Friday, February 11, 2011

Furst Last Thing: Paris, spies, women, and an education, what more could you want?

What's the secret to surviving the long dark nights of Winter? I'm not sure I know the answer; they seem to be getting harder to survive, but I'm fairly certain good fiction has a role to play. So I thought I would share what I've been reading lately: the Alan Furst Night Soldier novels. And I'm loving every precious minute. I am up to Blood of Victory which is #7 of 11. Here's the current list:
  1. Night Soldiers (1988)
  2. Dark Star (1991)
  3. The Polish Officer (1995)
  4. The World at Night (1996)
  5. Red Gold (1999)
  6. Kingdom of Shadows (2000)
  7. Blood of Victory (2003)
  8. Dark Voyage (2004)
  9. The Foreign Correspondent (2006)
  10. The Spies of Warsaw (2008)
  11. Spies of the Balkans (2010)
Of course, I'm hoping that #12 appears before I finish reading Spies of the Balkans. Bear in mind that these days I only allow myself fiction reading when on vacation and last thing at night (the rest of my reading is centered around my day job plus figuring a way out from under all the crushing financial pressures--so fiction reading time is tight and no, there is no vacation).

Which is why I can so heartily recommend Alan Furst's novels: they are as dependable as heck. Okay, so dependable may not be the first word that comes to mind when you think of great fiction. But to me, dependability is critical. I don't want to be lying there on the warm sandy beach of incoming slumber and get jerked out of my reverie by the cold splash of a clumsy sentence, the rude slap of an awkward description, a broken turn of phrase or shard of erroneous data that breaks my reverie.

Now, I'm all in favor in plot twists or the abrupt presentation of uncomfortable realities, just don't make me have to scratch my head figuring out what you're on about. Furst's genius is to unfold his complex tales of anguish and espionage, amour and zeitgeist, without tying the reader in knots. And given the miliuex of these novels this is no mean feat. For a start, they are not set in English speaking countries. Heck, many of the countries in which they are set don't even exist these days; and as the novels unfold we sometimes learn, or are reminded, why these places are no more.

Although I am a big believer in the instructive power of history, historical fiction has never been my favorite genre, possibly because so few writers get it right. I don't think you can get it more right than Furst. And write now he's the last thing I read before I fall asleep.

No comments: