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After getting his start as a magazine writer, Furst wrote four suspense novels. It wasn't until the late 1980s, however, when Furst visited Moscow, that he delved into the genre of historical espionage.

Furst, who grew up in Manhattan and lives in Long Island, was both shocked and intrigued by Russia's police-state repression. He thought that, because of the country's twisted politics, the setting would be ideal for a spy novel. He also noted that the topic of Russia and its history was a subject Russians themselves could not write about due to restrictions on creative expression. He decided to tackle the subject matter himself.

"I took it on as a personal ... religion," Furst says, searching for the right word. "I was inspired, empowered and motivated."
    -REVIEW: of Spies of the Balkans (Daina Beth Solomon, Los Angeles Times)

I couldn't prove it, but Mr. Furst's latest WWII-era thriller strikes me as an homage to Casablanca. It's 1940-41 and Constantine Zannis is a police officer in a Salonika, Greece that is increasingly threatened with Nazi takeover. Almost accidentally, Zannis is drafted by British Intelligence into a scheme to sneak Jewish refugees out of Europe. But as time passes he takes ever greater risks on their behalf. Meanwhile, he begins a seemingly impossible romance with the wife of an important businessman. And his unlikely sidekick, a la Louis Renault, is his massive mountain sheepdog, Melissa.

Indeed, while Mr. Furst does an excellent job of summoning the feel of the noose closing around Greece and of the stubborn determination of the people to fight on against them--just as the movie did. The one place where he slips up--SPOILER ALERT--is when he has his Rick get away with his Ingrid Bergman instead of arm-in-paw with his Renault. The relationship between man and dog is simply more moving than that between the hero and his lover.


Grade: (B)


See also:

Alan Furst Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Alan Furst
    -ARCHIVES: Alan Furst (The Tablet)
    -EXCERPT: from Spies of the Balkans by Alan Furst
    -PODCAST: How Alan Furst Likes His Insurgents: Your Vox Tablet preview (THE EDITORS | Jun 11, 2010, The Tablet)
    -ESSAY: Sad Missions: The spy novelist rediscovers Menahem Bader’s Aliyah B book, about the brave men and women who smuggled Jews from prewar Europe to Mandate Palestine (Alan Furst | Oct 14, 2010, The Tablet)
    -REVIEW: of ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE: My Family's Journey to America by Kati Marton (Alan Furst, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of A MOST WANTED MAN By John le Carré (Alan Furst, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of MOONLIGHT HOTEL By Scott Anderson (Alan Furst, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of MY LIFE IN CIA: A Chronicle of 1973 by Harry Mathews (Alan Furst, NY Times Book Review)
    -PROFILE: Our Best Thriller Writer (BRENDAN BERNHARD, September 29, 2004, NY Sun)
    -PROFILE: Alan Furst, Hellenophile: Spy novelist talks Greece at LES shul (Dan Klein | Nov 4, 2010, The Tablet)
    -PROFILE: Men of Mystery: One the eve of the release of his 11th book, spy novelist Alan Furst reflects on his sources of inspiration and his cerebral and wordly—if not always Jewish—protagonists (Vox Tablet, Jun 14, 2010, The Tablet)
    -REVIEW: of Spies of the Balkans by Alan Furst (JUSTIN CARTWRIGHT, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Spies of the Balkans (Janet Maslin, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of Spies of the Balkans (Michael Korda, Daily Beast)
    -REVIEW: of Spies of the Balkans (John Wilson, Books & Culture)
    -REVIEW: of Spies of the Balkans    -REVIEW: of Spies of the Balkans (Steve Forbes, Forbes)
    -REVIEW: of Spies of the Balkans (Daina Beth Solomon | Los Angeles Times)
    -REVIEW: of Spies of the Balkans (Todd VanDerWerff , AV Club)
    -REVIEW: of THE SPIES OF WARSAW by Alan Furst (ALESSANDRA STANLEY, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Spies of Warsaw (Alan Furst, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of The Foreign Correspondent by Alan Furst (Alex Berenson, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of The Foreign Correspondent (Janet Maslin, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of Dark Voyage by Alan Furst (Charles Taylor, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Dark Voyage (Janet Maslin, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of Blood of Victory (Noah Gordon, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Blood of Victory (Janet Maslin, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of Kingdom of Shadows by Alan Furst (Charles Wilson, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Red Gold by Alan Furst (Alan Riding, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of The World at Night by Alan Furst (Richard Bernstein, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of Dark Star by Alan Furst (Newgate Callendar, NY Times Book Review)
    <>>-ESSAY: Furst Things: Love, honor, and intrigue in 1930s Europe, courtesy of Alan Furst (Christopher Flannery, February 17, 2003, Claremont Review of Books)
    -REVIEW : of 'Blood of Victory' by Alan Furst (Jennifer Howard, Washington Post)

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