‘A morally complex and beautifully written thriller with a delicately portrayed love story at its heart. A cut above’ – John Williams, Mail on Sunday
Autumn 1915. The First World War is raging across Europe. Woodrow Wilson has kept Americans out of the trenches, although that hasn’t stopped young men and women from crossing the Atlantic to volunteer at the front. Christopher Marlowe ‘Kit’ Cobb, a Chicago reporter and undercover agent for the US government is in Paris when he meets an enigmatic nurse called Louise. Officially in the city for a story about American ambulance drivers, Cobb is grateful for the opportunity to get to know her but soon his intelligence handler, James Polk Trask, extends his mission. Parisians are meeting ‘death by dynamite’ in a new campaign of bombings, and the German-speaking Kit seems just the man to discover who is behind this – possibly a German operative who has infiltrated with the waves of refugees? And so begins a pursuit that will test Kit Cobb, in all his roles, to the very limits of his principles, wits and talents for survival.
Fleetly plotted and engaging with political and cultural issues that resonate deeply today, Paris in the Dark is a page-turning novel of unmistakable literary quality.
‘Written in a hard-boiled, staccato style, Paris in the Dark is an intelligent, stylish thriller, and so atmospheric that the pages reek of Gitanes and coffee’ – Antonia Senior, Times
‘A top historical espionage thriller, tautly plotted and told with humanity and realism. Rich characterisation and an authenticity that I found gripping from the first page to the last’ – C J Carver, Author of Know Me Now (The Dan Forrester Series)
‘Butler’s prose is a cut above. His descriptions of First World War Paris under the shadow of Zeppelins, and the threat of ground-based bombings, are exquisite – his storytelling admirable. A first-class literary thriller to lose yourself in and mourn when the last page is turned’ – David Young, author of Stasi Child, Stasi Wolf and A Darker State
‘Butler skilfully paces the narrative, balancing deception, misdirection and reveal with historical realism, quality writing, and insightful modern perspective’ – Nick Triplow, author of Getting Carter
I would like to thank the author, publisher and blog tour organiser for the ARC in return for an honest review.
This is a thrilling historical drama/crime thriller about Christopher Cobb, journalist and spy, searching for a bomber in war shocked Paris during the World War 1.
Reading the high praise for this book from a reviewer in the Times and other authors, I feel like mine simply can’t match up! So I’m just going to say it as it is. Paris In The Dark is all the things they are quoted as saying, intelligent, stylish, exquisite and insightful, but above all this, if you simply looking for a great book, this is a wonderfully entertaining read. At a time when I’m feeling a bit pressured in every area of my life, because I’m so badly organised, this book, grabbed my imagination, kept me entertained from page one to the very last page. The world around me simply faded into the background. I was immersed in war time Paris, gripped by the drama, embraced by the atmosphere and in love with the romance between Cobb and Louise. David Young talks of mourning when the last page is read and I did, I had enjoyed it so much, I wanted to stay in the story. Entertaining reads such as this, remind me of being cwtched up with a book as a child, not yet caught up in adult drama’s, where the world simply failed to exist when I was reading and I captured that feeling again with Paris In the Dark! I’m tired of being an adult, I want to be off to Narnia with a case full of books such as this!
The story itself reads like a dream. We have a classic thriller set in city besieged by the German army and it seems German operatives set on taking the war into the heart of the city. It works because the writer captures the peculiar atmosphere that grabs cities during war by giving us Paris clinging onto a semblance of normality, people have to live and love even during war, yet also delivers on the fear and paranoia that grips those residents trying to cling onto routine. He also gives us oodles of exciting drama, using bold storytelling to tell of the physical dangers Kitt encounters as he seeks to protect the people of Paris from the acts of terror.
Character wise Kitt Cobb is the perfect ‘hero’, determined to do his duty and save other’s from harm. Classic hero material and sometimes as a reader you need that, you need someone you can cheer on, a character that has you biting your nails to the quick, fearful that he will be killed. I adore him. Kitt Cobb is not perfect, but who wants perfect, I just want him, because he was reassuringly solid, with a strong moral code. Of all the books I have read this year, he is one of my favourite characters and I not ashamed to say, that if I could, I would invite Mr Cobb to lunch, just so that I could spend lots of time with him.
Though this is part of a series of books, its reads brilliantly as a standalone, which is how I read it, but I will be going back and adding Kitt Cobb’s other adventures onto my too read pile.
About the author.
Robert Olen Butler has published sixteen novels—The Alleys of Eden, Sun Dogs, Countrymen of Bones, On Distant Ground, Wabash, The Deuce, They Whisper, The Deep Green Sea, Mr. Spaceman, Fair Warning, Hell, A Small Hotel, The Hot Country, The Star of Istanbul, The Empire of Night, Perfume River—and six volumes of short fiction—Tabloid Dreams, Had a Good Time, Severance, Intercourse, Weegee Stories, and A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain, which won the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Butler has published a volume of his lectures on the creative process, From Where You Dream, edited with an introduction by Janet Burroway.
In 2013 he became the seventeenth recipient of the F. Scott Fitzgerald Award for Outstanding Achievement in American Literature. He also won the Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award. He has twice won a National Magazine Award in Fiction and has received two Pushcart Prizes. He has also received both a Guggenheim Fellowship in fiction and a National Endowment for the Arts grant. His stories have appeared widely in such publications as The New Yorker, Esquire, Harper’s, The Atlantic Monthly, GQ, Zoetrope, The Paris Review, Granta, The Hudson Review, The Virginia Quarterly Review, Ploughshares, and The Sewanee Review. They have been chosen for inclusion in four annual editions of The Best American Short Stories, eight annual editions of New Stories from the South, several other major annual anthologies, and numerous college literature textbooks from such publishers as Simon & Schuster, Norton, Viking, Little Brown & Co., Houghton Mifflin, Oxford University Press, Prentice Hall, and Bedford/St.Martin and most recently in The New Granta Book of the American Short Story, edited by Richard Ford.
His works have been translated into twenty-one languages, including Vietnamese, Thai, Korean, Polish, Japanese, Serbian, Farsi, Czech, Estonian, Greek, and most recently Chinese. He was also a charter recipient of the Tu Do Chinh Kien Award given by the Vietnam Veterans of America for “outstanding contributions to American culture by a Vietnam veteran.” Over the past two decades he has lectured in universities, appeared at conferences, and met with writers groups in 17 countries as a literary envoy for the U. S. State Department.
He is a Francis Eppes Distinguished Professor holding the Michael Shaara Chair in Creative Writing at Florida State University. Under the auspices of the FSU website, in the fall of 2001, he did something no other writer has ever done, before or since: he revealed his writing process in full, in real time, in a webcast that observed him in seventeen two-hour sessions write a literary short story from its first inspiration to its final polished form. He also gave a running commentary on his artistic choices and spent a half-hour in each episode answering the emailed questions of his live viewers. The whole series, under the title “Inside Creative Writing” is a very popular on YouTube, with its first two-hour episode passing 125,000 in the spring of 2016.
For more than a decade he was hired to write feature-length screenplays for New Regency, Twentieth Century Fox, Warner Brothers, Paramount, Disney, Universal Pictures, Baldwin Entertainment Group (for Robert Redford), and two teleplays for HBO. Typical of Hollywood, none of these movies ever made it to the screen.
Reflecting his early training as an actor, he has also recorded the audio books for four of his works—A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain, Hell, A Small Hotel and Perfume River. He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate degree from the State University of New York system. He lives in Florida, with his wife, the poet Kelly Lee Butler.
You can follow the author on his website