Spies of Warsaw

Over the Hearth Art at Ahwahnee Lodge, Yosemite

Over the Hearth Art at Ahwahnee Lodge, Yosemite

The other day I made the most delightful discovery, while pawing through the Amazon online catalog. An Alan Furst novel, The Spies of Warsaw, had been turned into a mini-series. Spies of Warsaw is a BBC 4 production, marketed in the US through BBC America. I watched the first half of this series on Amazon.

I am a great fan of Alan Furst and have read almost all of his novels. I’d say all, except for that nagging doubt that I might have missed one. He specializes in World War II spy novels. More specifically, novels set in the period before and during the early years of the war. His writing is noteworthy for its attention to period detail. Over his twenty some books, I have found that there are certain rhythms that are repeated from one novel to the next. For example, there is always a meet at the fictional Brasserie Heininger, a Paris restaurant. This café is inspired by the real-life Bistro Bofinger, including even the bullet hole at table #14. I find these repeated formulaic artifacts an endearing idiosyncrasy.

This initial translation from print to film I hope heralds a burgeoning franchise. If this series is successful, then there are plenty of other Furst novels that could receive a similar treatment. This could become another spy franchise that could rival the James Bond one. The following paragraphs contain some Spies of Warsaw spoilers. I have changed the text background color to black to obscure these spoilers from being casually revealed. It looks like the paragraph has been redacted. To read this paragraph, just highlight the text and all will be revealed.

Spies of Warsaw stars David Tennant as the French Lt. Col. Jean-Francois Mercier, a military attaché at the French embassy in Warsaw. An aristocrat by birth, a World War I veteran and also a veteran of the 1920 war between Poland and the USSR, in 1937 he finds himself drawn into a world of abduction, betrayal and intrigue in the diplomatic salons and back alleys of Warsaw. He runs espionage rings by day and attends diplomatic parties by night. With Stalin to the east and Hitler to the west, both Mercier and Poland find themselves in-between a rock and a hard place. The one soft spot in his life is Anna Skarbek (Janet Montgomery), whom he meets, when she agrees to fill-in as a last-minute date. Other than in her company, he finds himself battling Nazis and occasionally the Russian NKVD. At the end of the series’ first half, he is seen being bundled by a pair of Nazi thugs, into the trunk of a car.

OK, enough of that nonsense. Now on to some more. Viewers might remember Spies of Warsaw lead, David Tennant, from his turn as the tenth Doctor Who. Get it, Tennant, tenth Doctor Who? The complete series comes out on DVD next week, the remaining two episodes should become available then or soon afterwards on Amazon online.

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