Joseph Kanon was educated at Harvard and Trinity College, Cambridge, and spent the next thirty years working in book publishing. In 1995, on a vacation trip to the Southwest, he visited Los Alamos and became interested in the history of the Manhattan Project—not just the creation of the bomb itself, but how daily life played out for the scientists and workers in a place so secret it did not technically exist. Los Alamos, published in 1997, was a bestseller and won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel and enabled him to cross over to the other side of the editorial desk as a full-time writer. His second novel, The Prodigal Spy, set during the McCarthy era, was followed in 2001 by The Good German, a novel about postwar Berlin that later became the basis for a Steven Soderbergh film starring George Clooney and Cate Blanchett. Alibi, 2005, another postwar story, this time set in Venice, won the Hammett Prize of the International Association of Crime Writers.
“When I started,” Kanon says, “I didn’t know that all my books would be concerned, one way or another, with the immediate postwar period, but I kept coming back to it. It seemed to me the pivot of the century, the beginning of the world we live in now, and so filled with gray areas of moral ambiguity that it’s an inexhaustible period for a writer.”
Stardust (set in Hollywood in the 1940s) was published in 2010 and was followed by his most recent book, Istanbul Passage (2012), another bestseller. Kanon has also received the Human Writes Award of the Anne Frank Foundation for his writings about the aftermath of the Holocaust. He lives in New York with his wife, literary agent Robin Straus. They have two sons.
Istanbul Passage (2012)
The Good German (2002)