Robert Olen Butler was born in Illinois in 1945 and has gone on to publish 17 novels and several collections of short stories, one of which – A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain – won the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. In 2013 he became the 17th recipient of the F. Scott Fitzgerald Award for Outstanding Achievement in American Literature.
He has been called America’s greatest living writer.
In 2012, Butler published the first of his Christopher Marlowe ‘Kit’ Cobb series, which introduced us to an American newspaper war correspondent who is embroiled in the war-torn politics and socio-economic meltdowns of civil-war Mexico in 1914 (The Hot Country), Germany’s alliance with the Ottoman empire in pre-World War I Turkey (The Star Of Istanbul) and Germany’s secret mission to produce weapons of mass destruction in 1917 Chicago (The Empire Of The Night).
The fourth book in the Kit Cobb series, Paris In The Dark (published in the UK by No Exit Press), sees Cobb tasked with finding out why civilians are meeting death by dynamite in a new string of bombings in the city. German-speaking Cobb seems just the man to figure out who is behind them – possibly a German operative who has snuck in with the waves of refugees coming in from the provinces and across the border in Belgium.
We were delighted to catch up with Robert during a recent visit to London, and during a wide-ranging interview, he spoke about everything from art, politics, the links between both, his time serving in Vietnam and how it has influenced his work, and literary and crime fiction.
It really is worth a listen.