Martin William Smith, better known as Martin Cruz Smith was born on the 3rd of November 1942 in Pennsylvania’s Reading to a jazz loving family of John Calhoun and mother Louise Smith, the latter being a leader of the Pueblo Indian rights. In 1964, he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing degree. Unlike many young writers, William knew what he wanted to do in life so he took the very first opportunity he got as a writer. The budding writer was recruited by the Associated Press in Pennsylvania as a sports journalist but he often fell asleep during meetings; something that forced him to quit and seek new pastures elsewhere. In 1966, he moved to New York to work for “For Men Only” – as an editor for the men’s magazine. On the 15th day of June 1968, Cruz got married to Emily Arnold – a chef, only to be fired towards the very end of the same year.
The year 1972 was a watershed year in the budding writer’s life when he approached G.P. Putnam, a publisher, with an idea of a mystery story. Smith came up with a mystery that followed the collaboration of a Soviet detective and an American in solving a strange murder. Putnam was delighted with Cruz’s idea and gave him $15, 000 advance payment. The years to follow saw Cruz live on writing ‘category’ fictions (mysteries, thrillers and westerns) like the Midas Coffin and Gypsy in Amber with both wining nominees for Edgar Award from America’s Mystery Writers. In 1977, Smith bought back the rights of his novel from his publisher Putnam of course after a lengthy battle that again saw him change his name to Martin Cruz Smith from his birth name Martin William Smith to incorporate the maternal name of his grandmother. The same year saw him succeed again with his thriller Nightwing earning him another Edgar Award nomination.
By now, Smith had gained some financial power which then drove him into concentrating on his Soviet thriller. This helped him work faster and come up with better ideas for the book. He completed the book and in 1980 he began to negotiate the publishing rights of the book with Ballantine and Random House and by the close of the year Smith had pocketed 1,000,000 dollars from the first printing of 100, 000 copies of Gorky Park. The thriller was nominated for a Gold Dagger award from Crime Writers Association as well as another Edgar Award nominee thanks to its storyline that follows the efforts of Arkady Renko, a Soviet detective trying to solve three strange murders after three bodies were found in the Gorky Park of Moscow without fingerprints and faces that made them unrecognizable. By the time Renko tracks the killer down; he has crossed borders into two continents with his investigation that involved his KGB, the CIA, FBI and the NYPD, an investigation that takes 8 years. The immense success of the novel was crowned with a 1983 screen adaptation that starred William Hurt.
The success of Gorky Park was later followed by another in 1986 called Stallion Gate. Smith investigated those involved in the design of the first atomic bomb. Using the skills he had polished on Gorky Park, he breathed new life into those characters in history that were involved in creation of the bomb. He portrayed a vivid interaction between iconic desert landscape images and scientific technology in this writing; something that gave him critical praise. The next two novels of Smith were to re-introduce Renko. The 1989 edition of Polar Star picked from where Gorky Park had left. In this thriller, Renko’s return to the Soviet sees him commit to an institution and must escape to Siberia, where he is employed on the Polar Star, a Russian fishing ship. Upon the departure of the ship for the Bering Sea, one member is found dead and Renko must investigate this event. The ability in which Smith creates realistic characters and original thrills in this writing is what again brought him critical attention. He was awarded the most inventive writer of thrillers in the major rank of thrillers.
The years to follow saw Smith publish several other pieces including a third of Renko’s series entitled the Red Square that was set in Moscow’s post-communist era when he was investigating Russia’s mafias and another four years later that drifted from the Arkady Renko series entitled Rose, a mystery of the Victoria era. The protagonist of the novel is Jonathan Blair who is an engineer and an explorer and must solve a case involving the disappearance of a local curate and an accident in the mines that killed 76 people. The setting of the novel is Wigan, an English town. Later, Smith followed the Arkady Renko series with another entitled Havana Bay where Renko relocated to Cuba to investigate death of an official in the Russian Embassy. However, Renko’s investigation gets complicated by the interference of the Cuban authorities who feel that Russia’s abandonment of communism had betrayed them. This was Smith’s final publication with Random House after which he left and Simon and Schuster took over the publishing.
The year 2004 saw Smith publish a fifth piece of Arkady Renko series called Wolves Eat Dogs, a thriller where Renko investigates the suicide death of a prominent businessman. His investigation led him to Chernobyl where he found outcasts left behind by the power plant’s meltdown forms the basis of this novel. This writing was later followed by another stunning piece of Arkady Renko thriller series called Stalin’s Ghost. In this book, Arkady Renko investigates reports that the ghost of Joseph Stalin has been seen in the subways of Moscow. While he was working on this case, Renko discovers that a series of war crimes that has not been published and immediately begins an investigation that exhumes Russian soldiers’ bodies with the aim of righting wrongs that have occurred. According to The Washington Post Book World’s Patrick Anderson, this novel is “a continuing adventure that in terms of popular fiction is surely a work of art.”
Martin Cruz Smith is a resident of California’s San Rafael, living with his wife Emily and their three children.
Books in order of publication by series:
Roman Grey Books
|Gypsy in Amber||(1971)|
|Canto for a Gypsy||(1972)|
Nick Carter: Killmaster Books
|Inca Death Squad||(1972)|
|The Devil’s Dozen||(1973)|
|The Devil in Kansas||(1974)|
|The Last Time I Saw Hell||(1974)|
|His Eminence, Death||(1974)|
|The Midas Coffin||(1975)|
|Last Rites for the Vulture||(1975)|
Arkady Renko Books
|Wolves Eat Dogs||(2004)|
|The Siberian Dilemma||(2019)|
|The Indians Won||(1970)|
|The Analog Bullet||(1972)|
|The Adventures of the Wilderness Family||(1975)|
|Ride for Revenge||(1977)|
|The Girl from Venice||(2016)|
|Death by Espionage: Intriguing Stories of Betrayal and Deception||(1970|