I went to Keplers, my local bookstore, to hear Alan Furst speak and sign copies of his latest, Dark Victory.

It was a fun reading: Furst read from the first couple pages of his book, took a few questions, then signed books. He talked some about the background behind Dark Victory, which centers around a Dutch tramp steamer that gets sucked into clandestine work. He said that he pitched two books to his editors at Random House, a “war book” or a “cafe society” book (like The World at Night). The editor voted for the “war book,” on the grounds that “by the time it came out, we’d be at war.” Ouch.

Then, once he got into writing it, he discovered that a lot of it would have to take place off the ship. There’s only so much dialogue that you can write that consists of the captain saying “Ten degrees to port,” and the helmsman replying “Ten degrees to port.”

With the exception of two other people, I was the youngest person there by about ten years. Is this a representative demographic of Furst readers? Or spy novel readers?

So I got my copy of Dark Victory signed, and also my copy of Blood of Victory, his last book. (My favorite is Night Soldiers.) Then I grabbed two more copies, and had him sign them for my daughter and son. They’re way too young to be interested in them for at least fifteen years, but Furst is only one of two authors whose work I read repeatedly– the other is Terry Pratchett– and so it’s inevitable that they be exposed to Furst sooner or later. And I’m charmed the idea of giving someone a present of a book signed 15 years earlier.