One of the more thrilling aspects of being a writer is never knowing who might read your stuff. You can safely bet on your mom, a few colleagues, and the occasional library archivist, but beyond that, it’s a toss-up. Alan Furst hit the jackpot when a copy of his book The Polish Officer found its way onto the nightstand of Thomas Staley, director of the Harry Ransom Center, who discovered in Furst’s prose a singular ability to recreate the tense and shadowy atmosphere that gripped pre-World War II Europe. Furst reminded Staley of Graham Greene, whose papers the Ransom Center already housed, and Staley thought Furst’s meticulous research files and neatly typewritten manuscripts would fit nicely next to Greene’s on the shelves of the Ransom Center’s Reading Room. He approached Furst and, after a few years of negotiating, purchased Furst’s collection for an undisclosed amount.
Furst visited Austin in October to kick off the Texas Book Festival with a reading from his latest novel, the New York Times bestseller The Foreign Correspondent. With his collection now open to the public, we crept into the Ransom Center’s Reading Room to sift through a few boxes of his papers, curious to see how one goes about writing spy novels. At the tops of the following pages, you’ll find scans of some of the materials in Furst’s first novel, Night Soldiers, that represent the various stages in the writing process. We then sat down with Furst and asked him how he does it…
By: Tim Taliaferro. This article originally appeared in March/April 2007 issue of The Alcalde.