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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Summer Reading Recommendation - Alan Furst's The Spies of Warsaw

I still run out and buy the new John LeCarre as soon as it hits the bookstores, even though nothing he has written since the end of the Cold War has measured up to the George Smiley era.  Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy may be my all-time favorite book, and Smiley's People isn't far behind.  He just was a lot better when his target was intelligence agencies, and not the vast global corporate conspiracy.  I'm hoping that the rise of Russian nationalism under Putin will inspire one last great spy novel from him.  (I tried to send him an e-mail suggesting that, but his website didn't have a working contact link.)

Spies_of_warsaw_2 In the meantime, my "pre-order" author is Alan Furst, who has written a series of ten novels, beginning with Night Soldiers, all of which are set between 1933 and 1945 in Europe, and all of which involve a hero in the secret world.  There is a formula going on here, but it is very, very well done.  One recurring motif is that something always happens in his "Brasserie Heininger" in Paris, which is modeled on the real Bofinger near the Bastille (unmistakably described in the books, if you've been there).

The newest entrant in the series is The Spies of Warsaw, which I just finished.  If you like historical fiction, European cities, espionage stories, and a nice break from whatever else you're doing, I recommend it.

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw on June 12, 2008 at 07:07 AM in Books | Permalink


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As I tell my students, you gotta read the official comments! To paraphrase Kenny Bania (Seinfeld), "That's gold, Jeff! Gold!"

Posted by: Tim Zinnecker | Jun 12, 2008 2:03:28 PM

Tim, if you are familiar with LeCarre, and early LeCarre in particular, you will know that it is a clue I don't mind slow-moving if it's good slow-moving. Probably what Furst and LeCarre have in common is a lot of interior monologue, and much reflection on the life of the spy.

Maybe YOUR beloved UCC, but not mine. I dated Article 9, but it was short, intense, and then it dumped me. Article 2 and I didn't hit it off from day one.

Posted by: Jeff Lipshaw | Jun 12, 2008 1:05:24 PM

Furst's books garner great raves, so I picked one up a few years ago and read it. It failed to win me over as a fan. Maybe I just picked a slow-mover and should try again. Thanks for the suggestion, Jeff. I'll recommend two other authors who have built a series of "thrillers" around a central character: author Stephen White (Boulder psychologist Alan Gregory -- http://www.authorstephenwhite.com/index.html ) and author Daniel Silva (art historian / Israeli secret agent Gabriel Allon -- http://danielsilvabooks.com/index.html ). But Jeff, can anything out there top the beloved UCC for sheer reading enjoyment?

Posted by: Tim Zinnecker | Jun 12, 2008 12:09:52 PM

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