Created by Robert Crais
“Joe Pike is a conscious representative of our righteous rage at injustice. He is what happens when society fails.”
— Crais explains Pike in The Line-Up.
A longtime fan favourite, JOE PIKE is the strong silent partner of Robert Crais’ Elvis Cole, appearing in all his books. But in 2007, Pike finally took center stage in The Watchman, a novel that coincidentally marked the twentieth anniversary of The Monkey’s Raincoat, the novel which introduced both Cole and Pike.
Rumour has it that originally Crais had no intention of creating a sidekick and had intended to kill Pike off in that first outing. Pike, however, turned out to be, perhaps not surprisingly, extremely hard to kill off — which should come as absolutely no surprise to most readers. After all, if the early Cole drew comparisons to the early Spenser, Pike was clearly an ex-cop version of Hawk — and just as cryptic and just as indestructible.
And a funny thing happened over the course of the next two decades: At first the stone-faced Pike may indeed have been somewhat one-dimensional and a little too cartoonish (carrying weapons in guitar cases, listing his occupation as “mercenary,” and characterized mostly by his trademark scowl, the red arrow tattoos on his delts and his 24/7 shades). However, Pike (like Cole) soon evolved, emerging as a surprisingly complicated man, scarred in childhood, decorated in war, and intent upon hiding his pain behind a “mask.”
In The Watchman, Elvis is still on the mend from wounds sustained in The Forgotten Man (2005), takes a back seat, allowing Pike to take centre stage. And Pike’s certainly up to the task. To honor a debt from the past (as related in the Elvis 2002 novel The Last Detective), Joe agrees to protect a spoiled, pampered 22-year old debutante who’s become the target of an army of professional killers.
Joe still doesn’t say much, though. In a flasback in The Watchman, he introduces himself on his first day on the job in Rampart Division:
“My name is Joe Pike. I’m not married. I pulled two combat tours in the Marines — “I want to be a police officer because the motto says to protect and serve. That’s what I want to do.”
Pike took his seat to scattered applause, but someone in the back laughed.
“Got us a regular Clint Eastwood. A man of few words.”
Pike saw Levendorf frowning. Levendorf said, “We call this part of the program ‘one minute, one second’, Officer Pike — so I figure you got about forty seconds to go. Perhaps you’d offer a bit more, self-illumination-wise; say, about your family and hobbies?”
Pike stood again and once more faced the crowd.
“I qualified as a scout/sniper and served in Force Recon, mostly on long range reconnaissance teams, hunter/killer teams, and priority target missions. I’m black belt qualified in tae kwon do, kung fu, wing chun, judo, and ubawazi. I like to run and work out. I like to read.”
“Thank God he likes to read — I thought we had us a sissy.”
So far, Joe has appeared in all of Elvis’ novels, but he’s also appeared in three of his own cases, The Watchman (2007), The First Rule (2010) and The Sentry (2011).
BIG NOTE OF WHOA!
- “Never was I more surprised to discover than during the encounter above, ‘[Pike] and the other boots sat erect with their eyes on Sergeant Kelly Levendorf, who was the evening watch commander.”
— H. Kelly Levendorf
AIN’T IT A SMALL WORLD?
- At one point in The Watchman, to avoid being spotted, Pike exchanges his beloved Red Jeep Cherokee for a Lexus owned by one of his employees. The Cherokee is promptly stolen by bank robber Max Holman in Crais’ 2006 novel The Two Minute Rule.
As I said, Joe appears in all of Elvis’ novels, but the following are particularly Joe-centric:
- The Watchman (2007) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- The First Rule (2010) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- The Sentry (2011) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- A Dangerous Man (2019) | Buy this book | Buy the audio | Kindle it!
- The Official Robert Crais Website
All the news from bibliographies to book-signing dates.
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2003 Left Coast Crime opening remarks by Robert Crais. His love affair with the City of Angels continues…
Report respectfully submitted by “Sgt.” H. Kelly Levendor, with a little colouring in by Kevin Burton Smith.