Après la Guerre is a drama featuring a trio of French Foreign Legionaires released from a Turkish prisoner of war camp at the end of World War I.
While not anxious to return to a turbulent Europe, Stahl accepts that when Jack Warner wants a star to do a movie the star accommodates Warner.
Stahl is excited when he arrives in Paris. The sounds, the sights, the smells, the cuisine, the people – the spirit of the city are all as he remembered.
As he starts learning his role as an officer in the Legion he is invited to a cocktail party being hosted by Baroness Cornelia Maria von Reschke aund Altenurg. The party is filled with French citizens sympathetic towards Nazi Germany.
Stahl meets businessman, Phillippe LaMotte, who is a director of the Comité Franco-Allemagne, an organization working for “the re-establishment of harmony, of good relations” between France and Germany.The Nazis want a film star of Stahl’s magnitude to use his celebrity to publicly reflect admiration for their regime.
I had forgotten how the Nazis had pursued political warfare before WW II. They spent millions in France to influence French politics and public opinion. French fascists were well funded. They seek to have leftists, Jews and other undesireables marginalized in France.
In an earlier book, Red Gold, set after Germany defeated and occupied France Furst's story had featured money being sent to France by the Soviet Union to advance its aims through French communists.
In Mission to Paris the Nazis do not accept being rebuffed in their advances.
Uncomfortable with the unsubtle approach and opposed to the Nazis, Stahl receives a request, really a summons, to the U.S. embassy. Meeting with Mr. J.J. Wilkinson, a diplomat with vague responsibilities, Stahl is immediately put on edge by Wilkinson raising that Stahl has remained a resident alien in America rather than become an American citizen.
After warning Stahl to be careful in dealing with “these people” Wilkinson hints that the movie star could be helpful to American interests while in Europe.
Wilkinson says Stahl would be an agent of influence for the Nazis if he accedes to their requests. It is an intriguing term and set me reflecting on how fame can and has been used politically and diplomatically around the world. Whether it is the film maker, Leni Riefenstahl, of the 1930’s or the Bono of our time artists have had a political influence.
Stahl, a man of integrity and loyal to the United States, is caught up in intrigues designed to sway public opinion.
Furst has created another fascinating quiet hero in Stahl. Though a film star, Stahl is not a flamboyant Hollywood character. His publicity appearances are restrained. His personal life is mundane. He enjoys making movies not being a star.
Furst convincingly delves into the murky world of political warfare. It is another world of shadows that he has explored brilliantly in book after book.
Mission to Paris is not his best but it is a very good book. Fredric Stahl is a character I will remember.
The tension at the end of the book made me rush to read the final pages. It has been awhile since I raced to find out the ending. (Nov. 19/14)
****Furst, Alan - (2002) - Kingdom of Shadows; (2004) - The Polish Officer; (2010) - Spies in the Balkans; (2012) - Dark Voyage; (2013) - Red Gold (1999); and (2013) - Alan Furst's Quiet Heroes - Paperback