Robert Crais (born June 20, 1953) is an American author of detective fiction. Crais began his career writing scripts for television shows such as Hill Street Blues, Cagney & Lacey, Quincy, Miami Vice and L.A. Law. He lists amongst his literary influences the authors Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Ernest Hemingway, Robert B. Parker and John Steinbeck. Crais lives in California's Santa Monica mountains with his family.
Born in Independence, Louisiana, near Baton Rouge, Crais moved to Hollywood in 1976 where he found work as a screenwriter for such television series as Hill Street Blues, Cagney & Lacey and Miami Vice, as well as pilots, TV movies and the NBC mini series Cross of Fire. He was nominated for an Emmy award for his writing on Hill Street Blues.
In the 1980s Crais decided to abandon scriptwriting and become a novelist. Early efforts proved unsuccessful but following the death of his father in 1985 Crais was inspired to create his character Elvis Cole. The resulting novel featuring Elvis Cole, The Monkey's Raincoat, won the 1988 Anthony Award for "Best First Novel" and the 1988 Mystery Readers International Macavity Award for "Best Paperback Original" at Bouchercon XVIV and has since been named one of the 100 Favorite Mysteries of the Century by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association.
Crais's usual protagonist and first-person narrator is private detective Elvis Cole, an ex-Ranger. Cole's partner is Joe Pike, an ex-Marine. Except for Demolition Angel,Hostage and The Two-Minute Rule, all of Crais' books feature Cole and Pike, with The Watchman (2007) and The First Rule (2010) centering on Joe Pike.
The author tackles a variety of subjects in his novels. Free Fall was inspired by the Rodney King riots and Sunset Express dealt with a killer who bore an uncanny resemblance to O.J. Simpson. The most frequently recurring theme in Crais's books is the value of honesty; in his works, the long-term value of coming clean always outweighs the short-term benefits of covering up the problem. Crais also delves into issues of family and loyalty.
Some readers have complained that Crais's style has veered into over-the-top melodrama in recent years and that each book has the same basic structure (usually leading to a shoot-out climax). Others insist that his increasingly cinematic storytelling is how he keeps getting better with every novel. Over the years, his novels have taken a turn for the darker side, with a greater cynicism being expressed in his writing, although the wit and humor of his earlier books are still present. His novels and characters have become more deeply realized, and his extensive use of flashbacks and dream imagery add a greater depth to the present-day narrative.
In March 2005, Bruce Willis appeared in Hostage, the first Hollywood adaptation of one of his books. Crais refuses to sell the rights to Cole, Pike, and his other recurring characters, preferring to allow his readers to keep their own personal conceptions of the characters.