1. The protagonist of Alan Furst’s Dark Star, Andre Szara, is a journalist for Pravda. Do you like the idea of a writer as a lead character? What might having a writer as the protagonist provide the story? What problems might it raise?
2. Consider Furst’s use of suspense in Dark Star. How does he build suspense? Discuss different methods he uses in the novel.
3. Discuss the theme of heroism in the novel. How does Szara define the word? How does his definition compare with the way other characters understand the word?
4. Dark Star deals with the inability of German Jews to escape Nazi Germany by immigrating to other countries. In what ways does the novel suggest a broader responsibility for the fate of German Jews? What questions must a country consider before it can accept immigrant refugees?
5. Discuss the characters of General Bloch, Lady Angela Hope, Roddy Fitzware, Renate Braun, and the diplomat Von Polanyi as representatives of national secret services. In what ways are they similar? Different? What can you extrapolate about the service agency for which each one works?
6. Critics praise Furst’s ability to re-create the atmosphere of World War II—era Europe. What elements of description make the setting come alive? How can you account for the fact that the settings seem authentic even though you probably have no firsthand knowledge of the times and places he writes about?
7. Furst’s novels have been described as “historical novels,” and as “spy novels.” He calls them “historical spy novels.” Some critics have insisted that they are, simply, novels. How does his work compare with other spy novels you’ve read? What does he do that is the same? Different? If you owned a bookstore, in what section would you display his books?
8. Furst is often praised for his minor characters, which have been described as “sketched out in a few strokes.” Do you have a favorite in this book? Characters in his books often take part in the action for a few pages and then disappear. What do you think becomes of them? How do you know?
9. At the end of an Alan Furst novel, the hero is always still alive. What becomes of Furst’s heroes? Will they survive the war? Does Furst know what becomes of them? Would it be better if they were somewhere safe and sound, to live out the war in comfort? If not, why not?
10. Love affairs are always prominent in Furst’s novels, and “love in time of war” is a recurring theme. What role does the love affair play in Dark Star?