The modern era is a blessed one for reporters. Able to reach a vast international audience and aided by stunning technology, reporters can quickly find themselves celebrities, deadlines and facts giving way to sensation and Vanity Fair spreads. Those lucky enough to live and work in Western democracies — protected by a whole host of forces that they regularly criticize — are free to thrash away at any institution at will. The whiff of a scoop is sufficient grounds for appearances on all sorts of hyperventilating TV shows, hosted by understanding and ever-nodding colleagues. Even better, if your fearless reporting happens to target those institutions detested by the media elite, well, they just might hand you a Pulitzer. When faced with a backlash, the reporter can quickly deem himself a martyr and glibly accept the wine toasts and book deals that follow.
Of course, life wasn’t always so easy. In the first half of the 20th century, meeting your deadline wasn’t always a metaphorical proposition. Unprotected by celebrity or governments, journalists often found themselves on the front lines in the ideological struggle between struggling democracy and rising totalitarianism that was tearing the European continent apart.
Offering some inducement, however, was the fact that the beating/imprisonment/murder scenario could be preceded by plenty of cigarettes, heiresses, and international intrigues. This sort of trifecta remains the literary specialty of Alan Furst, whose latest, The Foreign Correspondent, lends the trade some respectability and even hints at something once quaintly referred to as journalistic integrity. The novel, set in Furst’s nicotine-laced playground of 1938 Europe, is hardly a departure from his previous works; indeed, Furst seems unwilling to write about anything or anytime else. It is a most welcome holding pattern, as The Foreign Correspondent lives up to Furst’s self-imposed high standards while making the reader long for an a time when even jaded reporters could recognize that evil was very real and very much on the march.p>Furst’s protagonist, Reuters’ Paris correspondent and Italian expatriate Carlo Weisz, is hardly a man of action — he recalls fleeing his homeland after seeing coworkers bloodied by fascist thugs. Preferring the more gentile forms of resistance, Weisz duels with Mussolini in print as moonlighting editor of a Paris-based broadsheet called Liberazione . It was a position he assumed reluctantly, due to his predecessors unfortunate run-in with a silenced revolver. Unlike those inclined to resistance by strict ideology, Weisz’s motivations remain somewhat amorphous throughout, best defined with some dour ribaldry: br> /p>