When aficionados of historical espionage novels gather in rain-pelted, dank, smoke-filled bars — or IHOP — the name Alan Furst inevitably comes up. Along with experts of the genre such as Graham Greene and Eric Ambler, Furst is considered a master. Furst's Spies of Warsaw and The World at Night, have won acclaim for compelling stories of the characters and cities of Eastern Europe from 1933 to 1944. He once said in an interview, “I write what I call novels of consolation for people who are bright and sophisticated. I expect that my readers have been to Europe, I expect them to have some feeling for a foreign language, I expect them to have read books — there are a lot of people like that! That's my audience.” As part of the Writers Bloc series, Furst, whose latest book is The Spies of the Balkans will appear with screenwriter Dick Clement (The Bank Job, Across the Universe), a Furst fan, who says, “I started reading Alan Furst relatively recently, when a friend gave me The Spies of Warsaw. I became instantly addicted, to the point where I read all his previous novels back to back. The new one, Spies of the Balkans, has just been published and I went to it like a thirsty camel at an oasis. My only complaint is that I wish it had been longer. The books take place in Europe during the months leading to the outbreak of World War II or the early months of the conflict, a time when espionage really mattered. The setting is always Europe, sometimes parts of it we might be less familiar with, Ruthenia for example. The heroes vary but always manage to fall in love, often on a train, and spend some time in Paris. Our knowledge of the storm about to break about them and the very real danger heightens the sense of romance. The writing is wonderful, the period detail meticulously authentic. Spies, romance and trains — what more could anyone want?”

Thu., June 24, 7:30 p.m., 2010

LA Weekly