Authors: Martin Cruz Smith

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

American novelist

Author Works

Long Fiction:

The Indians Won, 1970

Gypsy in Amber, 1971

The Analog Bullet, 1972

Canto for a Gypsy, 1972

The Inca Death Squad, 1972

Code Name: Werewolf, 1973

The Devil’s Dozen, 1973

The Devil in Kansas, 1974

His Eminence, Death, 1974

The Last Time I Saw Hell, 1974

Nuplex Red, 1974

The Human Factor, 1975

Last Rites for the Vulture, 1975

The Midas Coffin, 1975

The Adventures of the Wilderness Family, 1976

North to Dakota, 1976

Nightwing, 1977

Ride for Revenge, 1977

Gorky Park, 1981

Stallion Gate, 1986

Polar Star, 1989

Red Square, 1992

Rose, 1996

Havana Bay, 1999

December 6, 2002

Edited Text:

Death by Espionage: Intriguing Stories of Betrayal and Deception, 1999


Martin Cruz Smith’s books are exemplars of well-crafted police procedurals–mysteries written from the point of view of the police investigating a crime. With the appearance of his Gorky Park in 1981, after eleven years as a prolific novelist, Smith moved into the ranks of America’s best-selling authors. Although nominated for a Mystery Writers of America Edgar Allan Poe Award for Nightwing in 1978, a sign of professional recognition from fellow authors, Smith achieved national recognition only after his books set in the Soviet Union that depict tense but engaging partnerships between Russian and American detectives. Smith’s Gorky Park and additional novels that appeared by the early twenty-first century evoked critical evaluations that ranked these works above ordinary mystery genre writing, if somewhat below the best novels of Eric Ambler, Len Deighton, and John le Carré. Smith’s readers, voting with their pocketbooks, made him a wealthy man.{$I[AN]9810001655}{$I[A]Smith, Martin Cruz}{$S[A]Logan, Jake;Smith, Martin Cruz}{$S[A]Carter, Nick;Smith, Martin Cruz}{$S[A]Quinn, Martin;Smith, Martin Cruz}{$S[A]Quinn, Simon;Smith, Martin Cruz}{$I[geo]UNITED STATES;Smith, Martin Cruz}{$I[tim]1942;Smith, Martin Cruz}

Born Martin William Smith on November 3, 1942, in Reading, Pennsylvania, Smith was the son of musician John Calhoun and American Indian rights activist Louise Lopez Smith. Only after the success of Nightwing in 1977 did he change his middle name from William to Cruz, the name of his maternal grandmother. Entering the University of Pennsylvania in 1960, his initial interests were in sociology, but, defeated by the discipline’s statistics, he switched to creative writing and graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in 1964. Smith spent the next year as a reporter for the Philadelphia Daily News and then took a job with Magazine Management, publishers of popular “macho” magazines. This position lasted until 1969, when his “bad attitude” led to his departure. In the interim, he married chef Emily Arnold and began a family that eventually included three children. Following publication of his first novel, The Indians Won, in 1970–a work reviewed as science fiction–Smith wrote pseudonymously as Jake Logan, Nick Carter, Martin Quinn, and Simon Quinn, producing a variety of Western adventure and mystery novels. The relative success of Nightwing persuaded him to drop his pseudonyms entirely in the mid-1970’s.

As critics and readers alike have noted, Smith’s novels possess several distinctions that set them apart from pedestrian popular literature. His prose is terse; his sentences are compact, heavily reliant on well-chosen nouns and verbs and unencumbered by adjectives or the wordy demands of metaphors. Thus his better works are fast-paced. Moreover, within the mystery genre, Smith has managed to create several plausible and memorable characters. In his so-called Roman Grey novels published in the early 1970’s, for example, the protagonist, New York City Gypsy antique dealer Roman Grey, is preeminently the marginal man, steering a precarious emotional course between Gypsy and non-Gypsy societies. Romantically Grey is linked to a gaja, or non-Gypsy, woman, an association uncongenial to the close-knit Gypsy community, while in his crime-solving efforts, which he pursues to uphold the Gypsy code of honor, he relies on his collaboration with Harry Isadore, a gaja policeman, one of a breed seldom perceived as friends to the Gypsy.

Similarly, in Smith’s Inquisitor series, a few characters, notably Francis Xavier Killy, a former Central Intelligence Agency operative who serves as a lay brother in the Vatican’s Militia Christi, emerges as a plausible sleuth who adeptly navigates the shoals of church politics and international crises to expose corruption and murder. Gorky Park’s Russian detective, Arkady Renko, and his American collaborator, James Kirwill, along with the American villain of the piece, John Osborne, are among Smith’s most widely known characters. A deeply patriotic Russian, Renko reveals the three-dimensional qualities of his character confronting the venal and cynical bureaucracy within which he works, as well as coping with an adulterous wife, a dissenting girlfriend, and his combative American partner. Renko, ever the vulnerable patriot, reappears in several of Smith’s subsequent novels, including Polar Star, Red Square, and Havana Bay, again battling political and bureaucratic disfavor, coping with cantankerous partners, trying to differentiate sex from love, and pursuing his own innate version of justice. As in the Renko novels, Smith not only excels in developing characters with real, multidimensional relationships with one another but also skillfully integrates them into convincing plots that are devoid of gratuitous sex and violence. In addition, in his best novels Smith catches the ambience of different cultures, whether Russian or Native American, with his spare but carefully selected details. His protagonists, while marked by commonplace modern cynicism (whether the setting is contemporary or historical), nevertheless evince a strong sense of justice that leaves his novels generally hopeful at their conclusions.

Bibliography“Martin Cruz Smith.” Current Biography 51 (November, 1990). A well-informed article on Smith as a personality, on the progression of his work, and on the distinctions of his writings.Ott, Bill. Review of Stalin’s Ghost, by Martin Cruz Smith. Booklist 103, no. 17 (May 1, 2007): 42. Review of Renko series book in which Renko finds himself investigating appearances of Joseph Stalin’s ghost in a Moscow subway. Notes that the novels in the series have a theme about the perils of digging.Smith, Martin Cruz. “Escape: Tales from My Travels–Martin Cruz Smith, Shadows of Chernobyl.” Interview by Carl Wilkinson. The Observer, April 10, 2005, p. 24. Interview discusses Smith’s travels to the Soviet Union in 1973 to research Gorky Park and his later visits to Chernobyl.Wroe, Nicholas. “Saturday Review: Profile–Crime Pays.” The Guardian, March 26, 2005, p. 20. This substantial profile of Smith looks at his background, how he got started in writing, his early series, his decision to write about the Soviet Union and how his publishers initially were not interested in Gorky Park, and his subsequent writing career. Notes how his works about Russia provide a short history of the changes that have taken place in that nation.
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