Alan Furst has written 15 novels to date in his Night Soldiers series, which he began writing late in the 1980s when he was nearly 50 years of age. While attending general studies courses at Columbia University, he became acquainted with Margaret Mead, for whom he later worked. Before becoming a full-time novelist, Furst worked in advertising and wrote magazine articles, most notably for Esquire, and as a columnist for the International Herald Tribune.
Books in the Night Soldiers series I read long ago
Night Soldiers (1988)—”Bulgaria, 1934. A young man is murdered by the local fascists. His brother, Khristo Stoianev, is recruited into the NKVD, the Soviet secret intelligence service, and sent to Spain to serve in its civil war. Warned that he is about to become a victim of Stalin’s purges, Khristo flees to Paris.” (Amazon)
Dark Star (1991)—”Paris, Moscow, Berlin, and Prague, 1937. In the back alleys of nighttime Europe, war is already under way. André Szara, survivor of the Polish pogroms and the Russian civil wars and a foreign correspondent for Pravda, is co-opted by the NKVD, the Soviet secret intelligence service, and becomes a full-time spymaster in Paris.” (Amazon)
The Polish Officer (1995)—”September 1939. As Warsaw falls to Hitler’s Wehrmacht, Captain Alexander de Milja is recruited by the intelligence service of the Polish underground. His mission: to transport the national gold reserve to safety, hidden on a refugee train to Bucharest.” (Amazon)
The World at Night (1996)—”Paris, 1940. The civilized, upper-class life of film producer Jean Casson is derailed by the German occupation of Paris, but Casson learns that with enough money, compromise, and connections, one need not deny oneself the pleasures of Parisian life. Somewhere inside Casson, though, is a stubborn romantic streak. When he’s offered the chance to take part in an operation of the British secret service, this idealism gives him the courage to say yes.” (Amazon)
The Spies of Warsaw (2008)—”War is coming to Europe. French and German intelligence operatives are locked in a life-and-death struggle on the espionage battlefield. At the French embassy, the new military attaché, Colonel Jean-Francois Mercier, a decorated hero of the 1914 war, is drawn into a world of abduction, betrayal, and intrigue in the diplomatic salons and back alleys of Warsaw.” (Amazon)
Novels in the Night Soldiers series I’ve reviewed here
Red Gold (1999)—A brilliant novel of the French Resistance
Alan Furst’s mastery of the moods and the political environment in Europe before and during the Second World War is unexcelled, and the flawed, believable characters he writes about cause him to be regularly compared to Graham Greene and Eric Ambler. Read the review.
Kingdom of Shadows (2000)—From Alan Furst, one of the best spy novels of recent years
Count Janos Polanyi, is a senior diplomat in the Hungarian mission to France who is engaged in organizing the resistance to Hitler in Eastern Europe. World War II hasn’t yet started in earnest, but Polanyi sees the future with clarity. He presses his nephew into taking on a dangerous mission in Budapest . . . and the trouble begins. Read the review.
Blood of Victory (2003)—Alan Furst: spies at work in WWII Istanbul and Rumania
A Russian émigré writer named I. A. (Ilya) Serebin is drawn into an ambitious British plot to deny Nazi Germany the oil (“the blood of victory”) that flows from the Rumanian oilfields at Ploesti, one of the keystones of Hitler’s strategy. Read the review.
Dark Voyage (2004)—A gripping spy story set on a ocean freighter in World War II
Eric DeHaan had always wanted to join the Royal Dutch Navy. Captaining a tramp freighter was a poor substitute. But he gets his wish when the owner of the Netherlands Hyperion Line consents to help the British. Under the command of MI6, he undertakes a series of secret missions that take him and his motley crew from one port after another throughout the European and North African theaters of the war. Read the review.
The Foreign Correspondent (2006)—A superb historical espionage novel
The Foreign Correspondent opens late in the summer of 1939, shortly before Hitler’s invasion of Poland. The action revolves around a small group of Italian antifascist emigrés in Paris who publish an occasional clandestine newspaper named Liberazione. Read the review.
Spies of the Balkans (2010)—Alan Furst’s outstanding novel, “Spies of the Balkans”
Costa Zannis is a senior police official in Salonika in 1940-41 as Hitler’s war machine lurches south toward Greece. Heir apparent to the police commissioner, Zannis becomes caught up in the characteristically Byzantine political affairs of the Balkans while juggling overlapping love affairs with two extraordinary women. Read the review.
Mission to Paris (2012)—At the dawn of World War II, a Hollywood film star in an espionage novel
An Austrian-born Hollywood film star becomes increasingly attracted to the German emigre seamstress who creates the costumes for the movie he is starring in for Paramount Pictures. Meanwhile, the resolutely anti-Nazi Stahl finds himself targeted by Nazi operatives intent on enmeshing him in their propaganda machine. Read the review.
Midnight in Europe (2014)—Arms merchants and spies in a thriller set during the Spanish Civil War
Cristian Ferrar, a brilliant Spanish lawyer working for an American law firm’s Paris office, is drawn into the intrigue surrounding the Spanish Civil War. Ferrar, called to patriotism by the Republic’s agents in Paris, joins a shadowy cast of arms merchants to procure guns and ammunition for the Republican armies. Read the review.
A Hero of France (2016)—Alan Furst’s “A Hero of France”: Vive la Resistance!
In the most recently published book in the Night Soldiers series, a Parisian businessman coordinates a cell in the French Resistance. He and his colleagues, including two young aristocratic women, help dozens of British and Allied airmen shot down over France or Belgium to make their way to refuge in Spain. Read the review.
Under Occupation (2019)—Alan Furst on the French Resistance
Writer Paul Ricard, a successful author of novels about detectives and spies, has no plans to join the Resistance despite his hatred of Nazis. Sheer chance draws him into the war. As he walks down the street, a Polish spy fleeing from the police is shot and collides with him; as he lies dying, he thrusts a document into Ricard’s pocket. And that document — a schematic of the detonator on a new Nazi torpedo — proves to be of huge interest to the SOE. Soon, Ricard and his friend Kasia, a Polish-speaking Hungarian, enlist for a mission into Germany to establish a conduit for more information about the Nazis’s U-Boat operations.
For additional reading
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