Why do women find their spines tingling at the mention of bestseliing thriller writer Robert Crais (pronounced "crace")? No mystery there. "He has this boyish, huggable quality," says author April Smith of her longtime friend, whose latest novel, Hostage
, is set in a small California town. "Then underneath he's got this swaggering masculinity."
Louisiana born and bred, the 6-ft. former TV writer (Hill Street Blues, Cagney & Lacey
) turned to novels in 1987 with The Monkey's Raincoat
and the debut of wiseacre detective Elvis Cole. Married to psychotherapist Patricia-the couple's daughter Lauren is in college-Crais, 48, spends downtime stunt-flying one of his two airplanes, behind the wheel of his beloved Porsche Boxster S or joining the Marines at Camp Pendleton, 80 miles south of his L.A. home, for grueling 10K races. But he'd really rather be at Cape Canaveral. "If my vision was good enough," says the contact lens wearer, "I'd be an astronaut."