Sunday, November 24, 2019

Wartime Historical Spy Novel Set In Nazi-Occupated France: My Washington Times Review of Alan Furst's 'Under Occupation'

The Washington Times published my review of Alan Furst’s Under Occupation.

Alan Furst, author of the historical spy novel “Hero of France,” returns to France during the period the country was under Nazi occupation in World War II in his latest novel, “Under Occupation.”

As we see in the stories of the late, great spy novelist Eric Ambler, whom Mr. Furst references several times in “Under Occupation,” the hero of Mr. Furst's story is not a seasoned secret agent, but rather an “everyman” protagonist, a French Parisian detective novelist with zero experience in actual intrigue.

In 1942, Parisian writer Paul Ricard is comfortable physically and safe living in Paris under Nazi rule in France. The ruling Nazis allow Paul Ricard to continue writing his non-political detective novels (much like the real-life writer George Simenon, author of the Inspector Maigret stories). Detective novels are popular in occupied France.

“The French, cities blacked out, apartments frigid, rationed food hard to come by, soap a rare treasure, were intent on reading their way through the occupation, the detective novel by far the genre of choice because it took the reader away from the grim reality of daily life,” Mr. Furst tells us.

Yet, like many French citizens, Ricard seethes secretly at the brutal Nazis who occupy his country. While walking the streets of Paris, a man being pursued by the French police slams into Ricard. The fleeing man, who has been shot, handed the writer a slip of notebook paper and then dies as the French police officers, called the “flics” in French slang, surround the body.

The slip of paper handed to Ricard was an engineering schematic of a detonator. The schematic leads Ricard into the world of the French Resistance and he becomes an underground Resistance operative against the Nazis. He later comes into contact with brave, anti-Nazi Polish workers.

Based on actual history, as Mr. Furst notes, the German Occupation Authority rounded up Poles who were electricians, welders and machinists, and forced them into slave labor at the German U-Boats naval yards in Germany. The Poles fought back by stealing technical information about the U-Boats and smuggled the valuable information to Paris, where it was forwarded to the British Secret Intelligence Service.  

You can read the rest of the review via the below link: 

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