Chernyonok, Mikhail Yakovlevich. Destined to become the "Siberian Simenon", one of the leading writers of detective fiction in the Soviet Union, Mikhail Chernyonok was born in 1931 in Siberia. He studied at and graduated from the Novosibirsk River Transport Technicum, after which he worked on ships up and down the Ob River for nearly twenty years as a navigator, then an inspector responsible for monitoring safety of ships and investigating accidents..
He began his writing career not with prose, but with reporting and observations, which were published in the oblast newspaper Krasnoye Znamye.
Needing help in caring for his two young children, Chernyonok moved to Tolguchin, east of Novosibirsk on the Inya River, where his parents and older sister were living. There he quickly found a job on the raion newspaper. And it was here, too, that he began his association with a life of crime, becoming a people's court chairman and penning his first documentary detective story Sledskviem Ustavleno ("Proven by Investigation"). This story, serialized in the local newspaper, was an immediate hit. The literary journal Sibirskiye Ogni reprinted the tale and hired Chernyonok for its staff.
Chernyonok continued to produce other works ("Kukherterin Diamonds" and "Under Mysterious Circumstances"), but still money was tight for him, his wife, and four children. Besides writing, Chernyonok helped out in the family garden, the produce of which helped augment the family income. But things improved vastly with the publication of Stavka Na Proigrysh ("Losing Bet"), published in Siberskiye Ogni in 1979. The proceeds from this novel of fraud, illegal speculation, icon forging and murder enabled Chernyonok to buy himself a Zhiguli car, which we was still driving as late as 2001. Also, he was made a member of the Writers' Union Artistic Council for Detective and Science Fiction Literature.
Chernyonok's style is in the tradition of the classic, "old-fashioned" detective or mystery fiction, focusing on intellectual challenges and puzzles and making sure that Soviet justice always prevails. As Chernyonok himself expresses it:
I want crime to be followed by punishment, so that people don't lose their faith in the triumph of justice, in the supremacy of moral laws over immorality.Chernyonok is displeased with the direction Russian detective fiction has taken in post-Soviet times. He feels that there has been an extinguishing of energy, feeling, and emotion. Further, he says:
The majority of contemporary detective stories seem to me mechanical--although nowadays it's hard to find this ancient genre in its pure form. Basically, they write action books in which mountains of corpses pile up; but the mystery, and the unraveling of the mystery--that which makes the readers think, which impels them to creative thought--is absent.Chernyonok has written a total of 21 novels, including Fartoviye Babocki ("Lucky Butterflies"), Devushka Ishchet Sponsora ("Girl in Search of a Sponsor"), Killeri Ne Stareiut ("Killers Don't Grow Old"), and Taina Starogo Kolodtsa ("Secret of the Old Well"). A ten-volume collection of his works was issued in 2000 by Mangazeya Publishers. And now, Chernyonok has decided to put his pen to rest and spend his time fishing and catching up on his reading, particularly Chekhov and another Siberian author who sometimes wrote about criminals--Vasily Shukshin.
Although Chernyonok has enjoyed a good life because of crime fiction, he notes:
Oh, if only you knew how happy I'd be if life no longer provided a basis for the creation of detective fiction.
Irina Ulyanina in Golos