Alan Furst was born and raised on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. An only child with older parents, he wandered alone or with friends around New York and learned to love the city and its people.
He attended Oberlin College, mistakenly majoring in English, too late discovering anthropology, the proper major for a writer. After graduating, he drove a taxi in New York and wrote poetry, eventually finding work as a teaching assistant in English at the Pennsylvania State University, which led to an MA, a never-to-be-finished PhD, and a Fulbright teaching fellowship at the Université de Montpellier in southern France.
He moved full-time to Paris (and remained there for seven years), writing Night Soldiers, his first historical espionage novel.