Wednesday, August 27, 2014

MISSION TO PARIS by Alan Furst (fic)

I am always happy to pick up a book by Alan Furst who is one of the best espionage and spy writers, right up there with John Le Carré.  Mission to Paris, his 12th spy novel, is one of his better reads.  Furst almost exclusively writes of the period between 1933 and 1941 in Europe.  He writes of the underworld of spies, German, English, French, and Eastern European.  His novels range all over the pre-World War II map.

In this book we follow Fredric Stahl, Austrian born American actor, from Hollywood to France where he is making a film.  Stahl is in his early 40s and at the height of his career.  His is apolitical but wary of the Nazi inroads into France and Paris where he is filming.  The German propaganda arm sees an opportunity to use Stahl to impress America which has not yet entered the war.  Lured into a party by a leading German hostess, he unknowingly comes into contact with several German agents masquerading under the aegis of the Comité France-Allemagne.

Stahl is savvy and sophisticated enough to soon sniff out the real motives of his Nazi hosts, and it takes some veiled threats to convince him to attend the Berlin film festival.  His visit there coincides with Kristallnact.  That does it for him, and he feels lucky to arrive back in Paris with his life. The action then shifts to a castle in Hungary where the film company has relocated and there he and others fall into a Nazi trap which turns into an exciting hunt for those on both sides of the battle.

This is a sketchy outline of the plot, but along the way the reader gets Furst's cracker-jack writing.  His description of Paris on the brink of the German invasion is beautiful.  It is a time when people are still attending parties and smoky nightclubs.  His details are accurate and interesting.  For example he includes movies that are playing at local cinemas and a ride in a long lost automobile, a 1938 Panhard Dynamic which has a steering wheel in the middle of the dashboard.  Passengers can then sit on either side of the driver.  Sometimes a character pops up from another book he has written. And, of course, there is romance included.  It is all like a wonderful film noir from the 40s.

If you like good writing combined with espionage and intrigue and you haven't read a Furst novel, give it a try,  You will be hooked.

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