Joseph Robert Janes was born in Toronto in 1935, middle son of Henry Franklin Janes, a pioneer in public relations, and his wife Phyllis Hipwell, an artist. He graduated from the University of Toronto in 1958 with a B.A.Sc. in Mining Engineering, his undergraduate thesis winning the Canadian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy Award in the Petroleum and Natural Gas Division. After work as a petroleum engineer for Mobil Oil (1958-1959) and a research engineer for the Ontario Research Foundation (1959-1964), Janes return to the University of Toronto to study geology under J. Tuzo Wilson and to attend teacher’s college. He also taught high school mathematics, geology and geography for the North York Board of Education (1964-1966). Janes graduated with a M.Eng. in Geology in 1967. After further graduate studies in geology at McMaster University, he then lectured in geology at Brock University (1968-1970), conducting an innovative field course across Canada.
Thereafter, he completed the first year of a Ph.D. program at Queen’s University in association with Brock University but, in 1970, decided instead to become a full-time writer. His early work consisted of books and other media presentations on the topic of geology for grade-school children, senior high schools, universities and the general trade market. He also wrote travel and other articles and supplied photographs for newspapers and periodicals, often with a geological focus, and sold geological specimens to schools under the name Rocks and Minerals of Canada. He later turned to writing children's novels and, ultimately, mystery novels for the adult market. He is now world-renowned as the author of the St. Cyr-Kohler mystery series. He has received grants from the J.P. Bickell Foundation, the Canada Council, and the Ontario Arts Council. Janes has long been concerned with the environment and politics, especially in the area of his home in the Niagara Peninsula. He also has an interest in Stephen Leacock, a cousin of his paternal grandfather. J. Robert Janes and his wife Gracia (Lind) Janes have four children. Janes died on February 28, 2022.