Throughout City of Thieves, Kolya is working on his novel, The Courtyard Hound, which follows the life of a man named Radchenko. Kolya invents the author Ushakovo so that he can discuss The Courtyard Hound without letting on that he's actually the one writing it. Kolya’s creation of Ushakovo points to one of Kolya's most prominent character traits: he doesn't fear death, but rather fears being embarrassed most of all. Both Ushakovo and Radchenko are based on Kolya. Ushakovo represents the author that Kolya wants to be or be like, as Lev on several occasions draws similarities between Ushakovo and other admired Russian authors (particularly Goncharov and Gogol). The protagonist Radchenko is also a kind of idealized version of what Kolya hopes for himself—grand, wealthy, and loved by many women. Kolya states that he learned his concept of "calculated neglect" from Radchenko, making it reasonable to believe that a lifestyle like Radchenko's is the kind of romanticized and dramatized life that Kolya admires. In this way, Radchenko and The Courtyard Hound offer Kolya an avenue through which to escape the horrors of the war and imagine a very different life for himself.
The Courtyard Hound, Radchenko, and Ushakovo Quotes in City of Thieves
Kolya seemed fearless, but everyone has fear in them somewhere; fear is part of our inheritance... Cannibals and Nazis didn't make Kolya nervous, but the threat of embarrassment did—the possibility that a stranger might laugh at the lines he'd written.