Born c. 1954, in Louisiana; married Pat (a child therapist); children: one daughter. Education: Attended Louisiana State University.
Addresses: Contact —Simon & Schuster, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020. E-mail —firstname.lastname@example.org.
Script writer for television, including: Baretta , ABC, 1977–78; Vega$ , ABC, 1978; Quincy, M.E. , NBC, 1978–81; Joe Dancer , NBC, 1980–81; Hill Street Blues , NBC, 1981; Riker , 1981; The Second Family Tree , CBS, 1982; Cagney & Lacey , CBS, 1982; Cassie and Company , 1982; Partners in Crime , NBC, 1983; The Twilight Zone , CBS, 1986; Miami Vice , NBC, 1986; In Self Defense (movie), ABC, 1987; Cross of Fire (miniseries), NBC, 1989; L.A. Law , NBC, 1992; Earth II , NBC, 1995; JAG , 1995. Script writer for television pilots, including: Molly's Place , 1979; M.V.P. , 1983. Began writing novels, c. early 1980s; published first Elvis Cole novel, The Monkey's Raincoat , 1987.
Awards: Certificate of Commendation, American Women in Radio and Television, for "The Second Oldest Profession," Hill Street Blues , 1981; Anthony Award for best paperback original novel, Bouchercon World Mystery Convention, for The Monkey's Raincoat ; Macavity Award for best paperback original novel, Mystery Readers International, for The Monkey's Raincoat , 1987; Shamus Award for best novel, Private Eye Writers of America, for Sunset Express , 1996; Ross Macdonald Literary Award, Santa Barbara Book Council, 2006.
Although Robert Crais (rhymes with grace) is best known as the author of a series of best-selling mystery novels, he began his career as a writer for television. While continuing to pen television episodes, as well as the occasional pilot, movie, and miniseries, Crais began writing mystery novels featuring Elvis Cole, a private investigator based in Los Angeles. By the early 2000s, Crais had branched out into novels such as Demolition Angel and Hostage that featured other characters besides Cole. His novels were popular worldwide and have been translated into more than 36 languages. Christopher Moore of the Press called them "taut, hard-edged, and critically acclaimed thrillers which [have] captured the public's imagination."
Born in Louisiana in the mid-1950s, Crais was raised as an only child in Baton Rouge where his father worked at an Exxon refinery. Many members of Crais' extended family worked as police officers and employees of oil refineries. As a child, he liked to read and draw comic books, and he also made amateur movies with his friends.
When he was 15 years old, Crais' life changed after reading Raymond Chandler's The Little Sister . Because of this novel, he became interested in being a writer, specifically in crime fiction, and also grew fascinated with Los Angeles. He told the New Zealand Herald , "I was bowled over by the language, that side of life that Chandler was showing me. I was from a small town, from a blue-collar working class background, and suddenly I'm reading about LA and the seamy underbelly of life. And it was a joy to me." Inspired, Crais soon began writing short fiction.
After trying to study mechanical engineering at Louisiana State University but finding writing more fulfilling, Crais decided on it as a career. In 1976, Crais moved from Louisiana to Los Angeles and began writing television scripts. Within a year, Crais was working as a writer for television series. He penned scripts for many of the leading series from the late 1970s through the early 1990s, and wrote a significant number of pilots as well. Some of his first scripts were written for Baretta —one of which was only the second script he ever wrote— Vega$ , and Quincy, M.E. Crais' 1981 script for the hit cop drama Hill Street Blues , "The Second Oldest Profession," was nominated for an Emmy Award.
Crais also contributed to Cagney & Lacey, Partners in Crime , and Miami Vice . During the late 1980s, Crais also wrote two longer pieces for television: the 1987 television movie In Self Defense and the 1989 miniseries, Cross of Fire . Crais enjoyed his time in television. He told the Press ' Moore, "There's something about those shows which really touched people. They entered the lives of human beings and it was neat stuff to write."
While Crais' career was peaking, he was bored with the structure of how television scripts were written in Hollywood, specifically the highly collaborative nature of the medium. He longed to do something that was entirely his own so he began writing novels in the early 1980s. None were published, and it was not until 1985 that he came up with the character who would be the center of many of his mystery novels. Inspired by the death of his own father, Crais created Elvis Cole, who was based on aspects of Crais' own life. After 1986, Crais only wrote for television on a part-time basis as his novel-writing career took off.
The first novel featuring Cole, 1987's The Monkey's Raincoat , was a critical success. In addition to being nominated for an Edgar Allan Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America and a Shamus Award by the Private Eye Writers of America, the novel won Anthony and Macavity Awards. In the book, Cole investigates the disappearance of an agent—who was involved in suspicious deals—for the man's wife, who does not know how to run her day-to-day life without her husband. Cole teaches her how to write a check, for example. This plot was inspired by what Crais had to do for his mother after the death of his father as she had not handled the family finances before her husband passed away.
Though the crime/mystery genre was often dark, Crais saw positives with Cole. He told Bob Hoover of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette , "What I've tried to do is create a modern paradigm of the detective. Instead of the bitter guy sitting in his office over a blues joint and sipping his rye, Elvis has a positive attitude. He wants to help people get to a better place in their lives."
Though Crais originally envisioned that The Monkey's Raincoat would only be a single, standalone novel, he saw possibilities in developing Cole's character as well as his own life and past. Though his career as a novelist was taking off, he continued to produce an occasional television script through the late 1990s. Crais wrote episodes of L.A. Law, Earth II , and JAG before leaving television behind in 1998.
Crais built up a fan base and critical acclaim through six more well-reviewed Elvis Cole novels published from 1989 to 1997. One popular title was 1995's Voodoo River , the first in the series to be set in Louisiana. It was personal to Crais in another way as the case Cole investigates is the background of a woman, Jodi Taylor, who was adopted. Like the character, Crais had been adopted as an infant and had been looking for information on the medical history of his birth family because of a medical scare in his own life. He found his birthmother and the information he needed, but they decided not to meet each other.
Thus, writing the book deeply affected him. He told Diana Pinckley of Times-Picayune , "A lot of emotions that I had never experienced and never dealt with came up as I was writing. I have never been someone who felt this big emptiness in my life and I never had any interest in locating my birth parents. As Jodi Taylor says many times in the book, and she speaks in my voice when she says it, my mom and dad are my mom and dad, and they always will be."
Crais' success with Cole reached a new level with his eighth novel in the series, L.A. Requiem . It was a hit with readers and critics alike, topping the bestseller lists of both the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. L.A. Requiem also received the best reviews of his career and was nominated for an Edgar Award for the best mystery of the year.
One reason for the popularity of L.A. Requiem was the style in which it was written; Crais had stretched his writing persona. Unlike previous, shorter Elvis Cole novels, Requiem used a first-person narrative interspersed with flashbacks and several story lines and points of view. It featured literary elements as well which made the novel more complex and rich.
After L.A. Requiem , Crais published his first non-Cole novel, a thriller titled Demolition Angel , in 2000. The main character of this mystery novel was Carol Starkley. She was a LAPD bomb squad detective suffering from career burnout and personal pain after her partner died and she was injured in a bomb detonation. Crais wrote the novel in part because he wanted to challenge himself. He told Jeff Baker of the Oregonian , "You get refreshed. You take a break from what you're doing, and when you come back, you have fresh insights into your character. With me, it just felt like time to do something else. I had done Elvis Cole, I knew I could always do Elvis Cole, and I wanted to push myself and get better at my craft."
Like L.A. Requiem, Demolition Angel received rave reviews. The story focuses on a bomb-building villain named Mr. Red, whom Starkley is investigating. Because the novel deals with a potentially deadly situation, Crais was careful to include details about bombs without being instructional on how to build explosives so that real people would not suffer any harm. Crais sold the film rights to Demolition Angel to Columbia/Tri-Star, with the stipulation that he write the script, though the film was not immediately produced. Starkley was incorporated into later novels featuring Crais' primary literary creation, Cole.
Crais followed Demolition Angel with another standalone title, 2001's Hostage . Focusing on a former LAPD SWAT negotiator named Jeff Talley, this novel was also a best-seller around the world. It was later made into a feature film starring Bruce Willis as Talley. Crais wrote the script to this film as well, and the experience was difficult. He told Louise Jones of Publishers Weekly , "It was much harder than I thought to turn my own novel into a screenplay. Literally, you have to leave the book behind and return to the essence of the story."
In 2003, Crais published another novel featuring Elvis Cole titled The Last Detective . Cole's case is again personal in the novel as the young son of his girlfriend, Lucy Chenier, has been kidnapped in an act of revenge against the detective. Cole learns about his own past through his investigation. Though this novel was also well-received with glowing reviews, Crais found the topic matter and situations therein sometimes difficult. He told Bob Sylva of the Sacramento Bee , "This book was a real bear for me to write. I wanted my character to look inward. He had to go inside himself. Exploring how he came to be the man he is. It was very difficult. I didn't know what to expect. I didn't know if the book worked, or if it would be successful."
Two more Cole novels followed. In 2005's The Forgotten Man , Crais continued to explore Cole's family life as he discovers information about his previously unknown father and gets drawn into LAPD homicide investigations. The Watchman , published in 2007, centers on Cole's long-time popular sidekick, Joe Pike. Crais explained to the Los Angeles Times ' Scott Timberg, "Pike has always been this mysterious, enigmatic background character. But I knew there was more. His presence has been growing with each of the books, and I couldn't deny him anymore." Crais also penned another stand-alone novel in 2006, The Two Minute Rule .
Over the years, Crais has had multiple offers to turn his Elvis Cole novels into a Hollywood property, such a television series or films. He was offered total control of the product as well as millions of dollars by various companies. Crais turned them all down, preferring to keep his most noteworthy creation in the print realm. He told the Oregonian 's Baker, "I want to encourage reader participation and let people imagine what Elvis looks like. I've never described his face in any of the books. I've had people say he looks like different celebrities, but those celebrities look nothing alike. My fear is once an actor's face becomes associated with the character, it would pollute it for the reader."
The Monkey's Raincoat , Bantam (New York City), 1987.
Stalking the Angel , Bantam, 1989.
Lullaby Town , Bantam, 1992.
Free Fall , Bantam, 1993.
Voodoo River , Hyperion (New York City), 1995.
Sunset Express: An Elvis Cole Novel , Hyperion, 1996.
Indigo Slam: An Elvis Cole Novel , Hyperion, 1997.
L.A. Requiem: A Novel , Doubleday (New York City), 1999.
Demolition Angel , Doubleday, 2000.
Hostage , Doubleday, 2001.
The Last Detective , Doubleday, 2003.
The Forgotten Man , Doubleday, 2005.
The Two Minute Rule , Simon & Schuster (New York City), 2006.
The Watchman: A Joe Pike Novel , Simon & Schuster, 2007.
Los Angeles Times , February 21, 2007, p. E1.
New Zealand Herald , October 7, 2000.
Oregonian (Portland, OR), April 29, 1996, p. C1; June 2, 2000, p. 8.
Ottawa Citizen , July 29, 2000, p. I4.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette , June 14, 1997, p. D10.
Press (Christchurch, New Zealand), September 9, 2000, p. 20.
Publishers Weekly , March 10, 2003, p. 49.
Sacramento Bee , February 26, 2003, p. E1; March 1, 2003, p. E1.
Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA), June 4, 1995, p. D1; March 1, 2005, p. 1.
Washington Post , June 29, 1995, p. D1.
Contemporary Authors Online , Gale Group, 2007.
"Robert Crais: A Biography," RobertCrais.com, http://www.robertcrais.com/bio.htm (May 20, 2007).
"Robert Crais: Bibliography," RobertCrais.com, http://www.robertcrais.com/bibliography.htm (May 20, 2007).