Alan Furst is an American historical spy novelist, widely recognized as the master of historical spy novel. He was born and raised in New York, the Upper West Side of Manhattan on February 20, 1941 to a Jewish family. Due to the striking similarity in his works, he had been considered as the heir of Eric Amber and Graham Green by whom he was deeply influenced. In addition to Arthur Koestler and Joseph Roth.
He attended the Horace Mann School, then the Oberlin College in Ohio where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in English in 1962. He then became a New York taxi driver after his graduation and wrote poetry during his spare time until he found, eventually, work as an English teaching assistant at the University of Pennsylvania State where he received his Master of Arts degree in 1967. He met the anthropologist Margaret Mead as he used to take courses at Colombia’s General Studies School, and for whom he worked as an assistant for a short time. In 1969, he was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to teach at the University of Montpellier in France. He then moved back to the United Stated in order to work in Seattle for the Art Commission but ended up returning frequently to Paris where he was soaked in this city and it became a central theme in most of his novels.
Furst worked as a writer in the field of advertisement and was assigned to write magazine freelance articles for Esquire and the International Herald Tribune before becoming a full-time novelist.
The novels of Alan Furst are translated in 17 languages around the world. He is also the author of many best-sellers: Night Soldiers, The Polish Officer, Kingdom of Shadows, The World at Night, Dark Star, The Spies of Warsaw and many others. Today he lives in an old house on long Island.
Max Stockman, Furst’s grandfather was the one who urged his grandson and advised him to become a teacher and write in his spare time. This advice appears in a letter written by Max Stockman in 1963 which is included within Furst’s papers at the University of Texas at Austin. The same collection includes other articles on different topics and published in different magazines including “Elle”, “Esquire”, “Architectural Digest”, “Islands”, “International Herald Tribune”, “50 Plus”, “New Choices” and others, which means that Alan Furst used to write in his early days whatever he had been offered to write.
The collection also witnesses to the fact that Furst started his career as an ad writer for agencies and a freelancer hired by different directors who liked his first novel “Your Day in the Barrel”, a comic mystery published in 1976, telling the story of Roger Levin the drug dealer who accepts to cooperate with the police of Pennsylvania in exchange for his freedom after being stopped possessing drugs. Furst had been inspired in writing this novel by Tom Robbins, known for his counter-cultural writing style.
Three other novels followed “Your Day in the Barrel” : “The Paris Drop”, “The Caribbean Account”, and “Shadow Trade”, written during the period from 1976 to 1983 but had very limited success. Then he moved full-time to Paris, and lived there for seven years, during which he wrote his first historical espionage story “Night Soldiers” published by Houghton Mifflin in 1988. This novel out stood his previous ones, and revitalized his entire career and led to a succession of other related titles consisting of a dozen works with apparent evocation of people and places in the Eastern Europe during the Second World War. Notable examples of such works are “The World at the Night” and “Red Gold” which, on the contrary of his other works, seem to share some common plots. In addition to other novels such as: “Kingdom of Shadows”, published in 2000, “Spies of the Balkans” published in 2010, and his most recent work “Midnight in Europe” in 2014.
He received the Helmerich Award from the Tulsa Library Trust in Oklahoma for his distinguished body of work in 2011.
The World at Night:
The fourth book of Alan Furst’s “Night Soldiers” series, with the events starting in May 1940:
Jean Casson is a French successful gangster movie producer who suddenly finds himself struggling to make a decision between his luxurious life of happy civilized world, and fighting against the Germans who invaded his country during the Second World War.
When the Germans start arresting his friends and associates, he finally decides to help the others to escape or hide. He then finds himself taking part in British secret operation that eventually goes wrong, and Casson realizes that he must risk everything: his career, Citrin the actress he loved, and even his own life in the process. He will simply have to face the fact that he has changed from a pacific non political movie producer into a spying militant.
The fifth book of Alan Furst’s “Night Soldiers” series, with the events starting in September 1941:
Jean Casson reappears, hiding under the fake name “Jean Marin”. He joins the Red Gold, the French resistant armed organization. Meanwhile, German forces start moving toward Moscow, and Stalin has ordered all partisan operatives to strike behind the enemy lines.
From the depths of the occupied France, the Red Gold starts moving as a menacing predator using Parisian underworld assassins, spies, lawyers and arm dealers with no reservation whatsoever. And Casson finds himself caught into a life threatening situation transferring weapons in order to combat the French skeptic Communists on one hand, and to make a living on the other hand.
The events of this novel stop in April 1942, leaving room for more events to come, and promising more episodes of the “Night Soldiers” series.
Cinematic interpretation of Alan Furst’s works:
Alan Furst’s novel “The Spies of Warsaw”, published in 2008.is about the competition for control over Poland between the major nations before the Second World War. It had been adapted into a mini-series TV show “Spies of Warsaw” by a co-production of BBC America, BBC Four, ARTE, and TVP1 and realized by Coky Giedroyc consisting of two episodes that had been diffused on January 9 and January 16, 2013 on BBC Four. Starring David Tennant as Jean-François Mercier, the protagonist colonel, and Janet Montgomery as his love Anna Skarbek. The mini-series received a good positive feedback in the United Kingdom for its script and for the acting.
Books in order of publication by series:
Night Soldiers Books
|The Polish Officer||(1995)|
|The World at Night||(1996)|
|Kingdom of Shadows||(2000)|
|Blood of Victory||(2002)|
|The Foreign Correspondent||(2006)|
|The Spies of Warsaw||(2008)|
|Spies of the Balkans||(2010)|
|Mission to Paris||(2012)|
|Midnight in Europe||(2014)|
|A Hero of France||(2016)|
|Your Day in the Barrel||(1976)|
|The Paris Drop||(1980)|
|Midnight in Europe||(2014)|
|The Book of Spies: An Anthology of Literary Espionage||(2002)|