Between Silk and Cyanide : The Story of SOE's Code War

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9780002559447: Between Silk and Cyanide : The Story of SOE's Code War

The Story of SOE’s code room and the Second World War memoir of the man who transformed code making and code breaking in the build up to D-Day.

Leo Marks has led an extraordinary life. His father owned the famous bookshop 84 Charing Cross Road and the young Leo’s first foray into the world of codes was when, aged 8, he broke the price code used by his father.
• A career, first as a master cryptographer and then as an award winning scriptwriter, followed. He wrote the classic Peeping Tom (starring Anna Massey) which has been classed by Alexander Walker as the most important film ever made in Britain.
• Leo Marks is also the man credited by Roosevelt as having shortened the war by at least three months – due to the astounding innovations he devised in signals intelligence – saving countless thousands of lives.
• Channel Four broadcast a feature-length documentary on Leo in the autumn of 1997 called A Very British Psycho. Part of the Arthouse series, the press attention was enormous. He is immensely well-connected and promotable.

Between Silk and Cyanide reveals for the first time the code operations of SOE during the war. Responsible for all secret British agents in enemy territory, the code department provided the only secure means of communication for these men and women working under the eyes of the Gestapo. Marks, horrified at the simplistic and insecure codes used in the early part of the war, re-invented the entire method of signals communication.
• This is an exciting story of high level espionage – Marks is involved in the communications between De Gaulle and the Free French, the destruction of the atomic weapon plant at Rjukan in Norway, the surveillance of Hitler’s long-range missile base at Pennemunde, the build up of the Secret Army prior to D-Day and the secret surrender negotiations between Mussolini and the British.
• His story is told in a light, witty style with many dry asides (very much in the tone of the best-selling To War with Whitaker). But it also gives a clear and fascinating insight into the day-to-day operations of the British war effort. It is a book which will inform and make you laugh all at once.

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Review:

Twenty-three is awfully young to find yourself with the power of life and death...Leo Marks failed the examination to go and work on codes at Bletchley by being just too good and too much of a smart aleck. Instead, he was imposed on a not entirely willing Special Operations Executive (SOE) to teach coding to agents dropped into Europe and to decode the sometimes indecipherable messages they sent back at great risk to their lives. His speeches to his staff on the mortal danger of slowness or carelessness are classics of guilt-tripping. Absence of mistakes made him suspect that the Germans had captured SOE's Dutch agents--his youth and personality meant that his superiors were slow to believe him. In his spare time, he revolutionized cryptography by inventing one-time-only pads, and wrote poems for agents to use as keys--including the poem associated with Violette Szabo, "Odette".

This is a moving memoir of the agents like Odette and Noor Inayat Khan, whose fates we already know and whom he tried in vain to protect. This is a powerful memoir of war, responsibility and guilt; Marks, hitherto famous as screenwriter on Peeping Tom and son of the 84 Charing Cross Road family, has written a classic. --Roz Kaveney

Review:

Martin Scorsese A mesmerizing account of World War II as fought on the home front in Great Britain by the ingenious codemakers whose work determined the life and death of the Allied agents in occupied Europe. Leo Marks, a brilliant cryptographer, is a masterful and passionate storyteller. I was immediately swept into his secret world of codes and "undecipherables," trying at times (without success) to unravel the puzzles myself, and found it difficult to put down the book until the drama had come to an end.

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Marks, Leo
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Marks, Leo
Published by Harper Collins (1998)
ISBN 10: 0002559447 ISBN 13: 9780002559447
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Book Description Harper Collins, 1998. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. New item. Bookseller Inventory # QX-131-74-5342005

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