“It was the sort of day that didn’t give a damn.”

ImageI was absolutely thrilled to interview Martin Cruz Smith. I lost track of him a little bit in the past few years but he was hugely influential on my own writing and certainly helped to spark the interest in crime fiction and espionage novels that drove me to write a crime column for a full five years over at Bookslut and keeps me immersed in the subject to this day.

I was far less thrilled this morning to find that the author revealed today to the New York Times that he has been living with Parkinson’s Disease since 1995, but I thought he handled the revelation in an incredibly graceful way. My personal experience speaking with him was terrific, as he offered sharp insights about his beloved and much put-upon anti-hero, Arkady Renko. I really appreciated his sense of humor and his candor, and wish him only the best as he continues working on his new book.

This feature survived mostly intact, but did require a few nips and tucks here and there. Here’s a little bonus for the couple of you that have found your way here—a humorous thought from the author about the bullet fragment still lodged in Arkady Renko’s brain. It’s the “ticking time bomb” that suddenly takes on a lot more meaning in the wake of today’s news.

It certainly wouldn’t be an Arkady Renko novel without a significant amount of mayhem, usually directed at the Inspector Detective himself. In addition to the lurking ghost of that bullet in his head, within pages Smith has his favorite character beaten to a pulp.

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Martin Cruz Smith in the Lenin Suite at the National Hotel circa 1990.

“I’m surprised that Arkady puts up with how I treat him, honestly,” Smith laughs.. “What drives me crazy—and I can’t read these kinds of books—are those stories where the lead characters are invulnerable. They get out of bed the next day and knife wounds have turned into mosquito bites. He’s stuck, of course, with a writer whose idea is to bring in a brain surgeon to warn him not to put himself in any more danger, and I immediately throw him back in the pit.”

ImageIf you read any of the breaking news about Smith’s new novel Tatiana, you’ll quickly figure out that his title character is based on the heroic journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who was gunned down outside her Moscow apartment seven years ago now. I would greatly encourage anybody who finds this story compelling to seek out her work. If you would like to get a sense of her, you can start with “Chronicle of Repression,” my review of her last released work, A Russian Diary, from the Rocky Mountain News.

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