THE PROMISE stars Elvis Cole and Joe Pike.  We've followed their adventures for fifteen previous novels, and now, in the sixteenth Elvis novel, you've teamed them up with K-9 Officer Scott James and his German shepherd, Maggie, the super-popular characters of your last novel, SUSPECT, as co-stars.  Was it difficult to bring all four of your characters together?

RC:  The most difficult part was finding the right story to bring them together.  I fell in love with Maggie and Scott while I was writing SUSPECT, and loved the idea of having Elvis and Joe meet them.  I knew if I could find the right story to bring them together, I'd have a terrific read. 


What do you mean by 'the right story'?

I didn't want their paths to cross based on convenience or coincidence.  Their meeting had to be believable and uncontrived.


You certainly managed that!  THE PROMISE opens with a four chapter sequence that seamlessly brings the characters together.  We meet the mysterious bad guy, Mr. Rollins, in his Echo Park drop house.  Elvis arrives at this same house on the trail of a missing woman, and then Scott and Maggie make their entrance, searching the neighborhood for a fugitive murderer.  The way you depict Scott, Maggie, and the K-9 officers searching the neighborhood feels totally authentic.  Was it?

I'm glad you think so!  I've spent a lot of time with LAPD's K-9 Platoon to learn how they operate.  The Platoon has been super supportive.


When you researched SUSPECT?



Were you surprised by the success of SUSPECT?

I was delighted.  It's no surprise that people love their dogs, and readers who love dogs spread the word to other dog lovers, and even people who aren't usually readers snapped up the book.  Email poured in.  Thousands of emails!  Fans brought their dogs to signings.  Even K-9 officers brought their dogs to my signings.  I put them in the show, and let them demonstrate what their dogs could do.  People saw Maggie in their own dogs, and their own dogs in Maggie.  It was touching and beautiful. 


Speaking of love, I love Jon Stone.  You showed an entirely new side of Jon in THE PROMISE.

I learn about my characters as I write.  The more I learned about the Amy Breslyn, the woman who lost her son to a terrorist bombing, the more important Jon became to Amy's story.  I was surprised at first, until I realized Jon's connection to Amy and her loss was the heart of the book.   Jon represents all of us.


I want to know more about your research with the K-9 Platoon.  Do you get to play with the dogs?

(laughs)  Ah, no.  These dogs aren't cocker spaniels.


I was kidding.  How have you used your research in your books?
You mentioned the search that opens THE PROMISE.  A few weeks ago, the Platoon spent an evening running through tactical training evolutions.  I tagged along to observe.


What are 'tactical training evolutions'?

A series of related training exercises.  The handlers and dogs were deployed to find armed suspects in three different environments -- a church, a two-story apartment building, and some single-story duplex homes.


This was in actual neighborhood?

These were abandoned buildings set to be demoed, but, yes, a real neighborhood.  The Platoon makes their training scenarios as realistic as possible.


What happened?

Each environment poses a different set of problems and training opportunity for the dogs and handlers.  I got to shadow the handlers and trainers, and saw how they conducted the searches.


Give me an example.

Well, take the second floor search as an example.  Here's the scenario:  Witnesses tell the officers they saw an armed suspect run upstairs, but they don't know which apartment the bad guy entered.  This means the officers have to climb the stairs to search the apartments, knowing some guy might jump out with a gun and shoot them.  When they breach the first apartment, the dog enters first, and the officers crowd in after him, which is exactly how they do it in a real situation.  The handler directs the dog from room to room to search for the suspect, but from what I saw, these dogs have been trained so well they know what to do.  They don't just run into a room, sniff, and move on.  They're trained to go from corner to corner, circling the room so they pass all the doors, closets, windows, and vents.  These are high speed dogs, so it happens fast.  The simulations go on like this all night.


They make the training as realistic as possible?

Yes, absolutely.  That's the point.  It was night, the lights were out, and the buildings were dark.  We had flashlights, but it was spooky and weird.  It was also hot, and the buildings were closed.  Since the scenarios go on for hours, the scent from the hiding suspects had spread like a fog.  This made it difficult for the dogs who worked the later evolutions, but that's real life.  The handlers aren't told where the suspect is hiding, so this is training for the handlers, too.  The handlers and their dogs are a team, so they train as a team.

This sounds intense.

 I got to follow different handlers and dogs through all three scenarios.  The scenes in the book reflect the research.  Sometimes the research inspires new scenes.  That's how it works.  I'll see something interesting, and think, hey, I have to put this in the book!

Will Elvis and Joe team up with Scott and Maggie again?

I hope so, but only if the right story sinks its fangs into me and won't let go (kinda like Maggie.)  A story that brings them all together has to be organic, otherwise shoehorning the characters together would ring false.  Elvis Cole is a private investigator.  He works alone, except for Joe, and that's as it should be.

Can we look forward to another Scott and Maggie standalone?

Absolutely.  Scott and Maggie are part of me now.  The story possibilities are endless.

So Scott and Maggie will be back in your next book?

Joe Pike stars in my next novel.  Joe and Jon Stone.  An idea for Joe came to me, and it's a killer.    

Read more about THE PROMISE here.

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