Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Simian's Slicker ...

was the working title of Robert Crais' debut novel, The Monkey's Raincoat.

No, just kidding, but I did enjoy the alliteration.

Where does the title come from? It was inspired by the the Basho haiku quoted at the beginning of the novel, "Winter downpour; Even the monkey needs a raincoat." Explains Crais:
Basho was a retired samurai who became a poet. I read this stuff because, well, I read this stuff. And think about it. A winter downpour is a storm. In Japanese haiku poetry, a ‘monkey’ represents a man, or the soul of a man (‘man’ being non-gender specific.) A raincoat is something with which you protect yourself. So here was my thinking: If Ellen Lang was the ‘monkey,’ and her ‘storm’ was the hell she was going to live through in this book, then her ‘raincoat’ would be Elvis Cole. Therefore, Elvis Cole was ‘the monkey’s raincoat.’
Apart from the title, Raincoat is unique in that it is one of the few novels released as a paperback original to be reissued in hardcover. The paperback came out in the summer of 1987 and cost $2.95. I acquired my first edition copy very shortly after publication, well before it won the Anthony and Macavity Awards. But I only got Mr. Crais to inscribe it to me a few years ago:

This "true first" can cost you a few bucks if you go looking for it now. A search on Abebooks, shows copies selling for as much as $140. And when Joe Gores sold his personal library to Green Apple Books in San Francisco, they had an inscribed "association" copy priced considerably higher.

Another interesting factoid--interesting to me, at least--is that the reissued hardcover goes for even more. It was published in 1993, after Stalking the Angel, Lullabye Town and Free Fall, and this search on Abebooks finds some copies selling at over $500.

I'm a big fan of Crais and Elvis Cole (and Joe Pike), and occasionally--very occasionally--my writing is compared to Crais', particularly his earlier novels, where Elvis is a little more flip (like my PI August Riordan can sometimes be). August first appeared in print just a year before Elvis, so I guess you could say they are from the same generation.

Here's a pic of Crais and me signing at The LA Times Festival of Books a few years ago:

Not only was the line of fans in front of Crais much longer than the "line" waiting for me, but, unlike Crais, no one was interested in having me sign her bra!


At 7:08 PM, Blogger Keith Raffel said...

So did he sign the bra?


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