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RED GOLD by Alan Furst


by Alan Furst

Pub Date: April 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-679-45186-2
Publisher: Random House

More masterful, richly atmospheric WWII spy fiction sends Furst’s despairing, dissolute, but delightfully resourceful film producer Jean Casson on yet another existential errand among the fiends and fanatics of the French Resistance. Having spied, loved, and lost in The World at Night (1996), Casson is spending the cold autumn of 1941 hiding out from the Gestapo in a sleazy Paris pensione, spending his dwindling pile of Vichy francs on sex and cigarettes. Fearing that his spiteful landlady may turn him in, he pawns his overcoat, falls in with a gang of makes a fortune selling a sack of stolen sugar, and loses everything at a decadent nightclub when he’s robbed and beaten by gendarmes who, instead of tossing him to the Nazis, convey him to his former intelligence commander, DeGrave, now a Vichy bureaucrat. DeGrave wants Casson to dig up a few of his left-leaning filmmaking cronies to provide liaison between a group of Vichy officers, eager to subvert the Nazi occupation, and a fanatical group of Communist terrorist fighters, whose reckless bloodlust is doing more harm than good. Casson, sunk in Gallic funk, accepts because—well, he—d rather sleep in a better hotel. The Communists, supervised by a fearsomely intelligent fatalist named Weiss, come across as a mixed bag of trembling adolescents, cocky Jews, and violent thugs. Alas, Weiss won—t take Casson seriously until Casson delivers to him a thousand machine guns, with ammunition. DeGrave agrees to finance the guns, and slyly gives Casson a reason to live by introducing him to Helene Shrieber, another wounded soul who beds him, then warily permits herself to fall in love. Despite the occasional history lecture, Furst’s intricate exploration of a stylishly lethal war-torn Paris never fails to fascinate. Witty, inventive, distinctively French film-noir espionage, told with the terse brutality and jaundiced romanticism of Chandler and Hammett at their peak.