Robert Harris, a former journalist and BBC TV reporter, is the bestselling English writer of the Cicero historical mystery series as well as numerous historical and political thriller novels, including Fatherland, Enigma, Archangel, Pompeii, and Munich. In addition, he has written several non-fiction books on politics and history.
Here are the Robert Harris books in order for his series. The standalone novels can, of course, be read in any order you manage to get them.
New Robert Harris Books
Standalone Robert Harris Books
- A Higher Form of Killing, 1982, with Jeremy Paxman (non-fiction)
- Gotcha, 1983 (non-fiction)
- The Making of Neil Kinnock, 1984 (non-fiction)
- Selling Hitler, 1986 (non-fiction)
- Good and Faithful Servant, 1990 (non-fiction)
- Fatherland, 1992
- Enigma, 1995
- Archangel, 1998
- Pompeii, 2003
- The Ghost / The Ghost Writer, 2007
- The Fear Index, 2011
- An Officer and a Spy, 2013
- Conclave, 2016
- Munich, 2017
- The Second Sleep, 2019
Robert Harris Biography
Robert Dennis Harris was born in 1957, in Nottingham, UK, where he also grew up, spending his early childhood on a Nottingham council estate. Already during his childhood he dreamed of writing plays and books, following his visits to the printing plant where his father was employed. At the age of 6 he wrote a political essay titled Why me and my dad don’t like Sir Alec Douglas-Home.
He attended Belvoir High School in Bottesford, following which he went to King Edward VII School, Melton Mowbray, where he wrote plays and worked as the editor of the school magazine. Many years later, this school would name one of their halls after this author.
Next, he attended Selwyn College, Cambridge, where he studies English literature. During his time at the university, he was the editor of Varsity, the oldest campus newspaper, and he became president of the Cambridge Union during this time.
After graduating from Cambridge, Robert Harris began working for the BBC, where he worked on current news and affairs, and he remained there until 1987, when he became political editor of The Observer at the age of 30. Further, in his reporter career, he also worked for the Sunday Times and the Daily Telegraph writing columns for both newspapers.
During his time as a reporter, he also started working on his first book, which was a nonfiction study of chemical and biological warfare titled A Higher Form of Killing, a book he co-authored with his coworker and BBC journalist Jeremy Paxman. He really changed to fiction after his first child was born, as he needed the additional income to supplement whatever he was earning from the Sunday Times.
Soon after, he wrote four additional non-fiction books (Gotcha, 1983, The Making of Neil Kinnock, 1984, Selling Hitler, 1986, and Good and Faithful Servant, 1990) until he moved on to writing fiction stories. In 1992, the first Robert Harris book, Fatherland, was published by Random House, and it became an instant success.
Fatherland is set in an alternate world, a parallel world where Germany, in fact, won WWII. The book became so successful that Harris was soon able to become a full time author and retire from journalism for good. The book was turned into a movie in 1994 by HBO. The plot came to the author’s mind one day as he was in Sicily during the summer of 1987, traveling with his to-be-wife on a holiday. One day he was swimming at the beach, and when he came out of the water, he heard all those German voices coming from all around him, which made him envision a Europe where Hitler won, where Lufthansa flights would be everywhere, where Germany would enjoy full power in Europe.
However, it still took him 3 years to finish his manuscript. Once the first half was sent to his American agent, suddenly 12 publishers got interested in it. When it sold at the auction, the money it sold for was more than he had earned before in his entire life. This is when Robert’s new career path was fully on.
The second Robert Harris book, Enigma, also became a movie starring Dougray Scott and Kate Winslet. The story takes place during WWII.
The author’s third book, Archangel, became a BBC mini-series with Daniel Craig in main role in 2005. The book is a contemporary thriller set in Russia featuring a British historian searching for a secret notebook with Stalin’s diaries.
The Robert Harris Cicero series has also been adapted into stage dramas by Mike Poulton, who also adapted Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell books. The Cicero books, while historical in nature, are very contemporary indeed. They reflect the modern Western world’s trap of getting political power and then abusing it, abusing the Constitution, and destroying the democracy as we know it. While the first book in the series was published in 2006, in an interview Thomas Harris mentioned just how surprised he was about their current relevancy to the modern Western world and its politics. It almost predicted the raise of Trump and the Brexit, and the endangerment of our values and the Democracy.
Based on his words,
Historical fiction can also represent modern-day concerns […] The Cicero books are about what happens when a country surrenders to the mob, when the mob turns on the elite and the Republic collapses because of ambition and lying. All my books in a sense are political at heart and historical fiction is really contemporary fiction because what draws you to a subject is exactly the same as what draws you to a contemporary novel – what’s in the air, what’s bothering one, what concerns one. Pompeii is in a sense about the threat of climate change, the puniness of people and their ambition when compared to the power of nature. All of these things have a contemporary relevance but can at first glance seem purely historical.
He mentioned that his books are about “of the population turning on the elite, egged on by unscrupulous billionaires; of a constitution that just buckles and breaks,” which is just what we face today.
Another book which almost became a movie was Pompeii, for which he wrote a screenplay for Roman Polanski in 2007 who loved it. The movie never happened due to upcoming actors strike.
After this, Roman Polanski and Robert Harris worked further together, this time on The Ghost, for which they co-authored the script. The movie premiered in 2010 at the Berlin Film Festival. In addition, the author wrote An Officer and a Spy, published in 2013, based on the Dreyfuss Affair case which was a long-time passion and interest by Polanski. The book is also being turned into a French film titled J’accuse, featuring Jean Dujardin in main role.
The latest Robert Harris book departs somewhat from his usual alternate historical thriller themes in that it takes on a slight science-fiction tone. A post-apocalyptic take that is rather well done. For what’s worth, I applaud the author’s crossing genres in a new way to discover himself (It is never too late to learn more things about what you are capable of, and the author is sure of capable of writing anything, if going by this book, which is a good thing.)
Before writing his books, Robert Harris extensively prepares and researches. For example, before writing Conclave (published in 2016), he read the Gospels in order. While reading, he admitted he was amazed by the character, strength, and personality of Christ. The author admires the Church, its history, the art, the rituals, and personalities within. His book shows that clearly.
Also, some of his political expertise and knowledge comes from his long-time interest in politics. Over the years, he befriended several politicians, including Tony Blair, Peter Mandelson, Andrew Mitchell, George Osborne, and Roy Jenkins, among others. Political power and history have been two of the author’s main interests and passions which easily translated into bestselling works.
The author currently lives with his wife, Gill Hornby, in a converted vicarage in Kintbury, near Newbury, Berkshire, in the UK. Gill Hornby is a writer, a former Telegraph columnist, and the sister of the popular author Nick Hornby, who wrote the bestselling novels About a Boy and High Fidelity, among others.
The Robert Harris books have been so far translated into around 40 languages across the globe. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
Awards for Robert Harris Books
Over the years, Robert Harris received or was nominated for several awards for his outstanding work on his historical and contemporary thrillers. Here are some of the prestigious ones:
- Whitbread first-novel prize nominee: Fatherland
- International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award nominee: Archangel
- Sainsbury’s Popular Fiction Award Best Novel nominee: The Ghost
- Walter Scott Prize Best Historical Novel nominee: Lustrum
- Walter Scott Prize Best Historical Novel winner: An Officer and a Spy
- Barry Awards Best Thriller nominee, 2015 : An Officer and a Spy
- American Library in Paris Book Award winner: An Officer and a Spy
Praise for Robert Harris
The book’s real power lies in its between-the-lines warning that our embrace of the internet represents some kind of sleepwalk into oblivion. It’s a provocative, tub-thumping sci-fi of which H. G. Wells might have been proud. (Daily Mail on The Second Sleep)
A stirring and absorbing novel…The ﬁnal 100 pages are terriﬁc, as good as anything Harris has done; and the last, teasing paragraph, done with the lightest of touches, is masterly. (The Sunday Telegraph on Pompeii)
Harris has, with this novel, taken [Le Carré’s] place as the master of making documents and scraps of paper, the details of painstaking intelligence work, into drama. (The Daily Beast on An Officer and a Spy)
Mesmerizing. . . . The Dreyfus affair remains astonishing, and this exceptional piece of popular fiction does it justice (Washington Post on An Officer and a Spy)
Another thrilling historical novel from Robert Harris. [He’s] on sure and familiar ground in Munich—he quickly settles into the mid-20th century setting that made Fatherland and Enigma so compelling, and the claustrophobic feel of the conference carriers on from last year’s exploration of Vatican politics, Conclave. . . Against the intriguing backdrop of political machinations and brinkmanship is a thriller plot bursting to get out. (The Guardian on Munich)
Gripping . . . Harris is a marvelously compelling storyteller. . . . A historical novel, a novel of ideas, and a gripping thriller. . . . Harris writes with complete and compelling authority. (The Scotsman on Munich)
Literate and savvy . . . It’s always a pleasure to encounter a historical thriller this subtle and detailed (WAPO on Archangel)
A brilliantly imaginative thriller (Readers Digest on The Second Sleep)