Female spies book “ripe for film adaptation”

Shadow Warriors of World War II: The Daring Woman of the OSS and SOE by Gordon Thomas and Greg Lewis

A Foreword Review by Michelle Anne Schingler

This is an invaluable historical account, shedding light on the heroism and bravery of the women spies who helped usher the Allied forces toward a victory.

Move over, James Bond—these real life stories of secret agents belong to the ladies. Shadow Warriors of World War II, from Gordon Thomas and Greg Lewis, is a thrilling, revelatory history of the women who contributed to the war efforts behind enemy lines as spies on behalf of Britain and America.

William Donovan, inspired by the burgeoning espionage efforts of the United Kingdom, persuaded President Roosevelt to initiate an agency on American soil, dedicated to gathering information and fighting the Nazis covertly. That organization would eventually feed into the CIA—but first, it would employ women for its actions, and to ends that defied expectations.

The stories here are ripe for film adaptation, but first require honor, as America and Britain’s first women spies are shown to have been both invaluable and at risk. Many ended up in concentration camps or at the receiving end of Nazi bullets.

Nancy Wake, who led an attack on a Gestapo HQ in France.

Their ranks included Nancy Wake—brazen, fiery, and skilled with weapons, she was the sort to dodge bullets and retrieve packages from vehicles before they exploded. Betty Pack used her considerable appeal to extract information from men during liaisons, and Virginia Hall posed as a journalist and became one of the agents the Nazis most resented. She escaped, on one leg, over the Pyrenees. These women jumped from planes, blew their covers to help others, and accepted the dangers they faced without blinking.

Thomas and Lewis unfold their stories carefully, preserving their efforts—their successes, their near escapes, and occasionally their betrayals—with detail, resulting in a history that is both thorough and exciting. Distressing conclusions are given their space, and fallen spies are honored, with their extraordinary efforts always taking center stage. While better known personalities also make appearances—even Ian Fleming is here—they are dwarfed by these “shadow warriors” and their daring exploits.

Virginia Hall, the one-legged spy who became the Gestapo’s “Most Wanted”.

This is an invaluable historical account, shedding light on the heroism and bravery of the women spies who helped usher the Allied forces toward a victory.

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Shadow Warriors: Daring Missions by Women of the OSS & SOE

shadow-warriors-uk-editionWorld War Two was the war in which old gender rules changed, as intelligence agencies created specific training and roles for women.

SHADOW WARRIORS is the story of women as undercover combatants: armed with Sten guns and grenades; cutting telecommunication wires, laying mines in roadways; organizing bombing raids; preparing the way for the D-Day invasion and harassing enemy forces as the Allies moved inland.

It begins by telling the story of how US and British intelligence agencies decided to use women as spies in a way they never had before; and of how they then recruited and trained them, as couriers, wireless operators, saboteurs and even resistance leaders.

These agents ranged from girls barely out of high school to mature mothers, from working class women to the daughters of aristocrats, from the prim and proper to wild high-livers.

They were taught how to send coded messages; how to lay explosive charges; and how to kill with knives, guns and their bare hands.

Sometimes they faced sexism and even derision from their trainers. Yolande Beekman, an efficient and courageous agent who was executed by the Germans, had been dismissed by one SOE instructor as, “A nice girl, darned the men’s socks, would make an excellent wife for an unimaginative man, but not much more than that.”

Their actions behind enemy lines were to change for ever the views of the US and UK intelligence communities on using women as agents.

Some, such as New Zealander Nancy Wake and Polish-born Christine Granville led men in battle. Granville masterminded the escape of a fellow SOE agent. Nancy led a gun and grenade attack on a Gestapo headquarters in France. American Virginia Hall became the Gestapo’s most wanted agent.

Others, such as the American Betty Pack, used their beauty and sexual allure to capture enemy secrets which would change the course of the war.

All these agents knew that torture and death were the price of failure. Some had to leave babies and children at home. Many paid the ultimate price for their bravery.

As Nancy Wake said: “I hate wars and violence but if they come then I don’t see why we women should just wave a proud goodbye and then knit them balaclavas.”

The clandestine war, and therefore the war itself, would not have been won without the courage and contribution of these Shadow Warriors.

UK edition now available; US edition to be published by Chicago Review Press in January 2017.

 

 

“The best WW2 book I’ve read to date”

Farewell-Leicester-Square1 - Copy

Lovely new message from reader, Phil Dumbelton:

“Hi Jon, I’ve just finished reading Farewell Leicester Square and what a great book it was – the best WW2 book I’ve read to date. Actually it is one of the best books I’ve read to date. I’m so pleased that I found it.

“I really enjoyed the plots around the resistance fighters and found the ending very moving indeed. Please can we have some more? Best wishes, Phil Dumbelton”

Reader feedback means so much to authors. Thanks, Phil! 

Social media, trust and gender (for writers)

As so many writers use social media, I was interested to read this new study claiming to identify gender differences in the way we react to posts and messages.

Artios, a London-based artificial intelligence company (sounds good), presented 1,000 UK adults with plain text, anonymised posts from a selection of popular Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts and asked them to rate them on six criteria, including trustworthiness, approachability and friendliness.

The study found that:

-Women generally responded more positively than men to all types of content.

-Men were 5% more likely than women to respond positively to content written by a woman, and women were 2% more likely than men to respond positively to content written by a man.

-Women and men were also more likely to feel patronised when the post is written by the opposite sex.

Interestingly, Facebook content was most likely to get a positive response.

Facebook posts and comments: Women – 55% reacted positively; Men – 49% men reacted positively.

Instagram: Women – 47% reacted positively; Men – 41% reacted positively.

Twitter was got the lowest proportion of positive responses: Women – 34% reacted positively; Men – 29% reacted positively.

Andreas Voniatis, data science lead at Artios, said: “Our reactions to social media content can very easily be clouded by an author’s appearance, ethnicity, gender or how they self-identify.”

Posts written by brands were the best received generally. Women were 11% more likely to respond positively to brand content. Social media accounts in the banking and finance industries scored the best overall. 61% of women responded positively; 50% of men.

I don’t know if that helps us as we promote our books or communicate with our readers but for me the important thing is getting our biographies right.

As Andreas Voniatis goes on to say: “We often read a person’s biography before finalising our reaction to their post.”

Right. Let’s check out those profiles again… It never hurts to re-think and re-write!

study

*Here’s a link to the original research.

 

 

“One of the best books I have ever read”

Writers work hard in their little office, or at a desk on the end of their bed, or in a coffee shop, or wherever they have space and time to work…

They write about subjects they enjoy to research, stories they want to tell; and they hope it will connect with readers… Readers they don’t know and will never meet. People who enjoy a good story, like they do.

Like I do.

That’s why reFarewell-Leicester-Square1 - Copyviews mean so much to them. Writers really appreciate the readers who take a few moments to write a few lines on Amazon.

I’ve just received the following message on this site. It means so much that someone got to the end of ‘Farewell Leicester Square’ and then took the time to contact me.

Many thanks, Alistair. And to all of you who take the time to write a short review on Amazon.

Hello Jon.
Just read Farewell Leicester Square. One of the best books I have ever read. And that is not said lightly. I am a fan of all historical fiction especially WWII. The attention to detail was remarkable. Well done.
Yours sincerely,
Mr Alistair Nash.

Nagasaki: It was simply astounding, nothing left standing for miles, everything flat and burnt out.

Sgt Major Les Spence
Sgt Major Les Spence

Les Spence was a remarkable man who kept an astonishing journal.

For almost four years he risked his life to keep a daily record of hardship, courage and endurance in prison camps run by the Japanese.

He and his fellow prisoners faced starvation, disease and cruelty. They kept up their spirits by playing sport, listening to an illicit radio and by trying to create their own civilised society behind barbed wire.

Throughout the suffering in Java, a perilous journey in the hold of an infamous hellship and the horrors of a forced labour camp in Japan, Les Spence kept writing.

He spent much of his time in a coal mining camp near Nagasaki. There, he was able to record one of the most momentous events in history: the dropping of the plutonium bomb on the city.

We had uneventful train journey to Nagasaki and then we saw the result of the atomic bomb. It was simply astounding, nothing left standing for miles, everything flat and burnt out.

Covering the period from January 1942 to November 1945, the diaries have been annotated to create a record of the Allied forces who many feel were sacrificed on Java.

Les Spence’s work is a first-hand account of how to hold onto hope when all seems lost.

Now the subject of a major new screenplay (The Snows of Japan), the book is available in hardback and on Kindle from here.

From Java To Nagasaki
From Java To Nagasaki

WHAT READERS ARE SAYING:

“Moving and magnificent in its reportage, this is a war story with a difference. The very gut-wrenching rawness of Les Spence’s diary is a reminder of an area of World War Two almost forgotten: the battle for Java and the sacrifice that followed. This is one of those books that once you start you can’t forget it. These secret diaries have been lovingly edited to provide a firsthand account of the rigours of being a prisoner of a cruel enemy is superbly evoked.”
Gordon Thomas, author of ‘Voyage of the Damned’, ‘Inside British Intelligence’ and ‘Gideon’s Spies’

“A remarkable testament to courage and endurance in the face of hardship and cruelty – and a firsthand account of how to hold on to hope when all seems lost.”
Western Mail

“A remarkable wartime document.”
South Wales Echo

“These remarkable diaries cover the period from January 1942 to November 1945, and are a testament to one POW’s moving story.”
Britain at War magazine, September 2012

From Amazon: “My grandfather was in the same camp as Les Spence (Camp 8B @ Inatsuki). He told me stories about his time in camp, but [this] book has provided additional insight into the fear, hope, and dreams of these prisoners. Its value lies in the fact that it is a first hand account (actual diary that was retained by Les Spence throughout his imprisonment) of the day-by-day blows experienced by this POW.”