A Master Burglar’s Rip-Roaring Heist

Michael Grant’s alter-ego thrills readers in An Artful Assassin in Amsterdam.

Michael Grant’s alter-ego thrills readers in An Artful Assassin
in Amsterdam

In his youth, author Michael Grant pulled off a pair of burglaries. Later, he was called the “evil genius of YA fiction.” Grant combines his genius for burglary and storytelling in the new adult thriller An Artful Assassin in Amsterdam. Protagonist David Mitre, like his creator, is a burglar, a fugitive, and an author. In his second action-adventure, David Mitre turns the Dutch capital into a battleground for his own brilliant caper. Michael Grant spoke to Library Journal about bringing his alter-ego to life.

How did you leave your outlaw life behind to become an author?

First, in my defense, it was burglary of two restaurants. I didn’t creep people’s homes. I have standards. I spent eleven days in jail, not prison. Indeed, after twenty-two years on the run, I managed to clear everything up. A decade after I’d jumped bail, my wife announced that we should get careers. I asked: what career?  She said, ‘We should write.’ So we did.

What is the best burglary story you can tell Library Journal?

The second job I pulled required prying open a roof access, then crawling through the minimal space. But my way was blocked by 2x4’s so I had to leave, drive to a DIY store, get a saw, come back and saw through. Bear in mind this was a 24-hour restaurant. The next day the dishwashers said they thought they’d heard rats. The funniest bit was being arraigned. I was in the obligatory orange onesie, cuffed and shackled, and the judge peered down at me and said, ‘So, this is the master criminal with the all-girl gang.’

David is a free-spirited, quick-witted rogue. Is there still a place for, in your words, “bad boys who’d only break your heart?” Is he too 20th Century for today’s readers?

Mitre isn’t a #MeToo sort of bad boy. He would never so much as touch a woman’s shoulder without permission. (Nor would I.) Steal their money, sure, but he would never impose himself on a woman. He’s never motivated by a desire to hurt anyone, he just wants your jewels. Your credit data. Any loose cash you have lying around.  And it quickly becomes clear that the great mistake of his life—other than the whole crime thing—was not staying with one particular woman.

The story Mitre tells of a girl in a window is literally true. I was coming home to my apartment in Austin, Texas, about two months after jumping bail, and saw a girl in a window. In the closest thing to a mystical experience I have ever experienced, I knew I had to meet her. I concocted a pretext and knocked on her door. We went for a drink and twenty-four hours later we were living together. We just had our 40th anniversary this last July. 

That’s actually the underlying premise of the Mitre books: what would have become of me if I’d gotten that wrong. But for once in my idiotic life, I got it right. To this day I can’t quite believe that I found love at first sight and didn’t manage to screw it up. Forty years later, I still get the shakes thinking how close I was to not nerving myself up to knock on her door. You know the phrase ‘self-made man?’ I’m a wife-made man. Everything good in my life came from a chance upward glance.

You lived in 50 homes in 14 states. Also, you have written 150 books. How are you so productive amid so much flux?

I think it may have helped, actually, because I’ve always been a one-off, never a part of anything, which lets me observe and analyze both characters and stories without feeling I have to protect anything. Our eldest daughter says my life is ‘non-generalizable,’ that in the great Venn diagram of life I’m a tiny circle off toward the edge of the page.

You write, “There is nothing quite like the professional-grade imagination to find the worst possible outcomes to play over and over on the movie screen in your head.” Are you able to leave your imagination at the office?

The short answer is no, that’s always happening. Everything is foreshadowing. Every time I leave the house a part of my brain is narrating, ‘Little did he know that he would never see his home again. But who could have expected a zombie-inducing meteorite?’ I find whiskey helpful in
that regard.

Will David Mitre inspire the next great Hollywood action-adventure franchise? Who will play him in the movie?

Your lips to God’s ears, as they say. (In this case, the part of God would be played by a Hollywood executive.) Now, if Mitre looked like me, the role would have to be played by JK Simmons. But as my alter ego I’d be happy to have him played by Ryan Gosling or Ryan Reynolds. In any event a Ryan.   



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