Alan S. Cowell

Alan S. Cowell
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Alan S. Cowell is an author, correspondent and, currently, obituarist for The New York Times. He wrote The Terminal Spy a definitive account of the life and death of Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB officer poisoned in London with radioactive polonium in 2006. His most recent works have been fictional – a political thriller entitled Permanent Removal set in Nelson Mandela’s South Africa, and Cat Flap, a novel of feline whimsy set in COVID London. Both are written from first-hand knowledge.

As a foreign correspondent, Cowell was based for Reuters in Germany, Turkey, Lebanon, Zambia and Zimbabwe. From a guerrilla encampment in Matabeleland, he became the last Reuters correspondent known to have sent dispatches by carrier pigeon. For The New York Times, he was based in various countries in Africa, the Middle East and Europe. He was expelled from South Africa by the apartheid authorities for reporting on the protests leading to Mandela’s release. His work also earned him a prestigious George Polk Award. In Paris, Cowell headed a digital unit that helped pioneer The New York Times’ shift from mainly print to predominantly web-based news. His experiences as a war correspondent in Lebanon and Southern Africa inspired two earlier novels, A Walking Guide and The Paris Correspondent. Both explored the collision of intense passion and the unwonted encroachment of physical frailty.  

As an obituarist, he contributed to a series of articles concerning the lives of notable people whose demise went initially unrecorded in The New York Times, notably Roberta Cowell, a British racing driver, Spitfire pilot, and trailblazer in gender reassignment (to whom he is not related) and Alan Turing, the highly-acclaimed cryptologist and computer scientist. 

His cat, Cohli, is a rag-doll.



A Walking Guide (2003)

The Paris Correspondent (2011)

Permanent Removal (2016)

Cat Flap (2018)



Killing the Wizards (1992)

The Terminal Spy (2008)

Titles from Alan S. Cowell