Association of Former Intelligence Officers

BETWEEN SILK AND CYANIDE: A Codemaker's War, 1941 - 1945, by Leo Marks, Free Press, 1999. Reviews by Richard Bernstein (NYT) and Ken Ringle (Bk World, WPost) indicate that this is a book worth reading in spite of the mountain of books that have already been published pn the topic. It is a personal memoir of a bright young mind overlooked by the code-cracking center wizards of GCHQ at Bletchley Park, who instead became part of the Special Operations Executive (SOE), and served as their head of communications, supporting allied agents and resistance operations in Europe.

"Silk and Cyanide" is full of previously undisclosed details of the secret war waged in the occupied countries, reflecting not only Marks' own contribution as part of the SOE, but a testament to those who risked their lives behind enemy lines and whose precarious communications with the home base were to be protected by Marks' office. The book is also an anecdotal history of the SOE agency and its operations, and contains a good many tales of the men and women sent out on missions of information collection, organizing resistance, or supporting or conducting sabotage. There are some flaws - including a "get even with the dumb old men who ran the SOE" flavor, sections of narrative that are muddled and difficult to follow (in need of a good editor), and the author's predilection to witticisms and flippancy. On the whole, however, the two reviewers are united in saying that "Between Silk and Cyanide" is a valuable addition to knowledge and an interesting "read." (Bernstein, NYT 21 Jul99, p. B8; Ringle, Book World, Wpost 25 July99, p. 4) (not reviewed / RoyJ).

Reviewed in AFIO Weekly Intelligence Notes #32-99, 12 August 1999

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