Sunday, June 14, 2009

Five best: spy books

Alan Furst is the author of Night Soldiers (1988), Dark Star (1991), The Polish Officer (1995), The World at Night (1996), Red Gold (1999), Kingdom of Shadows (2000), Blood of Victory (2002), Dark Voyage (2004), The Foreign Correspondent (2006), and The Spies of Warsaw (2008).

For the Wall Street Journal, he named a five best list of spy tales.

Number One on his list:
Our Man in Havana
by Graham Greene
Viking, 1958

Graham Greene’s work must be included in any survey of top-rank spy novels, and “Our Man in Havana” may be his best. The problem here is Hollywood: Just as you can’t read Greene’s “The Third Man” without thinking of Orson Welles, “Our Man in Havana” instantly brings to mind Alec Guinness, followed closely by the sublime Ernie Kovacs. But the book itself is a marvel, making fun of the espionage business while still remaining a spy novel. It brings ample suspense and expertly wrought ambience to its tale of a British vacuum-cleaner salesman in Cuba who reluctantly agrees to become an MI6 agent. He begins filing fanciful reports—including sketches of a secret military installation based on a vacuum-cleaner design—that the home office takes all too seriously. “Our Man in Havana” is a honey of a beach read, best served with rum and Coke.
Read about the other books on Furst's list.

Visit Alan Furst's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Foreign Correspondent.

Writers Read: Alan Furst.

Read former MI5 director-general Stella Rimington's five best list of books about spies in Britain and Ben Macintyre's list of top true-life spy stories.

--Marshal Zeringue