I grew up in New York City in a Russian emigre family and wanted to be a scientist from an early age. However, after getting Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Geology from Queens College and The City College of New York, I decided that I'd learned enough about the natural world but didn't understand myself or other people. My solution was to switch to studying literature and the humanities, which resulted in my getting a Ph. D. in Comparative Literature from Princeton. This helped, and the quest continues. After teaching in the Slavic Department at Harvard, I moved to Yale in 1986, where I taught courses on Russian literature and culture for thirty-two years before retiring to write full time in June of 2018. I live in Hamden, Connecticut, with my wife, who teaches Spanish at Yale, and have a son who has a Ph. D. in Latin American History and teaches humanities at a prep school in the West, and a daughter who works at a major museum in NYC.
I published a number of academic books and many shorter pieces on aspects of Russian literature and literary theory before I wrote my first book for a trade press--THE BLACK RUSSIAN, Grove Atlantic 2013/2014.
I've now written most of another biography, also for a trade press, about Boris Savinkov (1879-1925), the revolutionary terrorist, writer, and political activist who waged wars against the tsar, Lenin, and the Bolsheviks. He led an amazing life, with twists and turns that would seem implausible if invented by a novelist. Winston Churchill, who knew and admired Savinkov, included an essay about him in his book Great Contemporaries, where he said: “when all is said and done . . . few men tried more, gave more, dared more and suffered more for the Russian people.” Another Englishman, the eminent writer W. Somerset Maugham, admitted: “I think Boris Savinkov the most extraordinary man I have ever met.” In the eyes of the GPU, the Soviet political police in the 1920s, Savinkov was so dangerous that no effort was spared to neutralize him. And what they did to capture him in 1924 is still something of which the current descendants of the GPU are extremely proud.