A popular mystery author, he is most recognized for his novels featuring Russian investigator Arkady Renko. He is also known for his 1977 novel, Nightwing, which was later adapted into a feature film.
He attended the University of Pennsylvania in the early 1960s, graduating with a degree in creative writing. In the mid-1960s, he began working as a journalist; he published his first literary work, The Indians Won, in 1970.
Canto for a Gypsy, his first mystery novel, was nominated for an Edgar Award in 1973.
He was born in Pennsylvania to a family of mixed Spanish, Senuca del Sur, Yaqui, and Pueblo ancestry. Born Martin William Smith, he wrote under several pen names, including Martin Cruz Smith, Nick Carter, Martin Quinn, and Jake Logan.
He and fellow novelist Stuart Gibbs both studied at the University of Pennsylvania.