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Alan Furst

  • American author
  • Born February 20, 1941

Alan Furst (; born February 20, 1941) is an American author of historical spy novels. Furst has been called "an heir to the tradition of Eric Ambler and Graham Greene," whom he cites along with Joseph Roth and Arthur Koestler as important influences. Most of his novels since 1988 have been set just prior to or during the Second World War and he is noted for his successful evocations of Eastern European peoples and places during the period from 1933 to 1944.


Venice has always fascinated me. Every country in Europe then was run by kings and the Vatican except Venice, which was basically run by councils. I've always wondered why.




Romantic love, or sex, is the only good thing in a life that is being lived in a dark way.




I have a very serious censorship office inside my head; it censors things that I could tell you that you would never forget, and I don't want to be the person to stick that in your brain.




A book must have moral purpose to be any good. Why, I don't know.




When you move a border, suddenly life changes violently. I write about nationality.




Fast-paced from start to finish, 'The Honourable Schoolboy' is fired by le Carre's conviction regarding evil done and its consequences.




Struggling writers are often advised to pick a simple genre, but it doesn't work that way.




Spy novels are traditionally about lone wolves, but how many people actually live like that?




It takes me three months of research and nine months of work to produce a book. When I start writing, I do two pages a day; if I'm gonna do 320, that's 160 days.




For me, Anthony Powell is a religion. I read 'A Dance to the Music of Time' every few years.




I started out when I was 29 - too young to write novels. I was broke. I was on unemployment insurance. I was supposed to be writing a Ph.D. dissertation, so I had a typewriter and a lot of paper.




I love Paris for the million reasons that everybody loves the city. It's an incredibly romantic and beautiful place.




The only way you can handle big kinds of questions is to simply state briefly what the truth was. What am I going to tell you about the Holocaust? Would you like three pages about it? I don't think you would... I don't think anything different than you think - it was horrible.




People know accuracy when they read it; they can feel it.




In the 1930s, there were so many different conflicts going on between the British, the French, the Russians, the Germans, the Spaniards, the Romanians and so on.




The brutalization of humans by other humans never fails to get to me in some angry-making way. It shot up in me like an explosion.




Poland is a wildly dramatic and tragic story. It's just unbelievable what went on with those people. How they survive, I don't really know. The Germans had a particular hatred for the Poles; they really considered them subhuman Slavs, and they were very brutal to them.




If I'm a genre writer, I'm at the edge. In the end, they do work like genre fiction. You have a hero, there's a love interest, there's always a chase, there's fighting of some kind. You don't have to do that in a novel. But you do in a genre novel.




I could not spend the rest of my life sitting in Brazil writing down who called whom uncle and aunt.




I would have loved to have another 10 Eric Ambler books.




You could be a victim, you could be a hero, you could be a villain, or you could be a fugitive. But you could not just stand by. If you were in Europe between 1933 and 1945, you had to be something.




If you read the history of the national Socialist party, they're all people who felt like life should have been better to them. They're disappointed, vengeful, angry.




I don't inflict horrors on readers. In my research, I've uncovered truly terrible documentations of cruelty and torture, but I leave that offstage. I always pull back and let the reader imagine the details. We all know to one degree or another the horrors of war.




If you're a writer, you're always working.




I look for the dark story, where something secret was done. I read and read and pick up the trail of a true story. I use nothing but true stories. They are so much better than phony ones.




For something that's supposed to be secret, there is a lot of intelligence history. Every time I read one book, two more are published.




I've always liked lost, old New York.




For John le Carre, it was always who's betraying who: the hall-of-mirrors kind of thing. When you go back to the '30s, it's a case of good vs. evil, and no kidding. When I have a hero who believes France and Britain are on the right side, a reader is not going to question that.




I don't work Sunday any more... The Sabbath is a very reasonable idea. Otherwise, you work yourself to death.




Let me put it this way: I don't plan to retire. What would I do, become a brain surgeon? I mean, a brain surgeon can retire and write novels, but a novelist can't retire and do brain surgery - or at least he better not.




I am there to entertain. I call my work high escape fiction; it's high, it's good - but it's escape, and I have no delusions about that. I have no ambition to be a serious writer, whatever that means.




When I read period material - and it ain't on Google - I am always alert for that one incredible detail. I'll read a whole book and get three words out of it, but they'll be three really good words.




I love the gray areas, but I like the gray areas as considered by bright, educated, courageous people.




The best Paris I know now is in my head.




You have to have heart's passion to write a novel.




I'm not really a mass market writer.



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