Welcome to my blog!

Welcome to my blog! This is my journey, my first steps into the world of fictional writing. This blog is an online journal of sorts, where I share the progress of my work as well as what I have learned along the way. I hope you enjoy your time with me and that my experience may be of some use to you.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

By the Book - Stalking the Angel

Welcome back,

In the past, my tastes in books gravitated around sci-fi and fantasy. As I mentioned before, my interests have expanded over the recent years since moving in with my wife, as she made me discover police dramas and thrillers. So I figured it was time to go back out of my comfort zone, and try another mystery novel! The book featured in this month’s review is from one of the boxes donated to us from Linda’s family, and is called Stalking the Angel by Robert Crais.

Let’s be honest, what originally drew me to this book was its Mickey Mouse cover. The combination of bright colors and shocking image of the world famous, family friendly rodent holding a gun got my attention. After reading the first few pages, I was stricken by the main character, Elvis Cole, whose personality felt like a cross between Sam Spade and Ace Ventura. With that mental image in mind, the story that followed was interesting indeed.

The story follows the escapades of wisecracking L.A. private eye Elvis Cole, and his stone-faced partner Joe Pike. The duo are hired by Bradley Warren, a millionaire hotel magnate, to locate an ancient relic named the Hagakure which was stolen from him. In order to find the priceless Japanese manuscript, Cole’s investigation leads him to little Tokyo, where he is not only exposed to Japanese subculture, but runs into the Yakuza. To solve this nefarious plot, Elvis must find the link between the theft of a Japanese artefact, the kidnapping of a millionaire's daughter and the murder of a Yakuza lieutenant. The ending is not what you might normally expect.

Back of the book:
“The blonde who walked into Cole's office was the best-looking woman he'd seen in weeks. The only thing that kept her from rating a perfect "10" was the briefcase on one arm and the uptight hotel magnate on the other. Bradley Warren had lost something very valuable - something that belonged to someone else: a rare thirteenth-century Japanese manuscript called the Hagakure.

Just about all Cole knew about Japanese culture he'd learned from reading Shogun, but he knew a lot about crooks - and what he didn't know his sociopathic sidekick, Joe Pike, did. Together their search begins in L.A.'s Little Tokyo and the nest of the notorious Japanese mafia, the Yakuza, and leads to a white-knuckled adventure filled with madness, murder, sexual obsession and a stunning double-whammy ending. For Elvis Cole, it's just another day's work.”

What I learned from this book:
  • Name dropping: I have to do some more research on how to use copyrighted material in a book,  because what Robert Craig has managed to do in this story baffles me. On multiple occasions, the author makes references or comparisons to pop culture. Anything from Marvel, to Disney, to McDonald’s… a good example is his Pinocchio clock in Cole’s office, or his constant referencing to Jiminy Cricket. This successfully anchors the narrative in a modern timeline, and  helps the reader to better visualize what the author is describing. All these eclectic collectibles also give the audience an idea of Cole’s personality.
  • Describing the setting: There were so many details given in this book, I feel like I could just google map the setting. The protagonist often says which road he is taking, what address he is going to, etc. While investigating, Elvis describes his surroundings in detail, noticing elements which either stand out or are oddly missing. This information is used as either clues to further the plot, or red herrings to throw Cole (and the audience) off the trail.  
  • Life of a Detective: Contrary to some of the other crime novels I have read, I feel that Stalking the Angel gave me a more realistic look into the life of a detective. By that I mean investigations are not always about analyzing clues, interrogating suspects or busting heads (though the story has plenty of that too). There is a lot of waiting, such as stake outs, driving around or waiting for calls. This story had a fair share of downtime, showing that detective work isn’t always fast paced, and can be tedious just like any other job.
  • First person, Omnipresent: The entire story is told from Cole’s perspective. His inner narrative helps the audience see his logic and understand how he came to his conclusions. Not to mention Cole’s inner dialogue often makes for a good laugh.

Best-selling author and Louisiana native, Robert Crais, has not only written books, but scripts for television series and Movies-of-the-Week for major networks. His work include the best-selling Elvis Cole novels, and TV series such as Hill Street Blues, Cagney & Lacey, and the ever popular Miami Vice.

For those interested in reading more books from Robert Crais, please check out his website and wiki description, where you can find a complete listing of his published works and all other pertinent information:

In closing, I would like to thank my wife Linda for her support, and her family for lending us these books. The tremendous amount of encouragement they have shown me since the beginning is what keeps me going.

Until next time!


            Patrick Osborne