Alan Furst, America’s preeminent spy novelist, is the winner of the 2011 Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award. He is an internationally acclaimed author of historical espionage fiction. He has written 15 novels; is a contributor to periodicals, such as Esquire, Elle and GQ; and is a former columnist for the International Herald Tribune.
“Alan Furst is an American writer, but his heart belongs to Europe,” noted Charles Wilson in the New York Times Book Review. Critics admire Furst for his careful research and evocation of period detail, as he creates factually accurate thrillers set in Europe just before and during World War II, and involving Soviet, German, French and British agents.
According to the “Twenty-First-Century American Novelists: Second Series,” Furst has been compared to Graham Greene, Eric Ambler, John le Carré and Arthur Koestler, all of whom he acknowledges as influences on his writing. His espionage thrillers are driven by characters who make moral choices in response to the politics and events that confront them.
His novels include: “Your Day in the Barrel” (1976), “The Paris Drop” (1980), “The Caribbean Account” (1981), “Shadow Trade” (1983), “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” (2002), “Dark Voyage” (2004), “The Foreign Correspondent” (2006), “The Spies of Warsaw” (2008) and his latest thriller, “Spies of the Balkans” (2010).
Furst’s writing style evolved after the completion of his fourth novel, “Shadow Trade,” when he persuaded Esquire magazine to send him to Moscow and Eastern Europe to write a cold-war travel piece. In the following passage from The New York Times’ article “Writers on Writing,” Furst recounts how this experience transformed all of his future writings: “Moscow was a tense, dark city, all shadows and averted eyes, with intrigue in its very air; a city where writers should have turned out spy novels by the yard. So where was the Russian le Carré? Dead or in jail, if he or she existed at all. In fact I believed that Russian writers weren’t allowed to write spy novels – or political novels of any sort. Fine, I thought, I’ll write them. And since I felt that Moscow and its satellite states in Eastern Europe were in some sense stuck in 1937, I would write about 1937. … I would write historical espionage novels.”
In addition to his novels, Furst is the co-author of “One Smart Cookie: How a Housewife’s Chocolate Chip Recipe Turned Into a Multimillion-dollar Business – The Story of Mrs. Field’s Cookies” and the editor of “The Book of Spies: An Anthology of Literary Espionage.”
Furst was born in New York City in 1941 and raised in Manhattan. In the late 1960s and early ‘70s, he lived in the south of France where he was a Fulbright teaching fellow at the Faculte des Lettres at the University of Montpellier, and then in Seattle, Wash., where he worked for the City of Seattle Arts Commission. He now lives in Sag Harbor, N.Y.