Robert Crais is one of the most popular crime mystery authors of today. His Elvis Cole and Joe Pike series are bestsellers all over the world.
Reading the Robert Crais books in order is important because, although the stories are separate, there are a lot of backstories and character development that runs like an undercurrent through the author’s work. There are many small things that make sense and give the reader that “Aha” moment if you read each book in the proper chronological order.
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Elvis Cole, Joe Pike, and Scott James & Maggie Series
Since the three series strongly intersect and many books feature in each series, I will list all books, mentioning for each where does it belong (and if it belongs to two or all three series, I will add that information as well).
- The Monkey’s Raincoat (Elvis Cole #1), 1987
- Stalking the Angel (Elvis Cole #2), 1988
- Lullaby Town (Elvis Cole #3), 1992
- Free Fall (Elvis Cole #4), 1993
- Voodoo River (Elvis Cole #5), 1995
- Sunset Express (Elvis Cole #6), 1996
- Indigo Slam (Elvis Cole #7), 1997
- L. A. Requiem (Elvis Cole #8), 1999
- The Last Detective (Elvis Cole #9), 2003
- The Forgotten Man (Elvis Cole #10), 2005
- The Watchman (Elvis Cole #11, Joe Pike #1), 2007
- Chasing Darkness (Elvis Cole #12), 2008
- The First Rule (Elvis Cole #13, Joe Pike #2), 2009
- The Sentry (Elvis Cole #14, Joe Pike #3), 2011
- Taken (Elvis Cole #15, Joe Pike #4), 2012
- Suspect (Scott James & Maggie, #1), 2013
- The Promise (Elvis Cole #16, Joe Pike #5, Scott James & Maggie, #2), 2015
- The Wanted (Elvis Cole #17 Joe Pike #6) 2017
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Robert Crais Biography
Robert Crais was born in 1953 in Independence, Louisiana. He grew up in Baton Rouge since his father worked at an Exxon refinery at the time. It is not surprising that he became a crime mystery author since a large part of his family was working as police officers.
When, at the age of 15, Robert read The Little Sister by Raymond Chandler, a classic crime mystery novelist, he knew that what he wanted to become in life would be an author as well.
He did enroll at the Louisiana State University to study mechanical engineering, however, his heart was not in it at all. All he kept thinking was writing. When he moved from Louisiana to Los Angeles in 1976, he began writing TV scripts for TV series such as Baretta, Hill Street Blues and contributed to popular shows such as Cagney & Lacey, Partners in Crime, and Miami Vice. He also wrote scripts for television movies and longer TV series, including In Self Defense and the 1989 miniseries, Cross of Fire.
Although his career was at its peak, Robert Crais wanted to do something else. He wanted to write books, which were part of his long-time dream. In the early 1980s, he started writing, but it took him five years to flesh out the character that would make him world-renown author: Elvis Cole. None of his previous books were ever published.
Once he became established as an author, he stopped writing for TV except in a few rare cases, which he left altogether in 1998. The last TV series he ever worked on was JAG.
The Monkey’s Raincoat was published in 1987 and it became so successful that it immediately was awarded the Anthony and Macavity Awards, and it was nominated for additional awards, such as the Edgar Allan Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America and the Shamus Award by the Private Eye Writers of America.
This book was the one to launch the successful Elvis Cole series and Joe Pike series, featuring two PIs which would end up working together more often than not.
Elvis is a Vietnam vet who carries a .38. His office is full of kitsch and he doesn’t seem to grow up. He is often funny and always has wisecrack comments at the ready.
In the first book of the Elvis Cole series, he is tasked by the wife of an agent to find him and their child, as both of them went missing. Elvis takes the case believing it will be an easy one to crack. In addition, as the woman doesn’t seem to be able to cope without her husband, Elvis Cole teaches her some basic things, like how to write a check to be able to pay the bills.
In a way, Elvis Cole took partially aspects of the author’s own life. This particular plot with the checks is inspired by the author himself doing these things for her mother, who couldn’t cope after his father passed away.
Initially, the Robert Crais debut novel should have been standalone, however, soon he realized that a series will be welcome by the readers, so he continued it, making it into the popular Elvis Cole series it is today.
With The Watchman, Joe Pike finally saw his own time in the limelight. He used to be the enigmatic character, a mysterious side-kick for Elvis, and it was high time he got his own series. Since then, Elvis Cole and Joe Pike became the main series that the author is writing until today.
In addition, there is yet another series that the author started, Scott James & Maggie, as part of the Robert Crais books. This series also connects to the previous ones with at least one book, The Promise, where all three main characters play their part.
Currently, the Scott James & Maggie series includes two Robert Crais novels, with the latest one published in 2015.
Praise for Robert Crais
Books Reading Order » Crime Mystery Authors » Robert Crais
Robert Crais Elevates Crime Fiction. (Sun Sentinel)
Robert Crais takes the most popular characters from previous novels and shakes them up in an intense and thrilling mystery. Crais delivers a master class in writing with this latest novel. (Associated Press)
Master crime fiction writer Crais delivers another winner…. (Library Journal)
Stalking the Angel is a righteous California book: intelligent, perceptive, hard, clean. (James Ellroy)
Out on the West Coast, where private eyes thrive like avocado trees, Robert Crais has created an interesting and amusing hero in Elvis Cole . . . definitely new. (The Wall Street Journal)
Far and away the most satisfying private eye novel in years. Grab this one – it’s a winner! (Lawrence Block)