Synopses & Reviews
Autumn 1941: In a shabby hotel off the place Clichy, the course of the war is about to change. German tanks are rolling toward Moscow. Stalin has issued a decree: All partisan operatives are to strike behind enemy lines from Kiev to Brittany. Set in the back streets of Paris and deep in occupied France, Red Gold moves with quiet menace as predators from the dark edge of war arms dealers, lawyers, spies, and assassins emerge from the shadows of the Parisian underworld. In their midst is Jean Casson, once a well-to-do film producer, now a target of the Gestapo living on a few francs a day. As the occupation tightens, Casson is drawn into an ill-fated mission: running guns to combat units of the French Communist Party. Reprisals are brutal. At last the real resistance has begun. Red Gold masterfully re-creates the shadow world of French resistance in the darkest days of World War II.
"This sequel to The World at Night just may be better than its superb predecessor. Certainly, Furst has established himself as a modern master of WWII espionage: not since the doors were still open at Rick's Café Americain has the pungent smoke from Gauloises cigarettes filled a room with such a heady mix of trench-coated intrigue and romance by searchlight....What makes Casson so appealing, and this novel so entertaining, is the way Furst refuses to let his hero off the hook." Booklist (starred and boxed review)
"The surprising delicacy of [Red Gold] lies in portraying how the human spirit refused to be crushed by the oppressive menace of Nazi occupation, not in the cliché mould of heroic resistance, but in the determination of, in this case, communist partisans to wage a little private struggle with the Gaullist resistance against whom they might be pitted in the future. The prose is as meagerly rationed as wartime food, the high political background only hinted at, and the dangers emanating not just from the occupiers but the occupied as well are clearly but subtly expressed." The Economist (UK)
"What the espionage novels of John le Carré were for the Cold War, those of Alan Furst have become for the period that might be called 'the sable decade'....Furst may have no peer in his ability to re-create the atmosphere of the nether world of continental Europe during the war years." St. Louis Post-Dispatch
"From the atmosphere established in his fifth novel's first sentence ("Casson woke in a room in a cheap hotel and smoked his last cigarette") to the knock on the door at the denouement, Furst again proves himself the master of his chosen terrain behind the lines of Nazi occupation in France during WWII....Furst's textured plot exhibiting shifting loyalties and betrayals; lone, often hopeless acts of heroism; and lovers bravely parting makes for spellbinding drama....Furst, who deserves the comparisons he's earned to Graham Greene and Eric Ambler, seems to be settling into a franchise here, rather than reaching for the fire he caught in his third novel, The Polish Officer. Casson's story unfolds convincingly, however, and as it continues here to April of 1942, promises a few more episodes to come from this author's tried and true brand of masterfully detailed espionage." Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"More masterful, richly atmospheric WWII spy fiction sends Furst's despairing, dissolute, but delightfully resourceful film producer Jean Casson on yet another existential errand among the fiends and fanatics of the French Resistance....Despite the occasional history lecture, Furst's intricate exploration of a stylishly lethal war-torn Paris never fails to fascinate. Witty, inventive, distinctively French film-noir espionage, told with the terse brutality and jaundiced romanticism of Chandler and Hammett at their peak." Kirkus Reviews
"Furst proves himself to be a master at capturing the bleak and mean mood of wartime Paris....The ambiance of wartime Paris lingers on after this story is over." Alan Riding, New York Times Book Review
"Nothing can be like watching Casablanca for the first time, but Furst comes closer than anyone has in years." Time
About the Author
Alan Furst is widely recognized as the master of the historical spy novel. He is the author of Night Soldiers, Dark Star, The Polish Officer, The World at Night, and The Kingdom of Shadows. Born in New York, he has lived for long periods in France, especially in Paris. He now lives on Long Island, New York.
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.”