Alan Furst was born and raised on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. An only child with older parents, he wandered alone or with friends around New York and learned to love the city and its people. He attended Oberlin College, mistakenly majoring in English, too late discovering anthropology, the proper major for a writer. After graduating, he drove a taxi in New York and wrote poetry, eventually finding work as a teaching assistant in English at the Pennsylvania State University, which led to an MA, a never-to-be-finished PhD, and a Fulbright teaching fellowship at the Université de Montpellier in southern France.
Returning to America, he went to Seattle, wanting to be away from the East Coast. In Seattle, he wrote copy for ad agencies, a well-paid freelancer supported by creative directors who liked his (dreadful) first novel, Your Day in the Barrel, published by Atheneum - a book by a writer who wrote well but had nothing to write about, so he wrote a murder mystery. Three more novels followed, one worse than the last - two mysteries and a contemporary spy novel. To call him a midlist writer at this point would not really be accurate - low list says it better.
Moving to Bainbridge Island, he began to write for magazines, Esquire in particular, political travel pieces that foreshadowed his novels of Europe in the 1930s. Wanting to change everything, he moved full-time to Paris (and remained there for seven years), writing Night Soldiers, his first historical espionage novel, which was published by Houghton Mifflin. Publishers Weekly said of it, Yes, it's the same person, but this novel is completely different from the previous ones.
In Paris, he wrote the back-page column for the International Herald Tribune once a week on whatever topic he chose. Later on, when asked to be a spokesman for Absolut vodka, he wrote the copy himself, in the style of a 1940s novel.
He now lives in an old house in Sag Harbor, at the eastern end of Long Island.
The novels - really one very long book with, to date, twelve chapters - are Night Soldiers (Houghton Mifflin, 1988); Dark Star (Houghton Mifflin, 1991); The Polish Officer (Random House,1995); The World At Night (Random House, 1996); Red Gold (Random House, 1999); Kingdom of Shadows (Random House, 2000); Blood of Victory (Random House, 2002); Dark Voyage (Random House, 2004); The Foreign Correspondent (Random House, 2006); The Spies of Warsaw (Random House, 2008); Spies of the Balkans (Random House, 2010); and Mission to Paris (Random House, 2012). Kingdom of Shadows was the first of these books to appear on the New York Times bestseller list; the subsequent books appeared there as well. The Spies of Warsaw is now being made into a BBC television production, to be shown in fall 2012.
Alan Furst's novels have been translated into eighteen languages. In 2011 he received the Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award, a literary prize for a body of work.
From the author's website
This biography was last updated on 07/10/2012.
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