“Mark Twain said, 'The right word is to the nearly right word as lightning is to the lightning bug.' Fill your book with lightning.” – Robert Littell
American novelist and journalist Robert Littell, who resides in France, specializes in CIA-based novels, and he coyly refuses to answer the question of whether or not he's worked for that agency.
Born on this date in 1935, he grew up in Brooklyn, spent 4 years in the U.S. Navy, and then moved into journalism, working for many years as foreign correspondent for Newsweek magazine. Self-inspired by the Cold War news coverage he was doing, he branched out into creative writing to become one of the leading “spy novelists.” His first effort, 1973’s The Defection of A.J. Lewinter, winner of several major writing awards, went almost immediately to the best-seller list, and he’s never looked back from that shift in his writing career.
To date, he has authored 20 of those genre-based novels, the most recent being 2016’s The Mayokovsky Tapes. Perhaps his best-known is the widely acclaimed is the award-winning The Company, not only a New York Times’ best-seller but also a television mini-series starring Michael Keaton. His book Legends was made into a TV series.
Writing runs in the Littell family. His son Jonathan also is an award-winning novelist, and his older brother Alan has authored books and travel stories. His advice to new writers: Live by Mark Twain’s rule.
“Fill your pages with details,” he said. “Work hard to get the right word.”
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