Military Fiction Alan Furst Red Gold: A Novel

ISBN 13 : 9780375758591

Red Gold: A Novel

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9780375758591: Red Gold: A Novel

Book by Furst Alan

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Extrait :

Paris. 18 September, 1941.

Casson woke in a room in a cheap hotel and smoked his last cigarette. The window by the bed was open and the shade, yellow and faded, bumped gently against the sill in the morning breeze. When it moved he could see fierce blue sky, a bar of sunlight on the lead sheeting of the roof across the courtyard. Something in the air, he thought, a ghost of something, and the sky was lit a certain way. So then, autumn.

A knock at the door; a woman came in and sat on the edge of the bed. She had a room down the hall and came to see him sometimes. He offered her the cigarette, she inhaled and gave it back. "Thank you," she said. She stood up, pulled her slip over her head and hung it on a nail in the wall, then climbed in next to him. "Tell me," she said, "what is it you see out there?"

"Sky. Nothing much."
She pulled the blanket up so it covered their shoulders. "You live in a dream," she said.
"You think it's wrong?"
He felt her shrug. "I don't know--why bother?"
She settled next to him, so the tips of her breasts brushed the skin of his back, ran a finger down the line of hair from his chest to his stomach, and slid her hand between his legs. He stubbed the cigarette out carefully in a saucer he kept on the windowsill, then closed his eyes. For a time he stayed like that, adrift.
"Well," he said, "maybe you're right."
He turned to face her, she rested a knee on his hip, opening her legs. After a moment she said, "Your hands are always warm."
"Warm hands, cold heart."
She laughed, then kissed him. "Not you," she said. He could smell wine on her breath.
His mind wandered. It was very quiet, all he could hear was her breathing, long and slow, and the yellow shade, bumping against the sill in the morning air.

Place Clichy. He sat at an outside table at a café and sipped the roast barley infusion the waiter brought him. Coffee, he thought, remembering it. Very expensive now, he didn't have the money. He stared out at the square, Clichy a little lost in the daylight, the cheap hotels and dance halls gray and crooked in the morning sun, but Casson didn't mind. He liked it--in the same way he liked deserted movie sets and winter beaches.

On the chair next to him somebody had left a damp copy of yesterday's Le Soir. He spread it out on the table.
. . . the low hills of Lokhvitsa, brooding at nightfall, the steep banks of the river Dnieper, the grumble of distant cannonade. Suddenly, white Very lights fired from flare pistols, sputtering as they float to earth. A signal! Guderian's Third Panzer has linked up with Kleist's Sixteenth Panzer! The Kiev pocket has snapped shut like a trap: 300,000 Russian casualties, 600,000 taken prisoner, five Soviet armies obliterated. Now, Kiev must fall within hours. Victorious Wehrmacht columns burst into song as they prepare to march into the defeated city.

Casson shook his head--who writes this shit? His eyes wandered to the top of the column. Oh, from their foreign correspondent, Georges Broux. Well, that explained it. Once upon a time, when he'd been Jean Casson, producer of gangster films, with an office near the Champs-Elysées, Georges Broux had sent him a screenplay. Morning Must Come, something like that. Maybe it was Dawn that had to come, or A New Day, but that was the general idea. La Belle France brought to her knees by decadence and socialism. "Dear Georges, thanks for letting us have a look; unfortunately . . ." And did, Casson wondered, the Wehrmacht actually burst into song? Maybe it did.

He searched in his pocket until he found the cigarette stub and lit it, sipped his barley coffee, turned to the movie page. Playing at the Impériale, over on the Champs-Elysées, was Premier Rendezvous--first date--with Danielle Darrieux and Louis Jourdan. If you'd seen that, the Gaumont had "a frothy romantic comedy." Or, if you were really hard to please, you could go out to Neuilly for "a little jewel, bubbling over with mirth! A sly French wink!" Casson read through the listings for the smaller theatres, sometimes they ran revivals and his old films showed up. No Way Out or The Devil's Bridge. Maybe, even, Night Run.

He heard the engine--tuned to a perfect hum--and forced himself to look up casually. A black traction-avant Citroën, a Gestapo car, had pulled to the curb in front of the café. Casson's heart hammered against his ribs. He bent over the newspaper, concealing his face, and turned the page. A goalie leaped toward the edge of his net as the ball sailed past his hands, a jumble of print, this team 2, that team 1. He had an identity card, Marin, Jean Louis, and a ration book. Nothing more. It wasn't a quality fake, he'd bought it from a taxi driver, one phone call and that was the end of him. Casson was wanted by the Gestapo; taken in for questioning at the rue des Saussaies office three months earlier, he had crawled out an unbarred window and escaped over the roof. Dumb luck, Casson thought, the kind that doesn't come a second time.

The driver got out of the Citroën and held the back door open. A tall man in a dark suit, a raincoat worn over his shoulders, came out of the little hotel next to the café. He was young and fair, very white, very drawn. There wasn't much, really there wasn't anything, that you couldn't buy on the place Clichy. Perhaps the German officer had bought something he hadn't liked--or maybe it was just the next morning he didn't like it. He paused at the door, put one hand on the roof, leaned forward. Was he going to be sick? No, he climbed into the car, the driver slammed the door.

Look down. That was barely in time. Casson stared at people--who were they? It was just something he could not stop himself from doing. And the man who'd held the door for his superior had caught him at it. Nantes 0, Lille 0. Caen 3, Rouen 2. Please. The Citroën idled, then the front door closed, the driver put the car in gear and drove off, turning onto the boulevard Batignolles.

His room at the Hotel Victoria. Six floors up, under the roof. Ten by ten, narrow iron bed, a chair, a washstand. Ancient wallpaper, the color of oatmeal, and bare wooden boards. Faint smell of sulfur, burned to get rid of the bugs, faint smell of black tobacco. And all the rest of it. Casson took an overcoat down from a hook in the wall. Not so bad. He rubbed his thumb idly across a small stain above the pocket. He'd bought it back in August, when he still had a little money, from a peddler's cart in the place République. For winter, he'd thought, but he wasn't the one who was going to wear it this winter.

He hunted through the pockets, made sure the Goddess of Luck hadn't left a fifty-franc note in there for him. No, nothing. He rolled the coat up tight, held it to the right side of his body. It was his one possession and La Patronne knew it. He owed three weeks' rent, if the owner caught him taking it out of the hotel, she'd stop him, would make a great scene, would probably call the police. Like a mythic beast she stood behind the hotel desk, keeping guard on the door. Draped always in black, wearing broken carpet slippers for her sore feet. Flabby face, eyes like wet stones. She could smell money in the next block. She truly could, Casson thought.

He closed his door silently, went downstairs one cautious step at a time. On the landing of the second floor he became aware of conversation in the lobby, something not right in the tone of it. Halfway down the final flight he stopped. He could see black shoes, blue trousers, the bottom of a cape. Merde. Police. Not an exotic moment in the life of the Hotel Victoria, but Casson could have done without it. He stood still, held his breath, listened intently. About forty years old. Was last seen. If by chance he should.

He went cold. Tried to swallow. The police voice stopped. A long moment. Casson could hear people talking in the street outside the door. Then, finally, the patronne. Mmm, no, she didn't think so. It wasn't anybody she'd seen. Of course she would notify the préfecture if. Jesus, they were looking at a photograph. He counted to three, then clomped down the stairs in a hurry, making all the noise he could. The policeman turned to glance at him as he went by, the patronne looked up from the photograph. "Bonjour, madame," he muttered--busy, tense, angry at the world. She started to say something to him, he could feel her mind working, but he was through the door in three strides and that was that.

He went around the corner, slowed down, got his composure back. Then headed south, toward the 3rd Arrondissement. A bright day, the little ghost of a chill still hung in the morning air. Early autumn this year, he thought. Which meant: early winter. Well, good. Maybe he'd get a few francs more for the overcoat.

He took backstreets, crossing into the 10th Arrondissement. Turgot, Condorcet, d'Abbeville. Then the rue des Petits-Hotels--yes, there were some. On rue Paradis, too many Germans, milling around the Baccarat salesroom. Then, a choice: to cross the boulevard you could take either the rue de la Fidelité or the passage du Désir--street of fidelity or alley of desire. Which? He took the alley, but noted that it ran downhill. Next, he hurried across the broad boulevard Magenta. Too wide, too open. That fucking Haussmann, he thought, rebuilding Paris a hundred years earlier, designing open boulevards to facilitate field-of-fire, cannon shot, against the revolutionary mobs of days to come. A visionary, in his way. He had destroyed the medieval rat's nest of Paris streets, anybody, even a lumbering German, could find his way around. Real Parisians, even those, like Casson, who'd spent their lives in the Passy district of the snob 16th, knew the value of a good maze, rank with crumbling drains and metal pissotières on the corners.

Head down on the narrow streets. Baggy flannel pants, suit jacket with the collar up, three days' growth of beard, workman's peaked cap tilted to one side, shadowing the face. Someone who belonged in the quarter if you didn't look too hard, if you missed the melancholy intelligence in the eyes. He was dark; dark hair, coloring like a suntan that never really went away. A small scar on the cheekbone. Lean body, forty or so. Something about Casson had always made him seem a little beat up by life, even in the old days, on the terrasses of the good cafés--knowing eyes, a half-smile that said it didn't matter what you knew. He liked women, women liked him.

Two flics pedaled by on their bicycles, one of the wheels squeaked each time it went around. Casson watched them. Sooner or later, he thought. He would be taken. Sad, but there wasn't much he could do about it, life just went that way. He knew too many people in Paris, at least a few of them on the wrong side. Or maybe it would be some German version of Simenon's Maigret: self-effacing, unprepossessing, looking forward a little too eagerly to lunch. Taking his pipe from clenched teeth and pointing it at his assistant. "Mark my words, Heinrich, he will return to his old haunts, to the city he knows. Of this you may be certain." And, in fact, when all was said and done, that was the way it turned out. He'd gone home--the romans policiers had it just right. Why? He didn't know. Everywhere else felt wrong, was all he knew. Maybe to live the fugitive life you had to start young, for him it was too late. Still, he didn't want to make it easy for them. Sooner or later, went that week's motto on the Casson family crest, but not today.

3rd Arrondissement--the old Jewish quarter. Cobbled lanes and alleys, silence, deep shadow, Hebrew slogans chalked on the walls. Rue du Marché des Blancs-Manteaux, the smell of onions frying in chicken fat made Casson weak in the knees. He'd been living on bread and margarine, and miniature packets of Bouillon Zip when he could afford the fifty centimes.

Between two leaning tenements, the municipal pawnshop. Massive stone portals; Liberté, Egalité, and Fraternité carved solemnly into the granite cap above the doors. Inside, a municipal room: flaking gray paint, the fume of disinfectant rising from the wood floor. A few people scattered about, looking like dark bundles forgotten on the high-backed benches. At the front of the room, a counter topped with frosted-glass panels. Casson could see the shadows of clerks, walking back and forth. He took a brass token from a gardien at the door and found an empty bench in the back of the room. An official appeared at the wire grille that covered the cashier's window. He cleared his throat and called out, "Number eighty-one."

A woman stood up.
"Yes, sir."
"Will you take thirty francs?"
"Monsieur! Thirty francs--?"
This was as much argument as he cared to listen to. He waved a dismissive hand and pushed a crystal serving dish out onto the counter.
"Well," the woman said. A change of heart, she would take whatever they offered.
"Too late, madame." The voice polite but firm. Really, he would not be subjected to the whims of these people. "So then, eighty-two? Eighty-two." A bearded man carrying a copper saucepot shuffled toward the counter.

Casson began to worry about the overcoat--unrolled it, tried, surreptitiously, to fluff it up a little so it didn't look so much like a bundle of dirty rags. Remember, he told himself, it's important to make a good impression, confidence is everything. A fine coat! Cosy for winter. God he was hungry. He had to have fifty francs from this coat. He stared up at the lights, yellow globes with shimmering halos, it hurt to look at them. He closed his eyes for a moment, the back of the wooden bench in front of him banged him in the forehead.

A hand gripped his elbow. "Unless you want to see the cops, you better wake up."
Casson shook his head. Apparently he'd fainted. "I'm all right," he said.
"No sleeping allowed."

A hard voice, Casson turned to see who it was. A man perhaps in middle age, not so easy to say because one side of his face had been burned, skin dead white in some places, shiny pink in others. In an attempt to hide the damage he'd let his hair grow long and it hung lank just above a knob of remaining ear. "Ça va?" he said.
"Yes."
"Done this before?"
"No."
"Well, if you don't mind advice, you'll get more out of them if you wait until the afternoon. After they've had their lunch and their little glass of wine. That's the only time to do business with the government."
Casson nodded.
"I'm Lazenac."
"Marin."
Lazenac put out a hand and Casson shook it. It was like gripping a rough-finish board.
"Let's go somewhere else," Lazenac said. "This place . . ."

Deeper into the Marais. Paper-white men in black coats, women who kept their eyes lowered. To a tiny café in what had been a store. Lazenac ordered a flask of Malaga, cheap red wine, and black bread. "It's good strength," he told Casson.
Whatever that meant it was true. The sour wine jolted him back to life. Chased down with a chunk of the mealy brea...

Présentation de l'éditeur :

Autumn 1941: In a shabby hotel off the place Clichy, the course of the war is about to change. German tanks are rolling toward Moscow. Stalin has issued a decree: All partisan operatives are to strike behind enemy lines—from Kiev to Brittany. Set in the back streets of Paris and deep in occupied France, Red Gold moves with quiet menace as predators from the dark edge of war—arms dealers, lawyers, spies, and assassins—emerge from the shadows of the Parisian underworld. In their midst is Jean Casson, once a well-to-do film producer, now a target of the Gestapo living on a few francs a day. As the occupation tightens, Casson is drawn into an ill-fated mission: running guns to combat units of the French Communist Party. Reprisals are brutal. At last the real resistance has begun. Red Gold masterfully re-creates the shadow world of French resistance in the darkest days of World War II.

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Description du livre Random House USA Inc, United States, 2002. Paperback. État : New. Reprint. 203 x 132 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. Autumn 1941: In a shabby hotel off the place Clichy, the course of the war is about to change. German tanks are rolling toward Moscow. Stalin has issued a decree: All partisan operatives are to strike behind enemy lines from Kiev to Brittany. Set in the back streets of Paris and deep in occupied France, Red Gold moves with quiet menace as predators from the dark edge of war arms dealers, lawyers, spies, and assassins emerge from the shadows of the Parisian underworld. In their midst is Jean Casson, once a well-to-do film producer, now a target of the Gestapo living on a few francs a day. As the occupation tightens, Casson is drawn into an ill-fated mission: running guns to combat units of the French Communist Party. Reprisals are brutal. At last the real resistance has begun. Red Gold masterfully re-creates the shadow world of French resistance in the darkest days of World War II. N° de réf. du libraire AAS9780375758591

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