Alan Furst on bullets and BAR signs in Paris

There’s a cafe in Paris where tourists show up looking for a bullet hole in the mirror near table 14.

It’s not there–never has been– but spy novelist Alan Furst has written so vividly of the Brasserie Bowfinger aka Brasserie Heininger that the cafe owners rue the day he ever put them in his books.

“It’s an odd thing for a Parisian restaurant owner to have this devilment from tourists,” Furst said during our conversation Monday.

paris1.jpg(An old French car called Citroen ‘deux chevaux’ on June, 11, 2012 beside the Sacre Coeur basilica in Paris. AFP PHOTO / FRED DUFOUR)

Paris is an essential landscape in Furst’s writing. He lived there for a half dozen years and returned often to his apartment to research the pre-World War II era.

“It was the experience of the place–the way it smelled, the way the rain sounded, the way the clouds looked,” he said.

One night, Alan Furst was on his way to a Pakistani restaurant in the 11th Arrondisement when he turned left and happened to glance down a narrow street.

“Halfway down the street–facing out toward me–was a blue sign that said B-A-R,” he said. “It didn’t blink, it didn’t do anything else. It was wildly retro.”

That sign inspired an entire scene in his last novel. “Paris,” he told me, “is loaded with epiphanies.”


(A picture taken at night shows gothic Notre Dame de Paris cathedral on September 29, 2010 at Ile de la Cite in Paris. Credit: LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty)

Alan Furst’s new novel is titled, “Mission to Paris.” We’ll air my interview with Furst on July 25 on The Daily Circuit.

— Kerri Miller