Magazine article Geographical

Q&A: Martin Cruz Smith: Martin Cruz Smith Is the Author of Best-Sellers Gorky Park and Havana Bay. for His Latest Novel, Tokyo Station, He's Turned His Attention to Japan on the Eve of the Second World War. Christian Amodeo Asks the Half-Pueblo Indian Novelist about His Inspiration. (in Conversation)

Magazine article Geographical

Q&A: Martin Cruz Smith: Martin Cruz Smith Is the Author of Best-Sellers Gorky Park and Havana Bay. for His Latest Novel, Tokyo Station, He's Turned His Attention to Japan on the Eve of the Second World War. Christian Amodeo Asks the Half-Pueblo Indian Novelist about His Inspiration. (in Conversation)

Article excerpt

What inspired you to become a writer?

I was going to be a sociologist but couldn't do the maths. So at college I looked around for something else to keep me there that involved the minimum amount of work, and that was writing. My parents were jazz musicians and we had the kind of household in which the arts were encouraged.

How did you come to set Gorky Park in Russia?

I'd found a description of how a Russian scientist who used to help the Moscow police with their investigations was able to reconstruct the faces of murder victims from their skulls. I thought that would be an interesting theme for a book and sold the idea of it having an American hero to an American publisher. When I got to Russia I realised that it should be done from a Russian point of view, but my first would-be publisher didn't think the American public would buy a book with a Russian hero. To tell you the truth, I didn't even think about it. That was the book I wanted to write.

What was Cold War Russia like?

At the time (1973), I could only get a two-week tourist visa. So I tried to push my way into as many places as possible, but a lot weren't open. I don't think I was followed, though my Russian friends tell me I must have been. Even so, I did plenty of odd things like sketching the KGB headquarters, Lubyanka, and wandering around factories and near military academies. Nobody got in my way. A lot of those places I went to because I got lost. But if you're in an interesting place being lost is okay.

What attracted you to the north of England for your 1996 novel Rose?

I saw photographs of two Wigan pit-brow girls who were involved in a social scandal in the 1870s when they refused to wear long skirts to work. They had cloths tied to their belts but other than that they wore trousers. It caused such outrage that people would take the train up from London just to see these women work. They were investigated by Parliament and attacked by the Church but they would not give in.

How does the Royal Geographical Society feature in the book?

I enlisted the help of the Royal Geographical Society to research the book and also wrote a scene there. On this premise alone I was allowed in and shown the map room for the scene. I was aware it wouldn't have been the same building back then but they had plenty of photographs of the old one. …

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