risked the friendship. I’m tweeting… @WotV. What else was I supposed to do? Um, follow? Will do.

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      December 6, 2009 at 3:32 pm

      That is indeed very brave! Welcome, WotV, and thanks for following

  • Reply
    December 3, 2009 at 11:43 pm

    It wasn’t a friend, it was my older brother.

    My family was poor and he needed a hearing aid. It cost sooooo much money back then. It was this enormous thing that made him look like a space creature and, an 8-year old living in rural Maine does not want to look like an alien going to school. He HATED it even wearing it even more because my Dad insisted we all sport crewcuts, my brother wasn’t allowed to grow out his hair to cover it up.

    One day, on the way home from school, my brother got into a fight with the kids next door. I came along just as they had knocked him down. The hearing aid had gone flying and was in pieces. Two of these rotten neighbors were holding him down while a third repeatedly punched him in the face. They were all bigger than I was, but I leapt into the fray and somehow channeled my inner Tazmanian devil. The neighbors were sent home bloody that day, but my brother got the worst of it…from my Dad for breaking the hearing aid. It was tough for my parents, but they somehow scraped the money together and got a new one for my brother. He was so scared of breaking it again that he only wore it in the house. Because he couldn’t hear what the teacher was saying in the classroom, they held him back a year. We never spoke of that day again.

    When we moved to a new town and consequently a new school, I took some aptitude tests and my teachers tried to leap me forward a grade. Since it would have put me in the same grade as my brother (3 years older), I declined.

    My brother and I don’t speak of that either. We are much older now and live on separate coasts. We speak every Weds. night on the phone, but still don’t talk about those days.

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      December 6, 2009 at 3:36 pm

      Your story is so moving, FF, I know my reply is inadequate. Please allow me to just say thank you for sharing such a personal experience. Sounds like you and your brother are lucky to have each other.

  • Reply
    Shell Sherree
    December 4, 2009 at 4:59 am

    Oh, smooth, just as I expected!! I can’t decide if Robert Crais is cool or hot.

    Your postcards are beauties, PCN ~ I can’t decide if they are cool or hot, either!!

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      December 6, 2009 at 3:40 pm

      How about we’re both cool AND hot, Shell? And smooth AND rough, pleasure AND pain…

      What was the question again?

  • Reply
    Corey Wilde
    December 5, 2009 at 7:07 pm

    Great interview. You two have quite a routine. Can’t you talk RC into taking you on tour with him?

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      December 6, 2009 at 3:44 pm

      I tried, but he said I had to shine his boots along the way. I said, “You don’t even wear boots!” He said, “That’s not the point!” Negotiations broke down after that.

      And to think—I could’ve hooked up with you and Jen (maybe Naomi?) in OH.

  • Reply
    December 7, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    That was just hysterical PCN. Barbara Walters should take some tips from you! Hmm, not sure if this was heroic but I picked up my friend at the police station at midnight after her soon-to- be ex-husband broke into their home and shot himself in front of her and their son earlier in the evening. Then I drove her to the hospital and stayed in the room holding her hand while we watched a machine breathe for him for 17 more hours until they finally pulled the plug. Bullets and heads don’t mix!

    Not really sure that’s heroic. You help friends through painful experiences. That’s why they call it friendship right?

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      December 7, 2009 at 1:49 pm

      Yes, I believe Babs should call me up right now and offer me a job. I’d enjoy bitch-slapping people on national TV.

      You helped your friend get through a hellish experience and that’s plenty valiant.

  • Reply
    Christine McCann
    December 7, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    LOVED the interview! Thanks, PCN! (Jen Forbus gets props for providing the link and introducing me to your blog on Jen’s Book Thoughts.) As I don’t see a tour stop here in Nashville, TN, maybe I’ll run into you all in Dayton!

    Hmmm, while not necessarily heroic, my husband and I tried to help my girlfriend recover from a divorce. We’d have her over one night a week for pizza, homemade brownies or chocolate chip cookies and a movie. (Alas, no Robert Crais pizzas available in Dayton, OH, so had to settle for Papa John’s with the Works.) My husband dubbed them Mindi Movie Nights.

    • Reply
      December 7, 2009 at 1:43 pm

      Christine: Very thoughtful of both you and your husband to help out a friend. Sounds delicious.

      I went to undergrad at UD and am unable to stop myself from commenting – nothing close to a Robert Crais pizza in Dayton, but I was a hugggggggggge fan of Cousin Vinny’s! It’s definitely pizza geared towards the poor college student, but I have many fond late night memories of waiting for the delivery bell to ring (and then more happy memories from the cold leftovers in the morning)!

      • Reply
        Pop Culture Nerd
        December 7, 2009 at 2:12 pm

        Hmm. All of a sudden, I’m getting a craving for pizza. Think I’ll order one with bell peppers, mushrooms, jalapenos and Robert Crais on top.

      • Reply
        Christine McCann
        December 7, 2009 at 2:39 pm

        novelwhore: Ahh, nothing says “College Days” like cold leftover pizza for breakfast. Missed out on the Cousin Vinny’s experience, but we were big fans of Milano’s on Brown Street!

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      December 7, 2009 at 2:07 pm

      Welcome, Christine, and thanks! I owe Jen something fabulous for providing the link.

      I’m wondering if you might like to move to L.A. any time soon because I’d sure love to have you nearby when I’m having a bad day. For the record, I love kettle-cooked chips, snickerdoodles, Sour Patch Kids and egg rolls. Oh, and movies starring Daniel Craig.

      • Reply
        Christine McCann
        December 7, 2009 at 3:07 pm

        PCN: You’re comfort list is duly noted and if ever in LA, I’ll check in to see how you’re doing. I’m a firm believer in the healing powers of baking and cinematherapy! (And either accompanied with wine or a wee dram of scotch? Lovely!) ;-D

        I love the photos with the quotes! When I was in LA last year, I just couldn’t choose where to go and what to see in the time I had. Then I thought of places used in Robert’s and Michael Connelly’s books and used them as kind of guide books to get me started. Worked like a charm, it was great! (Though, how did I miss out on a place serving Robert Crais pizza when I was walking about Venice Beach!?! Oh well, I’ll just have to take another trip back to California, eh?)

        • Reply
          Jen Forbus
          December 7, 2009 at 3:27 pm

          Hey Christine,

          Definitely let me know if you go to Dayton! I’d love to meet you.

          And I’m so glad you found PCN’s blog. Isn’t she awesome?

          • Reply
            Pop Culture Nerd
            December 7, 2009 at 3:57 pm

            YOU are awesome. As if your support and comments aren’t enough, you bring friends.

            Sounds like his Dayton stop will be a party!

        • Reply
          Pop Culture Nerd
          December 7, 2009 at 3:40 pm

          Oh, you’ll have to come back, Christine! Robert’s hanging out at the beach, calling your name, just waiting to be eaten.

          A lot of the fun I have while reading his books is from a) recognizing the places he’s writing about or b) thinking, “That sounds cool. Gotta check it out.” I’m glad your tour of Crais/Connelly locations turned out great.

          • Reply
            Christine McCann
            December 9, 2009 at 3:25 pm

            Had to come back and read the interview again! Brightens my day. SO looking forward to The First Rule! I love seeing the world through Pike’s eyes and learning more about him.

            • Reply
              Pop Culture Nerd
              December 9, 2009 at 3:33 pm

              You just brightened up my day by saying that, Christine. I guarantee The First Rule will blow your socks off.

  • Reply
    December 10, 2009 at 7:37 am

    Heroic? Me? Not so much.

    I really can’t think of anything “heroic”. In my senior year in high school one of my good friend’s boyfriend broke up with her a couple of days before prom and she asked if I would take her and I did. Is that heroic?

    I was always a good listener. People would tell me stuff (sometimes TMI) and I’d listen and point out their options without telling them what to do. (Well, sometimes I would tell them what to do, but would they listen? No.)

    But I do like wearing brightly colored spandex tights with a mask and a cape if that counts.

  • Reply
    sophie littlefield
    December 12, 2009 at 11:42 pm

    Hey sugar….was thinking about the heroic thing i did for a friend. and here’s the problem – i think it might diminish it if i fessed up. part of the heroism of it was that it’s sealed and buried, never to be discussed. for someone like me, who has to discuss every single thing to conjure it into being, that’s HUGE….my staying moot on the subject is the 2nd act of heroism. (and i think i get two, by the rules! 🙂

    great interview. for reasons large and small.

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      December 13, 2009 at 12:32 am

      I agree, Soph (and wrote about that here). Notice I didn’t fess up to anything I did? But I really wanted to hear about the awesome things people have done because it seems we hear more about folks doing mean things than good. Double standard on my part? Yes. But I’m so glad people shared because they inspired me. And they did it only because I asked, not because they were boastful.

      And you definitely get 2 points!

  • Reply
    December 14, 2009 at 10:24 am

    Great interview, and great news that another Pike book is in the works!

    Don’t know how heroic it was, but while I was in graduate school a real jerk professor was riding someone unfairly, really tearing them down in front of the whole class, and I stood up and called him out on it. He threatened to throw me out of his class (fail me) but I didn’t back down; told him we could go talk to the Dean about it – and his behavior – if he wanted to. Didn’t happen. AND I ended up getting the 2nd best grade in the class… blind grading, of course! 😉

  • Reply
    sophie littlefield
    December 28, 2009 at 10:37 am

    My book arrived! Oooh and it’s pretty-pretty – – I know what I’ll be doing tonight! Thanks so much PCN!!

    • Reply
      Jen Forbus
      December 28, 2009 at 10:48 am

      Oh Sophie…you’re going to love it. I read it Xmas day…that was my gift to myself. All I have to say is…*sigh* I LOVE Joe Pike!

  • Reply
    December 28, 2009 at 10:40 am

    Meant to mention it, but my picture cards arrived awhile ago in great shape. They are a fantastic set! I’m going to frame them, too.

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