Random House: Bringing You the Best in Fiction, Nonfiction, and Children's Books
Authors
Books
Features
Newletters and Alerts

Buy now from Random House

  • Kingdom of Shadows
  • Written by Alan Furst
  • Format: Trade Paperback | ISBN: 9780375758263
  • Our Price: $15.00
  • Quantity:
See more online stores - Kingdom of Shadows

Buy now from Random House

  • Kingdom of Shadows
  • Written by Alan Furst
  • Format: eBook | ISBN: 9780375506802
  • Our Price: $11.99
  • Quantity:
See more online stores - Kingdom of Shadows

Kingdom of Shadows

    Select a Format:
  • Book
  • eBook

A Novel

Written by Alan FurstAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Alan Furst

eBook

List Price: $11.99

eBook

On Sale: March 13, 2001
Pages: | ISBN: 978-0-375-50680-2
Published by : Random House Random House Group
Kingdom of Shadows Cover

Bookmark,
Share & Shelve:

  • Add This - Kingdom of Shadows
  • Email this page - Kingdom of Shadows
  • Print this page - Kingdom of Shadows
ABOUT THE BOOK ABOUT THE BOOK
ABOUT THE AUTHOR ABOUT THE AUTHOR
PRAISE & AWARDS PRAISE & AWARDS
READER'S GUIDE READER'S GUIDE
Tags for this book (powered by Library Thing)
espionage (49) wwii (28) paris (21) thriller (20) historical fiction (16) spy (14) hungary (11) mystery (11) europe (9) historical (8) budapest (7) france (7) 1930s (6) spy novel (6) war (6)
espionage (49) wwii (28) paris (21) thriller (20)
» see more tags
historical fiction (16) spy (14) hungary (11) mystery (11) europe (9) historical (8) budapest (7) france (7) 1930s (6) spy novel (6) war (6)
» hide
Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

In spymaster Alan Furst's most electrifying thriller to date, Hungarian aristocrat Nicholas Morath—a hugely charismatic hero—becomes embroiled in a daring and perilous effort to halt the Nazi war machine in eastern Europe.


From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt

On the tenth of March 1938, the night train from Budapest pulled into the Gare du Nord a little after four in the morning. There were storms in the Ruhr Valley and down through Picardy and the sides of the wagon-lits glistened with rain. In the station at Vienna, a brick had been thrown at the window of a first-class compartment, leaving a frosted star in the glass. And later that day there'd been difficulties at the frontiers for some of the passengers, so in the end the train was late getting into Paris.

Nicholas Morath, traveling on a Hungarian diplomatic passport, hurried down the platform and headed for the taxi rank outside the station. The first driver in line watched him for a moment, then briskly folded his Paris-Midi and sat up straight behind the wheel. Morath tossed his bag on the floor in the back and climbed in after it. "L'avenue Bourdonnais," he said. "Number eight."

Foreign, the driver thought. Aristocrat. He started his cab and sped along the quai toward the Seventh Arrondissement. Morath cranked the window down and let the sharp city air blow in his face.

8, avenue de la Bourdonnais. A cold, haut bourgeois fortress of biscuit-colored stone block, flanked by the legations of small countries. Clearly, the people who lived there were people who could live anywhere, which was why they lived there. Morath opened the gate with a big key, walked across the courtyard, used a second key for the building entry. "Bonsoir, Séléne," he said. The black Belgian shepherd belonged to the concierge and guarded the door at night. A shadow in the darkness, she came to his hand for a pat, then sighed as she stretched back out on the tile. Séléne, he thought, goddess of the moon.

Cara's apartment was the top floor. He let himself in. His footsteps echoed on the parquet in the long hallway. The bedroom door was open, by the glow of a streetlamp he could see a bottle of champagne and two glasses on the dressing table, a candle on the rosewood chest had burned down to a puddle of golden wax.

"Nicky?"

"Yes."

"What time is it?"

"Four-thirty."

"Your wire said midnight." She sat up, kicked free of the quilts. She had fallen asleep in her lovemaking costume, what she called her "petite chemisette," silky and black and very short, a dainty filigree of lace on top. She leaned forward and pulled it over her head, there was a red line across her breast where she'd slept on the seam.

She shook her hair back and smiled at him. "Well?" When he didn't respond she said, "We are going to have champagne, aren’t we?"

Oh no. But he didn't say it. She was twenty-six, he was forty-four. He retrieved the champagne from the dressing table, held the cork, and twisted the bottle slowly until the air hissed out. He filled a glass, gave it to her, poured one for himself.

"To you and me, Nicky," she said.

It was awful, thin and sweet, as he knew it would be, the caviste in the rue Saint-Dominique cheated her horribly. He set his glass on the carpet, went to the closet, began to undress.

"Was it very bad?"

Morath shrugged. He'd traveled to a family estate in Slovakia where his uncle's coachman lay dying. After two days, he died. "Austria was a nightmare," he said.

"Yes, it's on the radio."

He hung his suit on a hanger, bundled up his shirt and underwear and put it in the hamper.

"Nazis in the streets of Vienna," he said. "Truckloads of them, screaming and waving flags, beating up Jews."

"Like Germany."

"Worse." He took a fresh towel off a shelf in the closet.

"They were always so nice."

He headed for the bathroom.

"Nicky?"

"Yes?"

"Come sit with me a minute, then you can bathe."

He sat on the edge of the bed. Cara turned on her side, pulled her knees up to her chin, took a deep breath and let it out very slowly, pleased to have him home at last, waiting patiently for what she was showing him to take effect.

Oh well. Caridad Valentina Maria Westendorf (the grandmother) de Parra (the mother) y Dionello. All five feet, two inches of her. From one of the wealthiest families in Buenos Aires. On the wall above the bed, a charcoal nude of her, drawn by Pablo Picasso in 1934 at an atelier in the Montmartre, in a shimmering frame, eight inches of gold leaf Outside, the streetlamp had gone out. Through a sheer curtain, he could see the ecstatic gray light of a rainy Parisian morning.

Morath lay back in the cooling water of the bathtub, smoking a Chesterfield and tapping it, from time to time, into a mother-of-pearl soap dish. Cara my love. Small, perfect, wicked, slippery. "A long, long night," she'd told him. Dozing, sometimes waking suddenly at the sound of a car. "Like blue movies, Nicky, my fantasies, good and bad, but it was you in every one of them. I thought, he isn't coming, I will pleasure myself and fall dead asleep." But she didn't, said she didn't. Bad fantasies? About him? He'd asked her but she only laughed. Slavemaster? Was that it? Or naughty old Uncle Gaston, leering away in his curious chair? Perhaps something from de Sade—and now you will be taken to the abbot's private chambers.

Or, conversely, what? The "good" fantasies were even harder to imagine. The Melancholy King? Until tonight, I had no reason to live. Errol Flynn? Cary Grant? The Hungarian Hussar?

He laughed at that, because he had been one, but it was no operetta. A lieutenant of cavalry in the Austro-Hungarian army, he'd fought Brusilov's cossacks in the marshes of Polesia, in 1916 on the eastern front. Outside Lutsk, outside Kovel and Tarnopol. He could still smell the burning barns.


From the Hardcover edition.
Alan Furst|Author Q&A

About Alan Furst

Alan Furst - Kingdom of Shadows

Photo © Shonna Valeska

Alan Furst is widely recognized as the master of the historical spy novel. Now translated into eighteen languages, he is the author of Night Soldiers, Dark Star, The Polish Officer, The World at Night, Red Gold, Kingdom of Shadows, Blood of Victory, Dark Voyage, The Foreign Correspondent, The Spies of Warsaw, Spies of the Balkans, Mission to Paris, and Midnight in Europe. Born in New York, he lived for many years in Paris, and now lives on Long Island.

Author Q&A

Alan Furst describes the area of his interest as “near history.” His novels are set between 1933–the date of Adolf Hitler’s ascent, with the first Stalinist purges in Moscow coming a year later–and 1945, which saw the end of the war in Europe. The history of this period is well documented. Furst uses books by journalists of the time, personal memoirs–some privately published–autobiographies (many of the prominent individuals of the period wrote them), war and political histories, and characteristic novels written during those years.

“But,” he says, “there is a lot more”–for example, period newsreels, magazines, and newspapers, as well as films and music, especially swing and jazz. “I buy old books,” Furst says, “and old maps, and I once bought, while living in Paris, the photo archive of a French stock house that served newspapers of Paris during the Occupation, all the prints marked as cleared by the German censorship.” In addition, Furst uses intelligence histories of the time, many of them by British writers.

Alan Furst has lived for long periods in Paris and in the south of France. “In Europe,” he says, “the past is still available. I remember a blue neon sign, in the Eleventh Arrondissement in Paris, that had possibly been there since the 1930s.” He recalls that on the French holiday le jour des morts (All Saints’ Day, November 1) it is customary for Parisians to go to the Père Lachaise Cemetery. “Before the collapse of Polish communism, the Polish émigrés used to gather at the tomb of Maria Walewska. They would burn rows of votive candles and play Chopin on a portable stereo. It was always raining on that day, and a dozen or so Poles would stand there, under black umbrellas, with the music playing, as a kind of silent protest against the communist regime. The spirit of this action was history alive–as though the entire past of that country, conquered again and again, was being brought back to life.”

The heroes of Alan Furst’s novels include a Bulgarian defector from the Soviet intelligence service, a foreign correspondent for Pravda, a Polish cartographer who works for the army general staff, a French producer of gangster films, and a Hungarian émigré who works with a diplomat at the Hungarian legation in Paris. “These are characters in novels,” Furst says, “but people like them existed; people like them were courageous people with ordinary lives and, when the moment came, they acted with bravery and determination. I simply make it possible for them to tell their stories.”

Praise | Awards

Praise

"Furst’s writing has the seductive shimmer of an urbane black-and-white Hollywood classic."
--The New York Times

"Astonishingly, Alan Furst is not yet a household name. But perhaps [Kingdom of Shadows,] the sixth of his supple, elegant European spy novels, will do the trick."
--Janet Maslin, The New York Times

"Subtly spun, sensitive to nuances, generous with contemporary detail and information discreetly conveyed....It’s hard to overestimate Kingdom of Shadows."
--Eugen Weber, Los Angeles Times

"A triumph: evocative, heartfelt, knowing and witty."
--Robert J. Hughes, The Wall Street Journal

Awards

NOMINEE 2001 Frankfurt eBook Award
Discussion Questions

Discussion Guides

1. How does Nicholas Morath's experience as a cavalry officer in World War I affect his behavior in this book?

2. During many of Morath's assignments, he acts with very limited knowledge--he knows what he is to do, but not why, or who is involved. His uncle, a diplomat at the Hungarian legation, does not tell him the full story. Why? Is his uncle morally right to do this? Is he right in any sense? How is this used as a plot device?

3. The first verse of the Hungarian national anthem, quotes in the epigraph of Kingdom of Shadows, speaks of a people "torn by misfortune," a nation that has "already paid for its sins." How is the tone of this national anthem different from that of other patriotic songs? What can you infer about the history of Hungary from its national anthem?

4. Critics praise Furst's ability to re-create the atmosphere of World War II-era Europe with great accuracy. What elements of description make the setting come alive? How can you account for the fact that the settings seem authentic even though you probably have no first-hand knowledge of the times and places he writes about?

5. Furst's novels have been described as "historical novels" and as "spy novels". He call them "historical spy novels." Some critics have insisted they are, simply, novels. How does his work compare with other spy novels you've read? What does he do that is the same? Different? If you owned a bookstore, in what section would you display his books?

6. Furst is often praised for his minor characters, which have been described as "sketched out in a few strokes." Do you have a favorite in this book? Characters in Furst's books often take part in the action for a few pages and then disappear. What do you think becomes of them? And, if you know, how do you know? What in the book is guiding you toward that opinion?

7. At the end of an Alan Furst novel, the hero is always still alive. What becomes of Furst's heroes? Will they survive the war? Does Furst know what becomes of them? Would it be better if they were somewhere safe and sound, to live out the end of the war in comfort? If not, why not?

8. Love affairs are always prominent in Furst's novels, and "love in a time of war" is a recurring theme. Do you think these affairs might last, and lead to marriage and domesticity?

9. How do the notions of good and evil work in Kingdom of Shadows? Would you prefer a confrontation between villian and hero at the end of the book? Do you like Furst's use of realism in the novel?


Your E-Mail Address
send me a copy

Recipient's E-Mail Address
(multiple addresses may be separated by commas)

A personal message: