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Blood of Victory: A Novel Paperback – May 13, 2003

82 customer reviews
Book 7 of 12 in the Night Soldiers Series

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Editorial Reviews Review

I.A. Serebin, an émigré writer who heads the International Russian Union and edits its literary magazine, is no stranger to war: "Two gangsters, one neighborhood, they fight," he comments at a dinner party on a yacht in the Istanbul harbor in the autumn of 1940. Istanbul, to which Serebin has come to say good-bye to a dying friend, is a haven for spies, arms dealers, diplomats, and intrigue. Like most of the author's protagonists, Serebin is a romantic, a reluctant hero who tries to believe that war will not really change anything: "Hold fast to life as it should be, the daily ritual, work, love, and then it will be" is his credo. After Paris falls to the Germans, he realizes that is impossible. When a French diplomat's wife, whom he met and bedded on the freighter that brought him to Turkey, puts him in touch with a Hungarian spy working with the British Secret Service, Serebin allows himself to be recruited for a mission to disrupt the flow of oil from Romania's Ploesti fields to German factories--something that has been tried by the British before, without success. Alan Furst, a master stylist whose novels are peopled with characters who remain in the reader's mind long after the last page is turned, evokes Istanbul's smoky, spicy, shadowy atmosphere with the same authenticity he brings to the settings of all his thrillers, most notably Paris. No one is better at describing both place and players in the period just before and during World War II; widely hailed as the successor to Eric Ambler and Graham Greene, Furst proves in his gripping, compulsively readable seventh novel what a contender he is for that title. --Jane Adams --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Critics who thought Furst's previous novel Kingdom of Shadows lacked a clearly linear plot will find much to praise him for in his toothsome new historical espionage thriller. The novel (named for the Romanian oil vital to the German war machine) describes a daring operation to disrupt the flow of that oil from the Ploesti fields in Romania to Germany by sinking a group of barges at a shallow point in the Danube in early 1941. The motley group attempting this maneuver barely holds together: its members include a sultry French aristocrat, hounded Russian Jews, even Serbian thugs. And while the tale features the same period details as its predecessor, and stretches from Istanbul to Bucharest with detours in Paris and London, it reaffirms the signature Slavic focus of the author's earlier books like Dark Star. This is literally personified in the novel's protagonist, the dogged Russian ‚migr‚ I.A. Serebin, who has to dodge every kind of secret police from the Gestapo to Stalin's NKVD (" `Why, Serge?' `Why not?' That was, Serebin thought, glib and ingenuous, but until a better two-word history of the USSR came along, it would do"). Diehard Furst fans will appreciate the recurrence of several secondary characters from Kingdom of Shadows (especially a certain heavyset Hungarian spymaster). But even newcomers will be ensnared by Furst's delicious recreations of a world sliding headlong into oblivion (wonderfully illustrated by Serebin having to drive a car off a cliff to escape with his life at the climax). Maps.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 246 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; Reprint edition (May 13, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812968727
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812968729
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #525,765 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Alan Furst is widely recognized as the master of the historical spy novel. Now translated into seventeen languages, he is the bestselling author of Night Soldiers, Dark Star, The Polish Officer, The World at Night, Red Gold, Kingdom of Shadows, Blood of Victory, Dark Voyage, and The Foreign Correspondent Born in New York, he now lives in Paris and on Long Island.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

72 of 82 people found the following review helpful By Newt Gingrich THE on December 29, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Alan Furst is a good argument for simply drifting through bookstores. I had never read him before but found his writing so interesting that I am now looking for his other six novels.
In "Blood of Victory," Furst creates an émigré writer who has fled Stalin's Russia and is living in a Nazis occupied Paris. He is safe but oppressed. It is 1940 and the German-Soviet Pact is still working. Occupied Paris is not a happy place.
We first encounter I.A. Serebin boarding a boat from Romania to Turkey and find one of the interesting realities in modern civilization; travel is essential. For countries to operate people must travel and so even in a dictatorship, passage is possible if the right papers can be acquired. Ultimately, Serebin is convinced to help the British attempt to block the Danube, preventing German access to the Romanian oil that is key to their remaining both militarily and industrially functional.
Seeing the world from Istanbul, Bucharest, Paris and Belgrade shortly before the 1941 German attack is a new twist on the Second World War in the tradition of Eric Ambler and other spy chroniclers.
This is an intellectual's book (I hope I have not hurt its sales with that phrase) that carries you into a world of smart, reflective people living lives as refugees, intellectuals and activists trying to accomplish something. It is your experience of their personalities and their interactions in interesting and exotic settings, not the James Bond style heroics, which carry the book.
It is worth reading for the portrait of the fight between the Iron Shirt fascist movement and the Romanian dictatorship and, in a very Ambler-like tradition, it has vivid believable scenes of street fighting and random civilian casualties that feel all too real.
"Blood of Victory" has proven Furst is worth getting to know and I have already found two more of his works for the near future
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46 of 54 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 24, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is the fifth of Furst's seven WWII espionage novels I've read, and not one of his best. To be sure, it has all the trademarks of his work: good writing, dedication to period detail, oppressive and dreary atmosphere, exotic locales (Paris, Istanbul, Odessa, Belgrade, etc.), a middle-aged loner protagonist caught up in the espionage intrigues of the time, love interest, a blurry web of operatives. But that's the problem-if you've read a few of his books, you've basically read this one. The characters (especially the heroes) in his books are all starting to run together rather distressingly, and he's over-reliant on atmosphere to carry the minimally plotted stories. What's worse is that the pace of this one is absolutely glacial, there's barely any thrill in the thriller!
The gist here is that in 1940 the Allies are desperate to interdict German access to the vital Romanian oil fields. Having tried to sabotage them once before, they're faced with a tough problem. Paris-based Russian émigré writer I.A. Serebin is drawn into a plot to resurrect an old spy network in an attempt to strike a blow. However, Serebin's recruitment into this venture is never really convincing, and the weaving of the plot is so oblique that it's hard to get drawn in. It's as if Furst is so faithful to building the shadow world that his characters live in that he's forgotten about the reader. Which is not to say this is an awful book or anything, just that he's written better and might benefit from straying a little further from the European theater he's set seven books in.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Ian Fowler on August 19, 2006
Format: Paperback
The Second World War has begun in Europe. Russian émigré I. A. Serebin, a writer who fled Stalin, is living in German-occupied Paris when he is approached by Hungarian spy-master, Count Polyani, for help. Polyani wants to attack Romania's oil-fields, perhaps Germany's most important resource. Serebin, no fan of the Germans, agrees to participate in the mission, one that the British have already tried and failed. For everyone acknowledges that, for Germany, the Romanian oil is "the blood of victory."

"The Blood of Victory" is typical Alan Furst. The focus of the action is Eastern Europe, a theater of the Second World War that is usually ignored in the Anglo-American-centered fiction that populates the genre. The bulk of the setting here is Romania, during a time of great civil unrest as the anti-Semitic super-nationalist Iron Guard seeks to take control of the country. The protagonist, in this case Serebin, is a man without a country, surprisingly altruistic given the circumstances, given an unlikely opportunity to make a difference in the war, and seizing it readily, even though it means he will be in the thick of the Romanian civil war. And finally, there is an underlying sense of inevitable failure that underlines the whole proceedings. The reader "knows" that there is nothing concrete that Serebin is going to do that will change the outcome of the war. The war continues and grows, and Serebin goes largely ignored by history, despite his most deliberate efforts.

While Serebin is a perfectly likable character, the real draw of a Furst novel is painstakingly detailed settings and the dark, pessimistic mood the author creates. The reader has a complete and beautiful picture in his mind of the various places Serebin goes in his quest.
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