David Benioff

In 1941, the Nazis encircled Leningrad. Over the course of the 900-day seige that followed, nearly 1.5 million residents died from starvation, exposure, and relentless aerial bombings.

Such grim circumstances provide the compelling backdrop for David Benioff’s new novel, City of Thieves, which follows two Russians—a Jewish teenager and a young Soviet soldier—both imprisoned for being at the wrong place at the wrong time. When a high ranking member of Stalin’s secret police summons them to his chamber, they’re issued a challenge: procure a dozen eggs for his daughter’s wedding or face execution. Many trials and tribulations follow.

Benioff is no stranger to action-packed narratives. A few years ago, he adapted his first novel, The 25th Hour, into a film, which was directed by Spike Lee. He’s since written screenplays like Troy and The Kite Runner. He speaks to Nextbook about the difference between writing screenplays and novels, his research in Russia, and what makes a good yarn.

Photo by Amanda Peet.