Robert Crais is a master of crime fiction, with his 15th Elvis Cole-Joe Pike mystery-thriller just out.
"Taken" finds his Los Angeles PI Cole and his Zen-inclined mercenary friend Pike on the trail of a cartel that preys on illegal immigrants entering the United States from Mexico.
Crais will talk and sign books at 7 p.m. Thursday at the San Mateo Public Library, 55 W. Third Ave., San Mateo; (650) 522-7800.
In part, "Taken" examines human trafficking along the Mexico-U.S. border.
My research was horrifying. The situation is being treated as a law-enforcement issue by the Mexican government, but the cartels are so strong that a military solution would probably be more successful.
Pike is a stone killer whose mission in "Taken" is to rescue the kidnapped Elvis.
Yes, and he doesn't care about abiding by the rule of law or knocking on doors before entering. But he is always in complete control and knows exactly what he is doing, and why. This is what makes him so deadly.
You've said your literary role models are Raymond Chandler, Ross Macdonald and Dashiell Hammett, the founding fathers of mystery writing.
I'm certainly influenced by the Trinity, but I'm also writing about the world as I see it, creating my own characters and stories. I'm trying to do my own thing, my way.
You "solve" cases via Elvis Cole, "the world's greatest detective." Do you think you could handle one yourself?
Detective? Ha! Man, I can't even find my car keys. I don't have the skills or training to be an actual investigator. No, I'm not Elvis he lives a much more interesting life than me.
Please have the last word
I'm hoping Los Angeles gets an NFL team again. Soon. And new owners for the Dodgers.
Turn on to Espresso
Self-publishing crossed into new territory in November when the Sacramento Public Library unveiled its grant-funded $150,000 Espresso Book Machine.
In just a few minutes, the Espresso can print copies of your memoir, cookbook, thriller or whatever, for about $9 per 150-page book (plus a $100 set-up fee). It also can access and print more than 3 million rare, out-of-print and back-list titles from several publishing sources.
"People are over-the-moon thrilled about it," said Manya Shorr, the library's outreach and community services supervisor who oversees all things Espresso.
"Our very first customer was a teenager who wrote a fantasy book. We've also had a poet, a memoirist and a historian who published a book about women of color in contemporary society."
The Espresso and the programs associated with it have a catchy name: the I Street Press Community Writing and Publishing Center. Parts of that are fee-based classes in writing and publishing. To see a catalog of courses and to register, go to www.saclibrary.org/istreet.
'Plume Hunter' is next up
For two years, Stories on Stage has presented monthly programs of fiction read by actors, set at the Sacramento Poetry Center.
Next up is area author Renee Thompson, whose novel "The Plume Hunter" is getting national buzz (Torrey House Press, $15.95, 274 pages).
"The story is about two men who shot birds at the turn of the 19th century, to furnish women's hats. It was a lucrative business," Thompson said. "But then one wants to continue, the other wants to protect the rookeries."
Local actor Jeff Webster will read a chapter from "The Plume Hunter," and Thompson will sign books and answer questions. The event will be 7:30 p.m. Friday at 1719 25th St., Sacramento; (916) 442-4778. Doors open at 7 p.m.; $5 donation.
Also on the program will be Sacramento short-story writer Jodi Angel with "The History of Vegas" (Chronicle, $12.95, 192 pages).
Pick of the month
From this perspective, crime novelist Carol O'Connell works beneath the radar, and her 10-title Kathy Mallory series is underappreciated. Which is inexplicable, as O'Connell's writing is electric, her plots multilayered and her cast of characters fascinating. O'Connell may be a New York Times best-seller, but her passionate fan base is more cult than mainstream.
Mallory is pushing 30 now. She's blue-eyed, blonde and brilliant, with a cutting sense of humor and a knack for computer hacking. She's also a psychiatrist-certified sociopath who happens to be an NYPD homicide detective on the Special Crimes Unit.
In "The Chalk Girl" (Putnam, $25.95, 384 pages), Mallory and her partner, Det. Sgt. Riker, take on a case that leads them down a rabbit hole of horror and risk. Along the way, Mallory bonds with a damaged child who holds the key to a series of murders.
Mallory was a damaged child herself, who at age 6 witnessed her mother's murder and took to the streets as a thief and grifter. But that's another Mallory story, earlier in the series. For more, try www.berkleysignetmysteries.com/author215.
Independent publisher Heyday in Berkeley has stirred up some excitement with "New California Writing 2011," the first in its yearly literary anthology series ($20, 306 pages).
At the party are veteran authors (William T. Vollman, Susan Straight and Michael Chabon) and newcomers, memoirists and novelists, bloggers and poets. The forms and styles differ, but the theme is the same: the California experience from 44 perspectives, all previously published.
"We looked at the writers in our Rolodex and for writers who were new to the scene," said anthology editor Gayle Wattawa. "One of my favorite (pieces) is 'How To Date a White Guy' by Naira Kuzmich, from the online literary magazine www.necessaryfiction.com."
Find more information at www.heydaybooks.com.