08-20-2008 10:56 AM
Of course, when one mentions espionage, Le Carre comes immediately to mind. But even within readers of the genre he is not everyone's cup of tea. One of my favorite espionage books is David Ignatius' Agents of Innocence not only because it's a good story but because of the realism. Another great writer leaning into the espionage/adventure area is Phillip Caputo. His Horn of Africa puts you right into that arid area and vividly describes the local warrior tribes.
Having been in the intelligence biz, I would love to discuss novels of espionage, intrigue, and international adventure.
08-20-2008 01:23 PM - edited 08-20-2008 01:26 PM
I'm a huge fan of Alan Furst. He's written quite a few espionage novels, all of which concern Europe during WW2 and the years immediately preceding it.
I think what attracted me to his books so much initially is the fact that, while all his books cover one very specific subject, they also cover aspects of WW2 that are not so commonly seen in popular media. While all of his books partially take place in Paris, they also largely concern events in Romania, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Poland, and Turkey. So its great to be able to read exciting and atmospheric espionage fiction about areas of WW2 that have traditionally be left out of the "limelight" as it were. In addition, the writing itself is fabulous. I think his biggest strength is his ability to create a moody atmosphere. The person who introduced me to these books (a fellow American that I met on a ferry in Croatia) was old enough to remember the 30's and early 40's quite well and he said that Furst's novels did the best job of recreating the atmosphere of that time that he'd ever seen. I wasn't around back then so I'm taking his word for it, but the writing in several of his books is incredibly powerful, and really transcends the genre.
The best book to start with is probably Night Soldiers, though my personal favorite is Dark Star. You don't need to read them in any particular order. They overlap in terms of chronology and they all follow different sets of characters, though you'll occasionally see "cameo" appearences of characters from one books in another.
You mention having been in the intelligence business yourself - how important is realism to you in terms of portrayal of the profession in fiction? Are there any particular works that stand out to you as the most realistic in that regard?
08-20-2008 07:51 PM
I haven't read Furst yet, though I like the period he writes about. I am also interested in the less known aspects of WWII, like Vlasov's army, events in the Balkans etc. I will certainly give Furst a try once I work my was a couple of books waiting to be read.
To me espionage fiction has to be realistic enough that I can relate to it. For example, a James Bond movie will amuse me, but I can't read Fleming. There are a number of present day best selling writers writing espionage whose books I can't finish.
08-21-2008 08:46 AM
Click on the little button right next to where it says "Options" on the top right of a post. That will open a drop-down menu. "Edit this post" is the first choice.
08-21-2008 11:16 AM
08-21-2008 11:29 AM
08-21-2008 11:58 AM
My drop-down list doesn't show the edit option. First choice is mark this message as new.
There is a time limit during which you are allowed to edit posts. I think its about an hour, after that editing is disabled. Try making a post, and then editing it just after you post it. Let me know if that doesn't work!
08-21-2008 04:22 PM - edited 08-21-2008 04:26 PM
Thanks, Jon B
The test worked.
08-21-2008 04:36 PM - edited 08-21-2008 04:37 PM
Glad you got it working!
By the way, if you are interested in Vlasov, I'd highly recommend checking out William Vollman's Europe Central - the book takes place all over the eastern front of WW2, with chapters devoted to a number of characters ranging from the Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich to the German field-marshall Friedrick Paulus. One of the lengthier chapters is devoted to Andrei Vlasov. The book is written in a semi-surrealist fashion, its very ethereal and takes some getting used to, but I found it to be very much worth the time it takes to adjust to the strange style.
Also, thanks for the recommendations. I've been meaning to get into LeCarre and A Small Town in Germany looks right up my alley.