The 1930s was a funny time. People knew they might not live for another six months, so if they were attracted to one another, there was no time to dawdle.
Moscow had this incredible, intense atmosphere of intrigue and darkness and secrecy.
I love the gray areas, but I like the gray areas as considered by bright, educated, courageous people.
I had the experience of a monk copying documents, applying myself assiduously to my work. And I thought whatever happened, happened - this is just what I do in my life.
I never got any training in how to write novels as an English major at Oberlin, but I got some great training for writing novels from anthropology and from Margaret Mead.
Yes, I'm a reasonably good self-taught historian of the 1930s and '40s. I've never wanted to write about another time or place. I wouldn't know what to say about contemporary society.
If you read the history of the national Socialist party, they're all people who felt like life should have been better to them. They're disappointed, vengeful, angry.
I've never lived in Eastern Europe, although both my wife and I have ancestors in Poland and Russia - but I can see the scenes I create.
Le Carre's voice - patrician, cold, brilliant and amused - was perfect for the wilderness-of-mirrors undertow of the Cold War, and George Smiley is the all-time harassed bureaucrat of spy fiction.
I am there to entertain. I call my work high escape fiction; it's high, it's good - but it's escape, and I have no delusions about that. I have no ambition to be a serious writer, whatever that means.
I wrote three mysteries and then a contemporary spy novel that was unbelievably derivative - completely based on 'The Conversation,' the movie with Gene Hackman. Amazingly, the character in the book looks exactly like... Gene Hackman.
When I read period material - and it ain't on Google - I am always alert for that one incredible detail. I'll read a whole book and get three words out of it, but they'll be three really good words.
My grandmother, whom I adored, and who partly raised me, loved Liberace, and she watched Liberace every afternoon, and when she watched Liberace, she'd get dressed up and put on makeup because I think she thought if she could see Liberace, Liberace could see her.
Struggling writers are often advised to pick a simple genre, but it doesn't work that way.
Robert Ludlum, all of them, write the absolute best they can. You can't tone it down. You just do what you do, and if it comes out literary, so be it.