Crais, Robert 1954(?)-

views updated

Crais, Robert 1954(?)-


Born c. 1954, in LA; married.


Home—Santa Monica, CA. E-mail—[email protected]


Writer, novelist, mystery writer, television writer, filmmaker, and producer of television series, including In Self Defense and The Mississippi.


Emmy Award nomination, Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and certificate of commendation, American Women in Radio and Television, both 1981, for "The Second Oldest Profession," an episode of Hill Street Blues; Humanitas Certificate, 1981, for "The World According to Freedom," an episode of Hill Street Blues; Anthony Award, best paperback original novel, Shamus Award nomination, best paperback original novel, Private Eye Writers of America, Macavity Award, best paperback original novel, Mystery Readers International, and Edgar Allan Poe Award nomination, Mystery Writers of America, all 1987, for The Monkey's Raincoat; Shamus Award nomination, best short story, 1988, for "The Man Who Knew Dick Bong"; Anthony Award nomination, best novel, and Shamus Award nomination, best novel, both 1992, for Lullaby Town; Edgar Allan Poe Award nomination, best novel, 1994, for Free Fall; Shamus Award, best novel, and cited among "best books of 1996," Publishers Weekly, both 1996, both for Sunset Express; Shamus Award nomination, best novel, 1998, for Indigo Slam; Dilys Award, Independent Mystery Booksellers, 1999, Edgar Allan Poe Award nomination, best novel, 1999, Anthony Award nomination, best novel, 1999, Shamus Award nomination, best novel, 1999, all for L.A. Requiem; Mary Higgins Clark Award nomination, best novel, 2000, for Demolition Angel; Ross Macdonald Literary Award, 2006; The Monkey's Raincoat was selected as one of the "100 Favorite Mysteries of the Century" by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association.



The Monkey's Raincoat, Bantam (New York, NY), 1987.

Stalking the Angel, Bantam (New York, NY), 1989.

Lullaby Town, Bantam (New York, NY), 1992.

Free Fall, Bantam (New York, NY), 1993.

Voodoo River, Hyperion (New York, NY), 1995.

Sunset Express, Hyperion (New York, NY), 1996.

Indigo Slam, Hyperion (New York, NY), 1997.

L.A. Requiem, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1999.

The Last Detective, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2003.

The Forgotten Man, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2005.

The Watchman, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2007.


Demolition Angel, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2000.

Hostage, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2001.

The Two Minute Rule, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2006.


"It Goes with the Job," Baretta, American Broadcasting Company (ABC), 1977.

"Woman Trouble," Baretta, ABC, 1978.

"The Second Oldest Profession," Hill Street Blues, National Broadcasting Company (NBC), 1981.

"Cranky Streets," Hill Street Blues, NBC, 1981.

"The Last White Man on East Ferry Avenue," Hill Street Blues, NBC, 1981.

"Monsters!/A Small Talent for War/A Matter of Minutes," The Twilight Zone, CBS Television, 1986.

In Self Defense (television movie), ABC, 1987.

"Borrasca," Miami Vice, NBC, 1988.

"Payback," Miami Vice, NBC, 1988.

Cross of Fire (television miniseries), NBC, 1989.

"Love in Bloom," L.A. Law, NBC, 1992.

"Desert Son," JAG, NBC, 1995.

Writer of television episodes for Cagney & Lacey, Cassie and Company, Men, The Second Family Tree, Quincy, M.E., Vega$, Riker, Joe Dancer, The Monkey Mission, Futuretales, Earth II, The Equalizer, and Partners in Crime; author of several television pilots.

Contributor of short stories to anthologies, Clarion SF, edited by Kate Wilhelm, Berkley Medallion (New York, NY), 1977; 2076: The American Tricentennial, edited by Edward Bryant, Pyramid Books (New York, NY), 1977; and Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe: A Centennial Celebration, edited by Byron Preiss, Knopf (New York, NY), 1988.

Contributor of short stories to magazines, including "Weigh Station," in Twilight Zone, May, 1982.

Author's works have been translated into thirty-six languages.


Hostage was adapted for a film starring Bruce Willis, Miramax, 2005.


Robert Crais is more than a popular mystery novelist; he also worked as a television writer whose credits include Cross of Fire, a movie about the Ku Klux Klan in Indiana starring Lloyd Bridges, David Morse, Mel Harris, and John Heard. However, Crais's best-known creation is Los Angeles-based private investigator Elvis Cole. With the release of his first novel, Crais introduced readers to the wisecracking, tough, Los Angeles detective who quickly earned Crais comparisons to legendary mystery writers such as Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Robert B. Parker.

Cole's first case, The Monkey's Raincoat, concerns a murdered Hollywood agent, a double kidnapping, and an angry drug czar. Crais continued to explore the seamy side of Hollywood in his next Elvis Cole novel, Stalking the Angel. A valuable Japanese manuscript has been stolen from a Los Angeles businessman. Cole's search for the manuscript takes him to the streets of Little Tokyo, where he meets a group of Japanese gangsters.

Elvis Cole and his partner Joe Pike also tackle the cases of Lullaby Town, Free Fall, Voodoo River, and Sunset Express. In the latter, Cole must solve the murder of a millionaire's wife while attempting to maintain a love life with Lucy Chenier and clear the name of a falsely accused detective. Pam Lambert of People wrote that "drawing on brainpower, brawn, and lots of lip, [Cole and Pike] fight to do the right thing." Wes Lukowsky described the book in Booklist as a "hip, funny, and thought-provoking novel."

Indigo Slam features what Bill Ott in Booklist called a "bizarre Disneyland finale" complete with rival gangs, federal agents, a master counterfeiter, Joe Pike, and Elvis Cole. "As it unfolds in the author's smooth and streamlined style, the story would have been strong enough to hold its own in the golden age of the mystery novel," observed Dick Lochte in the Los Angeles Times Book Review. He continued: "But today's readers crave personal involvement, and Crais provides a compelling subplot concerning the efforts of the woman Cole loves to move to the West Coast to be near him." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly described the mystery as a "wild ride" as Crais sets up an ending that satisfyingly wraps up the case and piques the reader's interest in Cole's next undertaking.

L.A. Requiem, Crais's eighth novel starring the successful character, drew praise from a Publishers Weekly critic as an expansion of the author's narrative reach and broadening of his characters' horizons, "a mature work that deserves to move him up a notch or two— into Parker or Connelly country." In this story, Elvis and Pike take the case of the missing daughter of a powerful Hispanic businessman. They discover that the girl has been murdered and that her death may be linked to several other killings. "This is an extraordinary crime novel that should not be pigeonholed by genre," wrote Lukowsky in Booklist. Crais reveals more of the mysterious Pike as well: "Crais gives the character all he's got, and it's so potent it even sobers up Elvis the eternal boy wonder," wrote Marilyn Stasio in the New York Times Book Review.

Robert Crais's Elvis Cole novels with Joe Pike are "a first-rate example of the double-tough-guy series," according to Ott in Booklist. With fast-paced adventures, slick Los Angeles scenery, plenty of weaponry, intrigue, police corruption, Vietnamese revolutionaries, Russian assassins, Japanese gangsters, and their fair share of brawls, Crais's "Elvis Cole" novels have proven very popular with enthusiastic mystery readers and reviewers alike.

In 2000 Crais revealed a new protagonist, Carol Starkey, in his novel Demolition Angel. Starkey worked with her former lover in the Los Angeles Police Department bomb squad, until he was killed in an explosion that also horribly scarred her, leaving her an avid drinker of alcohol. Against this personal history, Starkey encounters a bomber who makes explosive devices purposely designed to kill bomb technicians. Library Journal reviewer Roland Person wrote that the book is "fast-paced, authentic, well written." Crais "deserves further garlands for this stand-alone crime novel" related a Publishers Weekly critic. Oline H. Cogdill of the Sun-Sentinel wrote: "Crais has taken his work to still another level with Demolition Angel and, in doing so, has again elevated the crime fiction genre."

Demolition Angel did not stand alone for long. In The Last Detective, Cole enlists Starkey's aid in a territorial squabble over which faction of contentious investigators should be in charge of Cole's latest case. Crais pits his series protagonist, whose lover's son has been kidnapped on Cole's watch, against the woman's ex-husband and his band of imported detectives. The Forgotten Man reunites Starkey with Crais standbys Cole and Pike when Cole learns that a recent murder victim may be his long-unidentified father. With Starkey's aid, Cole sets out to uncover the truth on a case that takes him from one side of California to the other and leads him, not surprisingly, into danger. Entertainment Weekly reviewer Jennifer Reese noted that some of the author's plot lines tend toward the improbable and his writing seems to favor action over style, but she called The Forgotten Man a "lurid, fast-paced, solid B thriller" that could "see you happily through a transcontinental flight."

Hostage, a stand-alone novel, introduces Jeff Talley, a Los Angeles expatriate turned small-town police chief. Talley has left Los Angeles after leading a failed hostage negotiation only to find that he is embroiled in an even more complicated hostage situation in the town of Bristo Bay. Talley faces multiple villains: the original hostage-takers, who have unwittingly seized a crime-mob accountant and his family, and the mob leader's hostage-takers, who hold Talley's own family for ransom to prevent incriminating documents from falling into the hands of the police. "The narrative ticks with suspense," observed a Publishers Weekly reviewer, despite "a couple of cheap turns obviously devised for the silver screen." In his Booklist review, Lukowsky commented that Hostage is a good "way to pass the time on a sunny beach."

The Two Minute Rule introduces Max Holman, a career criminal whose better nature leads to his arrest after a botched bank robbery. Holman knows the two-minute rule well: a robber must be in and out of a bank within two minutes to avoid meeting the police. When Holman stops to help a heart-attack victim who collapsed during the heist, he stays for four minutes, giving the authorities plenty of time to catch him. Arrested by FBI agent Katherine Pollard, Holman spends ten difficult years in jail. During that same decade, Pollard quits the FBI, gets divorced from her husband when he runs off with his secretary, but still grieves when he dies. When Holman is paroled, he looks forward to starting his life over and reconnecting with his estranged son, a police officer. On the very day he is released, however, he learns that his son was killed, along with two other officers, in what sounds suspiciously like a set-up. Meanwhile, Pollard struggles to make ends meet and support herself and her children as an impoverished single parent. Unwilling to accept the sketchy, unconvincing police explanation of his son's death, Holman enlists Pollard's reluctant aid in looking into a case involving cold-blooded murder, corrupt police officers, and the search for a notorious pair of thieves' enormous but carefully hidden cache of money. Holman and Pollard are the "perfect odd couple" who keep Crais's novel "personal and real as it builds to an exciting twist on the bank-robbing rule," commented a PublishersWeekly critic. Wes Lukowsky, writing in Booklist, called The Two Minute Rule Crais's "best effort yet" among his non-series thrillers.



Booklist, March 1, 1996, Wes Lukowsky, review of Sunset Express, p. 1124; May 1, 1997, Bill Ott, review of Indigo Slam, p. 1460; April 15, 1999, Wes Lukowsky, review of L.A. Requiem, p. 1470; April 17, 2000, Wes Lukowsky, review of Demolition Angel, p. 1292; July, 2001, Wes Lukowsky, review of Hostage, p. 1949; December 1, 2005, Wes Lukowsky, review of The Two Minute Rule, p. 6.

Entertainment Weekly, May 26, 2000, review of Demolition Angel, p. 68; February 18, 2005, Jennifer Reese, "State of Crais: Elvis Cole Has Reentered the Building in Robert Crais' Lurid Thriller The Forgotten Man," p. 80; February 24, 2006, Jennifer Reese, review of The Two Minute Rule, p. 67.

Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 2003, review of The Last Detective, p. 7; December, 2005, review of The Two Minute Rule, p. 1289.

Library Journal, May 1, 2000, Roland Person, review of Demolition Angel, p. 152; February 15, 2005, Stacy Alesi, review of The Forgotten Man, p. 114; January 1, 2006, Stacy Alesi, review of The Two Minute Rule, p. 94.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, August 17, 1997, Dick Lochte, review of Indigo Slam, p. 9.

New York Times Book Review, June 20, 1993, Marilyn Stasio, review of Free Fall; July 11, 1999, Marilyn Stasio, review of L.A. Requiem; May 21, 2000, Marilyn Stasio, review of Demolition Angel.

People, April 15, 1996, Pam Lambert, review of Sunset Express, p. 42; July 7, 1997, Pam Lambert, review of Indigo Slam, p. 29; June 19, 2000, William Plummer, review of Demolition Angel, p. 55.

Publishers Weekly, March 4, 1996, review of Sunset Express, p. 57; April 14, 1997, review of Indigo Slam, p. 59; April 12, 1999, review of L.A. Requiem, p. 52; April 17, 2000, review of Demolition Angel, p. 53; July 9, 2001, review of Hostage, p. 43; January 27, 2003, review of The Last Detective, p. 240; January 24, 2005, review of The Forgotten Man, p. 221; January 9, 2006, review of The Two Minute Rule, p. 32.

Sun-Sentinel (South Florida), July 5, 2000, Oline H. Cogdill, review of Demolition Angel.

Toledo Blade, April 23, 2006, Sally Vallongo, "Walking between the Lines: Robert Crais Plays with the Divisions between Law and Lawless," review of The Two Minute Rule.


Agony Magazine, (December 5, 2006), review of The Last Detective.

BookPage, (December 5, 2006), James Buckley, Jr., "Elvis Has Left the City," interview with Robert Crais., (December 5, 2006), Joe Hartlaub, review of The Last Detective; Joe Hartlaub, review of The Forgotten Man; Maggie Harding, review of The Two Minute Rule.

Internet Movie Database, (December 5, 2006), filmography of Robert Crais.

Robert Crais Home Page, (December 5, 2006).

About this article

Crais, Robert 1954(?)-

Updated About content Print Article