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James Ellroy may be the undisputed heavyweight champion of L.A. crime writers, but the middleweight belt is up for grabs. Some consider Robert Crais, author of numerous mysteries featuring private detective Elvis Cole, a contender. Whereas Ellroy’s books are a tour through the sewer in a glass-bottomed boat, Crais’ vision is sunnier. His protagonists may talk tough, but down deep they’re softies. In his latest, Demolition Angel, Crais sends new creation Carol Starkey to stop a mad bomber. A former bomb-squad leader and current LAPD detective, Starkey carries enough emotional baggage for a bevy of bellboys. But even her Betty Ford-size drinking problem doesn’t stop her from pursuing the nefarious “Mr. Red,” who’s the sort of hypercompetent villain never found in real life. It’s a great plot, and, as that guy on SCTV used to say, lots of people get “blowed up” real good. Crais reads and signs Angel at 7:30 p.m. at Borders, 5871 Crossroads Center Way, Baileys Crossroads. Free. (703) 998-0404. (Michael Little)