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.
While attending general studies courses at Columbia University, he became acquainted with Margaret Mead, for whom he later worked. Before becoming a full-time novelist, Furst worked in advertising and wrote magazine articles, most notably for Esquire, and as a columnist for the International Herald Tribune.
Furst's papers were obtained by the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at The University of Texas at Austin. They include a 1963 letter from his grandfather, Max Stockman, which urged Furst to become a teacher and 'write as a sideline' in his spare time. The collection also includes early articles on a wide variety of topics, published in many magazines for which no common denominator can be found, including Architectural Digest, Elle, Esquire, 50 Plus, International Herald Tribune, Islands, New Choices, New York, The New York Times, Pursuits, Salon, and Seattle Weekly.
The Ransom collection remarks: "Of note is the April 1984 Esquire article, 'The Danube Blues,' which sparked Furst's interest in writing espionage novels. Numerous slides of his 1983 Danube trip are also available. Unproduced screenplays include 'Heroes of the Last War' (1984), and 'Warsaw' (1992)."
His early novels (1976–1983) achieved limited success. One item, held in the Ransom collection, includes the manuscript for "One Smart Cookie" (with Debbi Fields, 1987), a commissioned biography of the owner of the Mrs. Fields Cookies company.
The year 1988 saw publication of Night Soldiers — inspired by his 1984 trip to Eastern Europe on assignment for Esquire — which invigorated his career and led to a succession of related titles. His output since 1988 includes a dozen works. 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. He is especially noted for his successful evocations of Eastern Europe peoples and places during the period from 1933 to 1944. While all his historical espionage novels are loosely connected (protagonists in one book might appear as minor characters in another), only The World at Night and Red Gold share a common plot.
Writing in The New York Times, the novelist Justin Cartwright says that Furst, who lives in Sag Harbor, Long Island, "has adopted a European sensibility." Awarded a Fulbright teaching fellowship in 1969, Furst moved to Sommières, France, outside of Montpellier, and taught at the University of Montpellier. He later lived for many years in Paris, a city that he calls "the heart of civilisation" which figures significantly in all his novels.
- Your Day in the Barrel (1976)
- The Paris Drop (1980)
- The Caribbean Account (1981)
- Shadow Trade (1983)
Night Soldiers novels
- Night Soldiers (1988)
- Dark Star (1991)
- The Polish Officer (1995)
- The World at Night (1996)
- Red Gold (1999)
- Kingdom of Shadows (2000)
- Blood of Victory (2003)
- Dark Voyage (2004)
- The Foreign Correspondent (2006)
- The Spies of Warsaw (2008)
- Spies of the Balkans (2010)
- Mission to Paris (2012)
- Midnight in Europe (2014)
- A Hero in France (2016)
Secondary characters who appear in more than one Furst novel include:
- Ilya Goldman, NKVD (Night Soldiers, Dark Star, Kingdom of Shadows, The Foreign Correspondent)
- Ivan Ivanovich Agayants, NKVD (Night Soldiers, Dark Star)
- Colonel Vassily Antipin (Night Soldiers, Red Gold)
- General Bloch, GRU (Night Soldiers, Dark Star)
- Renate Braun, Comintern foreign specialist (Night Soldiers, Dark Star)
- Maltsaev, NKVD (Night Soldiers, Dark Star)
- Voyschinkowsky, The Lion of the Bourse (Night Soldiers, Dark Star, The Polish Officer, Kingdom of Shadows)
- Colonel Anton Vyborg, Polish military intelligence (The Polish Officer, Dark Star, The Spies of Warsaw)
- Count Janos Polanyi (Kingdom of Shadows, Blood of Victory, Dark Star, The Foreign Correspondent, Mission To Paris, Midnight in Europe)
- S. Kolb, British agent (Dark Voyage, The Foreign Correspondent, Spies of the Balkans, briefly in Midnight in Europe)
- Dr. Lapp, Abwehr (Kingdom of Shadows, The Spies of Warsaw; mentioned in Blood of Victory)
- Boris Balki, Russian emigre bartender in Paris (Kingdom of Shadows, Blood of Victory)
- Mark Shublin, Polish painter (Kingdom of Shadows, The Spies of Warsaw)
- Lady Marensohn, American/British agent ("Night Soldiers", "The World at Night")
- Jean Casson, protagonist of The World At Night and Red Gold, is mentioned in Mission To Paris (but does not appear)
- British intelligence operatives in Europe (mainly Paris), such as
- Lady Angela Hope (appears in Night Soldiers and Dark Star; mentioned in Red Gold, The Foreign Correspondent, Kingdom of Shadows, Blood of Victory)
- Roddy Fitzware (Night Soldiers, Dark Star)
- Mr. Brown (Night Soldiers, Blood of Victory, Dark Voyage, The Foreign Correspondent)
- Momo Tsipler & his Wienerwald Companions, a night-club act (Dark Star, Blood of Victory and The Foreign Correspondent)
- Brasserie Heininger, Paris restaurant (every book; inspired by the real-life Bistro Bofinger)
- Charles McGrath (14 June 2008). "Shadowy World of Spies, Created in a Secluded Studio". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 April 2012.
- Alicia Dietrich (31 July 2006). "Ransom Center Acquires Archive of Writer Alan Furst". Harry Ransom Center web site. University of Texas at Austin. Retrieved 12 April 2012.
- Wanda H. Giles; James Richard Giles (2009). "Twenty-first Century American Novelists, Second Series". Dictionary of Literary Biography. Gale Cengage Learning.
- Justin Cartwright (26 April 2010). "Cloak and Swagger". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 April 2012.
- David Harper, "Spy novelist Alan Furst chosen for 2011 Helmerich Award", Tulsa World, March 6, 2011.
- McLaughlin, John. Personal Tour: Alan Furst’s Paris
- Alan Furst.net
- Brendan Bernhard (September 29, 2004). "Our Best Thriller Writer". New York Sun Newspaper.
- Inventory of Alan Furst Papers 1961-2005 at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin.
- Times Literary Supplement review of The Spies of Warsaw, by Paul Owen
- Writers Reflect with Alan Furst at the Harry Ransom Center
- Audio interview July 16, 2010 with Kurt Andersen of Studio 360 in which Furst discusses his fiction.