Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Alias Simon Quinn

In addition to being one of the great (and best-selling) thriller writers of the last 30 years, Martin Cruz Smith, as it turns out, is also a good sport.

I moderated a panel he was on at the BoucherCon World Mystery Convention in San Francisco last week (along with fellow panelists Andrew Klavan and Joseph Finder), and though we talked at length about his classic GORKY PARK and many other books (the most recent being THREE STATIONS), I also asked Smith about a paperback men's adventure series he had pseudonymously written in the early '70s.

Titled THE INQUISITOR, and written under the pen name "Simon Quinn," it followed the exploits of Francis Xavier Killy, a spy/assassin who works for the Vatican, the twist being that he's required to do penance every time he kills someone. Though obviously written quickly while Smith worked on other projects, the books were fun, and very well done, head and shoulders above most of the similar series of the time. They also had some great titles: THE LAST TIME I SAW HELL; HIS EMINENCE, DEATH; THE MIDAS COFFIN.

Smith seemed slightly surprised - and amused - at the end of the panel, when I actually produced my battered, somewhat dog-eared copy of the first book in the series, 1974's THE DEVIL IN KANSAS. However, he graciously signed it (below), though preferring to stay with his nom de plume.

Charles Ardai of Hard Case Crime has been after Smith for years to let him republish THE MIDAS COFFIN, one of the best of the series (so far, he's declined). After the panel, I went as far as to jokingly suggest he should write a new one, tied to the recent scandals in the Catholic Church. He just laughed.


Bill Crider said...

Wish I could've made it to the panel. I like all the books in that series.

wstroby said...

A couple other interesting things from that panel:

- GORKY PARK was originally conceived, and partially written, with the lead character as an American detective rather than Russian. Smith only changed it after visiting Russia.

- He had a ongoing correspondence with Marlene Dietrich, who wrote to him after she read GP. Apparently, she also wanted help getting an agent for her planned memoirs.

Cullen Gallagher said...

Wow. Those must've been some awesome letters from Marlene!