Martin Cruz Smith, born Martin William Smith on November 3, 1942, in Reading, Pennsylvania, is the son of John Calhoun, a musician, and Louise Lopez Smith, an American Indian rights activist. Smith was graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1964 with a bachelor of arts degree and then worked as a reporter for the Philadelphia Daily News in 1965. He was employed by Magazine Management from 1966 to 1969. On June 15, 1968, he married Emily Arnold, a chef.
In 1970, he published his first novel, The Indians Won, which was reviewed in science-fiction journals. From 1970 through 1976, he wrote and published many mystery and adventure novels under various pseudonyms. Written under the name Martin Smith, Gypsy in Amber and Canto for a Gypsy (1972) indicate his fascination with mismatched partners, a motif that resurfaces in Gorky Park. Gypsy in Amber earned a nomination by the Mystery Writers of America as the best first mystery novel of 1971.
In 1973, Smith spent two weeks in the Soviet Union researching a book that was to include a Soviet detective working with an American detective to solve a murder. Refused permission to return to the Soviet Union, he did further research by interviewing Soviet émigrés about life in their homeland.
Smith’s Inquisitor series, published in 1974-1975 under the name of Simon Quinn, was received with considerable interest. His first substantial success as a writer, however, occurred in 1977 with the publication of Nightwing. This book was nominated by the Mystery Writers of America for the 1978 Edgar Allan Poe Award. In 1977, Smith also had his middle name legally changed from William to Cruz, his maternal grandmother’s first name.
The success of Nightwing allowed Smith to focus on completing his Russian mystery, Gorky Park, which was published in 1981. The popularity of Gorky Park enabled Smith to spend the next five years researching and writing his novel about the Manhattan Project test site in New Mexico, Stallion Gate, published in 1986.