Aaron J. Elkins was born July 24, 1935, in Brooklyn, New York, to Irving Abraham Elkins and Jennie Katz Elkins. He was raised in New York and received his bachelor’s degree from Hunter College in 1956, becoming one of the first men to attend what had been a women’s college. His graduate degrees include a master’s degree from the University of Arizona (1960), a second master’s degree from California State University (1962), and a doctorate in education from the University of California at Berkeley (1976). He married Toby Siev in 1959, and they had two children. The marriage ended in divorce, and he married Charlotte Trangmar in 1972. A writer, she has collaborated with Elkins on the novels in his Lee Ofsted series.
Elkins has had many varied careers, from personnel analyst for Los Angeles County to university professor. He has taught in a number of universities including the University of Maryland, Santa Ana College, California State University, and Golden Gate University, and has lectured in various fields including anthropology, psychology, and business. He said he got the idea for Gideon Oliver, the “skeleton detective” who features in his most extensive series, during a class he was teaching in anthropology.
Elkins’s work has won important awards, including the 1988 Edgar Award for the novel Old Bones (1987); the 1993 Agatha Award for the best short story for “Nice Gorilla,” written with his wife, Charlotte Elkins; and the 1994 Nero Wolfe Award for the novel Old Scores (1993).