Clues to My Crime: Rob Hart’s THE WOMAN FROM PRAGUE

Mystery Month 2017In “The Clues to My Crime,” authors explain the influences behind their latest works of crime fiction. In this installment, Rob Hart tells us about what inspired The Woman from Prague, his latest Ash McKenna spy thriller, due July 11 from Polis Books. 




Six Days of the Condor, by James Grady (1974)

A CIA operative in the research division—codename: Condor—goes on the run after he comes back from lunch to find his colleagues slaughtered. It’s a classic for a reason. This is the book that planted the bug and made me want to write an espionage-style thriller.


Rogue Male, by Geoffrey Household (1939)

A British sportsman, looking for a challenge, tries to get an unnamed European dictator (Hitler) in the sights of his rifle. He’s captured, tortured, and left for dead, then ends up on the run from the dictator’s agents. So good, with a heartbreaking twist.


The Shanghai Factor, by Charles McCarry (2014)

This is like reading a really intense, very gripping textbook on spycraft. And since McCarry is a former CIA agent, you know it’s legit.


The Cold War Swap, by Ross Thomas (1966)

The first book to feature Mac McCorkle, an Army special-operations officer turned pub owner, and Michael Padillo, a mysterious spy and hitman. Thomas writes espionage fiction with a hardboiled flair. The patter between McCorkle and Padillo is worth the price of entry alone.


A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True, by Brigid Pasulka (2009)

Part of The Woman from Prague takes place in Kraków, and this is a really lovely novel set there—part fairy tale, part modern-day.


Hopscotch, by Brian Garfield (1975)

An aging CIA agent, facing a forced retirement, decides to write a tell-all memoir about his time in the agency, mailing chapters to various government agencies around the world. Essentially, he’s annoyed at the CIA, and he’s screwing with them, and it’s delightful.


The Trial, by Franz Kafka (1925)

Besides Kafka’s status as a famous Prague writer, The Trial is about a man arrested by a mysterious force and trapped in a byzantine justice system, which almost makes it a precursor for the espionage genre.



Ronin (1998)

I will watch anything with Jean Reno, but also, it’s just a really great spy movie. And it features some of the best car chases ever put to film.


Mission: Impossible (1996)

Again: Jean Reno. I loved this movie as a kid—I came close to wearing out my VHS copy (and that’s not just because I had a crush on Emmanuelle Béart).

Jean Reno (and some other guy) on the set of Mission: Impossible


Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)

So ridiculous, so fun. It takes everything great about spy movies and turns the dial up to 11.


Spy (2015)

A little like Kingsman, with less violence and more laughs. Jason Statham’s blowhard spy is a gem. “I drove a car off a freeway, on top of a train, while I was on fire. Not the car. *I* was on fire.”



Circus Problem

This is a band I stumbled across one night playing at a warehouse in Prague. I listened to their music a lot while writing The Woman from Prague—in part because it sparked great memories of the city, but also, it’s got this frantic klezmer punk sound, and I wanted to get that energy into the writing.


99 Luftballoons,” by Nena

One of my most favorite songs ever, which I’m happy to say serves a very important role in the book.


Rob Hart is the author of The Woman from Prague (July 11, 2017; Polis Books), as well as City of Rose, South Village, and New Yorked, which was nominated for an Anthony Award for Best First Novel. His short stories have appeared in Thuglit, Needle, Joyland, Helix Literary Magazine, and other publications. Non-fiction has been featured at The Daily Beast, Salon, The Literary Hub, and Electric Literature. Scott Free, a novella he co-wrote will James Patterson, will be available in 2017. You can find him online at @robwhart and



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