On Tuesday night, June the 24th, at the Barnes & Noble on 66th, I attended a reading by Alan Furst, the writer some of the best espionage novels of modern times. I recently had the opportunity to read his newest book, The Spies of Warsaw, as part of a freelance evaluation. I’d been aware of his novels as a former book club editor, but this newest one was actually the first that I read.
All of Alan Furst's novels take place on the eve of World War II, that dangerous time as plans were hatched and mistrust was everywhere, especially in Europe. The author spoke about being obsessed with that time period and mentioned how his fascination only grows with age. When asked if he'd consider writing about another moment in time he simply said he wasn't interested.
He read a few pages from the new novel, from the opening chapter, and they poetically rolled off his tongue. It had been a while since I've been to a reading, and I always like listening to authors read from their own work. They know how it should sound, and when I've read the work, I try to remember if that's how it sounded to me. Did I miss something? Was I on track?
I was enthralled with this novel from the onset. I never thought I’d care so much what happens to a French military attaché in Poland – but I was wrong. He makes you care. He paints such a vivid picture of the tension, the people, and the critical events on the eve of war. And not just any war, but the big one. My interest in WW II has only grown over the years, especially after my time running the Military Book Club, and this book brought me back, had me thinking about things like the Ardennes.
The book also contained romantic entanglements amid the pressures of the spy world. Dangerous games were played amid even more dangerous games. I found myself almost longing for that world. And not to mention I thought Colonel Jean- François Mercier was the man. He came from a line of men that served their country without a thought. Old school. Bad ass, but with style.
I’ve laid out your mission before you. You must choose. I know what I must do. I have to go back and pick up all of Furst’s backlist. One by one. Pick them off like a good sniper. Savoring each kill. It's the joy of discovering a new writer. Well, a writer who is new to me anyway.
He was a perfect gentleman by the way. He greeted me warmly although I was far back in line to get a signature when it was finally my turn. And as he signed my book we had a bit of conversation before I was off. Bravo. Next mission.