Alan Furst is one of the best spy novelists of this or any era, and anyone skeptical of that assertion should immediately read his brand new novel, The Spies of Warsaw.Read the full interview.
All of Furst’s novels take place in the days just before or just after the start of World War II; this one is the story of a French military officer stationed n Warsaw who has an interest in German tank construction and tactics. The novel’s plot is lively enough, but plot is seldom the main point of Furst’s stories. They are more about character, mood, atmosphere—a way of life that knows it is about to be obliterated by the gathering storm. Furst is a wonderful writer—his descriptions of small gestures, his observations of small moments, are specific and illuminating. We’re grateful that he took the time to answer some questions. (For more info, check out his website.)
PLAYBOY: All of your novels take place in Middle and Western Europe in the late thirties and early forties. How did you decide to focus on this period, and why does it speak to you? Do you never wish to write about, say, two Korean stewardesses on a bikini vacation in Rio in 1976?
FURST: The mid-century years saw a desperate conflict between tyranny--Hitler's Germany, and Stalin's Russia--and freedom; Great Britain and France. This was an epic struggle, which saw the Soviet purges, the murder of Jews, the Spanish civil war, and the occupation of Europe. Those who stood against it were heroic, and often enough doomed. So this was a tragic and romantic period at the same time. This is very magnetic for a novelist, and, for a novelist who writes spy novels--or novels about spies--the fact that the intelligence services of all the countries in Europe fought each other, in the salons and the back alleys, even more so.
Visit Alan Furst's website.
The Page 99 Test: The Foreign Correspondent.
Writers Read: Alan Furst