I had never heard of Alan Furst until a couple of months ago, when I read an article about him in the Claremont Review of Books. This is not surprising, since I read almost no contemporary fiction, but Furst is a phenomenon. His six -volume espionage series, including Night Soldiers, Dark Star, The Polish Officer, The World At Night, Red Gold, Kingdom of Shadows and Blood of Victory, has been both widely read and widely praised.
Furst’s books take place in the late 30’s and early 40’s, before and during World War II. His heroes–a French film producer, a Bulgarian aristocrat, a reporter for Pravda, a Polish military officer–are men who are drawn into the murky and dangerous world of espionage. It is a world to which Furst’s characters are generally not well-suited–who would be?–but in which they feel compelled to do their best. Furst’s prose is lean and gritty, his historical knowledge is exact. The political and military action is punctuated rather frequently by sexual encounters.
Furst seems to be popular with conservatives. Of course, history in general is popular with conservatives, and he is a historical novelist, not a thriller writer. Beyond that, while Furst’s underground world is murky, it is not morally ambiguous, as le Carre’s world, for example, sometimes was. While Furst’s heroes often have difficulty puzzling out the right course, their doubt is tactical, not moral.
If you haven’t already made Furst’s acquaintance, you should check him out. The cover below is the paperback edition of Kingdom of Shadows
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