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Dark Star


Dark Star Cover

ISBN13: 9780375759994
ISBN10: 0375759999
Condition: Standard
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Author Q & A

Alan Furst describes the area of his interest as "near history." His novels are set between 1933 — the date of Adolf Hitler?s ascent, with the first Stalinist purges in Moscow coming a year later — and 1945, which saw the end of the war in Europe. The history of this period is well documented. Furst uses books by journalists of the time, personal memoirs — some privately published — autobiographies (many of the prominent individuals of the period wrote them), war and political histories, and characteristic novels written during those years.

"But," he says, "there is a lot more" — for example, period newsreels, magazines, and newspapers, as well as films and music, especially swing and jazz. "I buy old books," Furst says, "and old maps, and I once bought, while living in Paris, the photo archive of a French stock house that served newspapers of Paris during the Occupation, all the prints marked as cleared by the German censorship." In addition, Furst uses intelligence histories of the time, many of them by British writers.

Alan Furst has lived for long periods in Paris and in the south of France. "In Europe," he says, "the past is still available. I remember a blue neon sign, in the Eleventh Arrondissement in Paris, that had possibly been there since the 1930s." He recalls that on the French holiday le jour des morts (All Saints? Day, November 1) it is customary for Parisians to go to the Père Lachaise Cemetery. "Before the collapse of Polish communism, the Polish émigrés used to gather at the tomb of Maria Walewska. They would burn rows of votive candles and play Chopin on a portable stereo. It was always raining on that day, and a dozen or so Poles would stand there, under black umbrellas, with the music playing, as a kind of silent protest against the communist regime. The spirit of this action was history alive — as though the entire past of that country, conquered again and again, was being brought back to life."

The heroes of Alan Furst?s novels include a Bulgarian defector from the Soviet intelligence service, a foreign correspondent for Pravda, a Polish cartographer who works for the army general staff, a French producer of gangster films, and a Hungarian émigré who works with a diplomat at the Hungarian legation in Paris. "These are characters in novels," Furst says, "but people like them existed; people like them were courageous people with ordinary lives and, when the moment came, they acted with bravery and determination. I simply make it possible for them to tell their stories."

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Edward Hahn, May 20, 2011 (view all comments by Edward Hahn)
Allan Furst is to WWII what John LeCarre is to the Cold War. He is one of, if not, the best practitioners of the "spy novel" as literature.

His main character Andre Szara grew on me until I found myself thinking, "Could I do what he did and maintain my essential self?" I'm still not sure.

The story starts slowly but gathers momentum like one of the trains that Szara rides all over Europe. How Furst manages to capture the essential Russian-ness or German-ness of the characters contributes to the magic of the story. Towards the end, I could not put the book down even at 2:30 AM.

I am sure you will enjoy this novel even if you are not a fan of spy stories.
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nancy b. webb, June 12, 2010 (view all comments by nancy b. webb)
I have discovered Alan Furst this year and am getting a view of history that eluded me with nonfiction accounts of Europe and the pre WWII invasions. Mr. Furst creates a spine tingling tale and history at the same time. This story captures the seas of Europe and their casualties, ordinary merchant vessels that become extraordinary in times of war. I am smitten with the horrors and the mystifying quality of this war of neighbors, as close as Illinois and Missouri, yet different tongues and cultures. Ancient feuds that bring indifference or hate. And yet, the diversity of the crew of the merchant ship, the loyalty to itself as well as to their country and its allies.
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Product Details

Furst, Alan
Random House Trade
Furst, Alan
Historical fiction
Spy stories
General Fiction
Literature-A to Z
Edition Description:
Rh Trade Paperb
Publication Date:
July 9, 2002
Grade Level:
8.04x5.16x.99 in. .76 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Mystery » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Popular Fiction » Contemporary Thrillers
Fiction and Poetry » Popular Fiction » Technothrillers
Humanities » Literary Criticism » General

Dark Star Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$5.50 In Stock
Product details 480 pages Random House Trade - English 9780375759994 Reviews:
"Review" by , "A rich, deeply moving novel of suspense that is equal parts espionage thriller, European history and love story."
"Review" by , "Compelling....An excellent novel of history, betrayal and, most important, survival....While the story offers enough twists and turns to satisfy the most ardent spy fan, author Alan Furst transcends genre. This is a novel with heart."
"Review" by , "This is a rich book, to be savored...for it is a work of an accomplished writer without obtrusively saying so on every other page. Furst has the instincts of the historian — he likes to get his sequences right, he tells a story straight, and he believes that setting matters — and the gifts of the storyteller."
"Review" by , "Kafka, Dostoyevsky, and le Carré sit up all night and talk to each other and this is what you get. It is absolutely wonderful."
"Review" by , "[I]ntelligent, provocative and gripping....Furst depicts the historical, geographic and political context in lucid and highly readable prose....His story is not a pretty one; but it is beautifully and compellingly told."
"Review" by , "Entertaining, exciting, and thought-provoking reading."
"Review" by , "Dark Star never becomes one of those breathless adventures that build fake suspense around schemes to stop Hitler. Plot is less important than Furst's powerful descriptive writing....What carries the book to a level beyond the cynicism of spy novels is its ability to carry us back in time. Nothing can be like watching Casablanca for the first time. But Furst comes closer than anyone has in years."
"Review" by , "A page-churner of the best sort....Brilliant detail and sure sweep....Here is a thriller more deeply satisfying than much of the nonthrilling 'serious fiction' around today."
"Review" by , "[Dark Star] explores the ambiguous moral ground familiar to readers of Graham Greene, Robert Stone, and le Carré....Terrific stuff — poignant, moving, provocative."
"Review" by , "The time-frame of the late 1930s on the Continent was once the special property of Eric Ambler and Graham Greene; Furst has ventured into their fictional territory and brought out a story that is equally original and engaging."
"Review" by , "One of the best spy novels I?ve read in years....The novel is impeccably researched. It?s as much historical fiction as it is spy fiction, and the atmosphere of danger and doom it creates by means of deftly employed historical details is matched only by the vividness of its mostly fictional characters. Dark Star doesn?t merely evoke the period. Because of its engaging plot and appealing hero, it makes you live there, suffer there, and hope."
"Review" by , "Dark Star is as fine an evocation of prewar Europe as anything I?ve ever read. An extremely well written and literate novel that practically creates a new genre: historical espionage."
"Review" by , "Outclasses any spy novel I have ever read."
"Synopsis" by , 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. As deputy director of a Paris network, Szara finds his own star rising when he recruits an agent in Berlin who can supply crucial information. Dark Star captures not only the intrigue and danger of clandestine life but the day-to-day reality of what Soviet operatives call special work.
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