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Posted: May 17, 2020

Sunset Express a thoroughly good read

Book Review

By Derryll White

Crais, Robert (2005).  Sunset Express.

This is another Elvis Cole/Joe Pike novel. I didn’t know that when I started the book, but the easy banter and the jokes soon clued me in. Robert Crais always puts a little extra into the Elvis Cole character. It’s like Robert B. Parker with Spenser, a persona that the author lives, identifies with, tries on in the manner of a treasured old tweed overcoat. I always feel relaxed and comfortable with Elvis and his kitschy Mickey Mouse phone and Pinocchio clock.

Robert Crais is very thorough with his geography. The San Fernando Valley and the Los Angeles basin and city feature prominently in his Elvis Cole novels. He builds a contrast between the heat, dirt, smog and seething humanity of Los Angeles, where Elvis has his office, and the rugged stark landscape of Laurel Canyon where Elvis lives. It is a contrast that always serves to remind me of why I live in East Kootenay.

This is not an outstanding novel, just a thoroughly good read. The focus of this work is the American justice system and how it can be perverted and twisted by a good defense attorney. Crais makes it clear that it is not ‘justice’ that is at work here, rather a very high stakes game. Much of it rings true here in Canada as well.

I really enjoyed the story with Elvis Cole in love and at his romantic best, and Joe Pike at his most moody, stony and stoic self.


Excerpts from the novel:

HOLLYWOOD – …Tomsic knew that most of the old stars, just like most of the new stars, were perverts and scumbags, and if you knew the things that went on in places like this you wouldn’t be so thrilled with being here.  Normal people didn’t go into the movie business.  Movie people were shitbirds with serious emotional problems who kept their secret lives hidden.  Just like most lawyers and all politicians.

KNOWLEDGE – I hung up.  The homeless man said, “You see?  When we force events we corrupt them.  Your flexibility allowed events to unfold in a way that pleases you.  We know this as synchronicity.”

“You’re a very wise man.  Thank you.”

He spread his hands.  “To posses great wisdom obliges one to share it.  Enjoy”

TELEVISION NEWS – The street at the end of the walk was jammed with media people and broadcast vans and uniformed cops trying to clear a path.  Hernandez and Flutey flanked Johnathan and we crossed under the tape, and the media people surged around us, pushing their cameras and microphones at Johnathan and shouting their questions.  There were so many broadcast vans that it looked as if we were in a forest of transmitters, each spindly stack pointing at the same invisible satellite 22,500 miles above in geosynchronous orbit, like so many coyotes crying at the moon.  I said, “This is nuts.”

– Derryll White once wrote books but now chooses to read and write about them.  When not reading he writes history for the web at www.basininstitute.org.

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