on First in Marymount Manhattan College’s
2002 Best-Selling Authors Series
Joan Baum, Ph.D.
Marymount Manhattan College’s irrepressible Writing Center Director
Lewis Burke Frumkes puts it, Alan Furst, master of espionage and
intrigue, has been called the new John Le Carré– not that there’s
anything wrong with the old one. In fact, however, though not
as well known, as Carré, Furst, a well published journalist and
author, to date, of six published novels (there are more, I don’t
acknowledge them), has, with the recent paperback issue of his
latest book, Kingdom of Shadows, claimed the spotlight
with a shining all his own. His books, centering on Central and
Eastern European intrigue in the years 1933-44, are to a growing
number of rapt fans an exciting blend of old-fashioned suspense-cum-romance,
and authoritative, researched history. As with all fine fiction,
Furst’s tales leave readers well informed as well as wonderfully
entertained. As much can be said of the author, to judge from
his appearance at MMC recently as the opening guest in the college’s
Best Selling Authors Series, 2002. He wore learning with wit and
grace and charmed with an easy informality.
Furst had just returned from a book tour, the 17th in a two-month
period that also included time out for making an Absolut Vodka
ad, he whispers, with a delicious sense of conspiracy, making
his way to the stage. Tired? No doubt, but not to know it from
the lively talk and generous amount of time he spent with an audience
that crowded after him into the nearby reception area. Without
notes but with a controlled casualness, Furst talked about how
story ideas come to him – a chance glance at a column on a Tarot
card morphs into a working title that revisits in some way the
dark and shadowy world of spies and counterspies. A realization
that the Danube extends to Istanbul ignites a new setting (and
research). And themes keep emerging as political and moral questions
arise in his obsessive reading of early WW II history - why, for
example, did Hungary stay out of the war until relatively late?
Delighted with his own ignorance, he pursues answers by way of
cynical, sophisticated protagonists. Books for our time, it might
be said, resonant as they are of an era of idealism, passion,
and emotional values. A time of heroes.
Now in its 12th incarnation, MMC’s Best Selling Authors Series
runs once a month at 7:30 in the Theresa Lang Theatre. Introducing
the event, MMC President Judson R. Shaver called The Writing Center
talks a jewel and said he was thrilled to inaugurate the new series.
On February 6, best-selling novelist Rick Moody (Ice Storm, Purple
America, Demonology) will speak. For reservations, call (212)
Education Update, Inc., P.O. Box 20005, New York, NY 10001. Tel:
(212) 481-5519. Fax: (212) 481-3919. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
All material is copyrighted and may not be printed without express consent of
the publisher. © 2001.