OPERATION HEARTBREAK is predicated on an actual historical event that was perhaps the most audacious and celebrated instance of Allied deception of the Germans in World War II. The novel, written In 1950 by Duff Cooper is essentially an imaginative backstory for the central figure of the historical event. It is an understated, poignant story about a conscientious, good-hearted, but rather dim-witted British bloke, Willie Maryngton. Willie, despite fervent intentions, is somewhat of a loser in life; by a remarkable stroke of Providence he was transformed in death into a war hero.
Duff Cooper was a remarkable man in his own right. Otherwise known as 1st Viscount Norwich, Cooper was a British Conservative Party politician and an historian. He served during World War II as Minister of Information in Winston Churchill's Cabinet and as the British ambassador to France. He wrote only one novel -- OPERATION HEARTBREAK. Graceful and smoothly paced, the novel is a sensitive and bittersweet portrayal of a star-crossed ordinary man. Until the very end the novel does seem to be on the lighter side, but at the end, as the reader realizes who Willie Maryngton is and what he became in death, it takes on an entirely new dimension.
This edition is published by Persephone Books of London, which is a wonderful publisher dedicated to republishing "forgotten fiction and non-fiction by unjustly neglected authors" in handsome volumes with plain but tasteful gray jackets. It concludes with a four-page Afterword that explains the historical event in which the fictional Willie Maryngton assumes the leading role. If you haven't already cottoned on to who Willie is, the Afterword may take your breath away.
There also are at least two editions available on the secondary market that couple Cooper's novel with a non-fiction book about the celebrated WWII event by Ewan Montagu, entitled THE MAN WHO NEVER WAS. If you come across one of those two-book editions, I urge you to read Duff Cooper's novel first before you venture on to reading about the historical event on which it is predicated.