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Operation Mincemeat [Hardcover]

Ben Macintyre
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (219 customer reviews)
RRP: 16.99
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Book Description

18 Jan 2010
One April morning in 1943, a sardine fisherman spotted the corpse of a British soldier floating in the sea off the coast of Spain and set in train a course of events that would change the course of the Second World War. Operation Mincemeat was the most successful wartime deception ever attempted, and certainly the strangest. It hoodwinked the Nazi espionage chiefs, sent German troops hurtling in the wrong direction, and saved thousands of lives by deploying a secret agent who was different, in one crucial respect, from any spy before or since: he was dead. His mission: to convince the Germans that instead of attacking Sicily, the Allied armies planned to invade Greece. The brainchild of an eccentric RAF officer and a brilliant Jewish barrister, the great hoax involved an extraordinary cast of characters including a famous forensic pathologist, a gold-prospector, an inventor, a beautiful secret service secretary, a submarine captain, three novelists, a transvestite English spymaster, an irascible admiral who loved fly-fishing, and a dead Welsh tramp. Using fraud, imagination and seduction, Churchill's team of spies spun a web of deceit so elaborate and so convincing that they began to believe it themselves. The deception started in a windowless basement beneath Whitehall. It travelled from London to Scotland to Spain to Germany. And it ended up on Hitler's desk. Ben Macintyre, bestselling author of "Agent Zigzag", weaves together private documents, photographs, memories, letters and diaries, as well as newly released material from the intelligence files of MI5 and Naval Intelligence, to tell for the first time the full story of Operation Mincemeat.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; Reprint edition (18 Jan 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747598681
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747598688
  • Product Dimensions: 14.9 x 22.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (219 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 210,874 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ben Macintyre is a columnist and Associate Editor on The Times. He has worked as the newspaper's correspondent in New York, Paris and Washington. He is the author of seven previous books including Agent Zigzag, the story of wartime double-agent Eddie Chapman, which was shortlisted for the Costa Biography Award and the Galaxy British Book Award for Biography of the Year 2008. Operation Mincemeat: The True Spy Story that Changed the Course of World War II, published in January 2010, is the thrilling true story of the greatest and most successful wartime deception ever attempted. He lives in London with his wife and three children.

(Photo credit: Jerry Bauer)

Product Description


`Fascinating ...The complexities and consequences of the story that Macintyre tells in Operation Mincemeat are compelling - a tribute to his impressive abilities as a sleuth (ones that we've witnessed in his previous books) and to his capacities as a writer. He has the instincts of a novelist rather than a historian when it comes to elision , exposition, narrative and pace, and is depiction of character is vividly alive to nuance and idiosyncrasy . Like the best novelists, he understands that all people are fundamentally individual - odd and unique to themselves - and that stereotypes exist only in bad fiction, whether on the page or on screen' --William Boyd, The Times

`Ben Macintyre turns up trumps in this rollicking tale of a second world war mission to dupe the Germans by using a corpse bearing fictional military plans ... The cast of characters is irresistible, and Macintyre's enthusiasm for them richly merited ... a terrific book with exceptional photographs of everybody, including the corpse. Students of the second world war have been familiar with Mincemeat for many years, but Macintyre offers a mass of new detail, and enchanting pen portraits of the British, Spanish and German participants. His book is a rollicking read for all those who enjoy a spy story so fanciful that Ian Fleming - himself an officer in Montagu's wartime department - would never have dared to invent it'
--Max Hastings, Sunday Times

'Ben Macintyre has taken a well known story of wartime deception, embellished it, and shown that it was even more ingenious and even more risky than we had all supposed. -- Spectator, January 2010

'This true story of wartime deception is as creative and as cunning as a good spy novel.' -- Sunday Telegraph, February 2010

'Ben Macintyre skilfully breathes life into the diverse cast of characters involved in the plan, imaginatively fleshing out the colourful personalities on both sides.' -- Metro London

'Macintyre tells a 'rollicking' story with 'infectious glee'. -- The Week, February 2010

' ... they would surely applaud his skill in finally bringing all to life.'
-- Times

About the Author

Ben Macintyre is a columnist and Associate Editor on The Times. He has worked as the newspaper's correspondent in New York, Paris and Washington. He is the author of seven previous books including Agent Zigzag, the story of wartime double-agent Eddie Chapman, which was shortlisted for the Costa Biography Award and the Galaxy British Book Award for Biography of the Year 2008. He lives in London with his wife and three children.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
95 of 98 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A page-turning history of WWII espionage 27 Aug 2010
By John Middleton TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Operation Mincemeat is history written like good fiction: hardly surprising when you consider that Operation Mincemeat itself was pure fiction to begin with.

This book tells the story of perhaps the greatest British deception operation of WWII, "The man who never was". To throw the Axis off the scent of the invasion of Sicily, a dead body was floated onto Spanish shores with a briefcase full of (bogus) secret documents. Added to other bits and pieces, it helped convince the Nazis that Sicily was only a feint, with the real invasion directed at Sardinia and the Balkans. That it worked is incredible, when you think about how many things could have gone wrong - and nearly did.

Ben Macintyre has started at the beginning, covering off all the principals of the saga - the dead man himself, Ewen Montagu and Charles Cholmondeley, the men responsible for creating the deception operation, and the various spies and spies and counter-spies on all sides, plus a cameo appearance by Ian Fleming, then-future creator of James Bond. There is a little about Jean Leslie as the (beautiful) girlfriend whose photo "Major Martin" kept in his wallet, and about Ewen Montagu's Communist spy brother, Ivor (whose wife Hell appears on the cover of some editions, for no reason I can discern save gender balance and to hint at a femme fatale narrative). Then, after all the buildup, we get a rare look into Franco's wartime neutral Spain, a hotbed of intrigue with frantic espionage being undertaken by pretty much every combatant of WWII, and by the Spanish themselves, largely, but far from exclusively, as a proxy for the Axis powers.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An incredible account of deception 9 Aug 2010
This book is a lot more like a documentary compared to Agent Zig Zag which read like a story. Everything involved in this deception is so far fetched that if it didn't have the evidence backing it up you would think it never happened. D-Day has been written about and analysed so much and deservedly so but the Sicily invasion is often over looked. If this deception hadn't worked and the invasion had failed then the war may have been very different, maybe even the Normandy D-Day pushed back.

An incredible story.
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55 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply brilliant 26 Jan 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is by far one of the very best "contemporary" historical accounts I have read for ages. It flows seamlessly linking the characters and describing them in such an absolutely interesting way that you feel that you know them all personally. This is done simply with great skill. It takes great skill to keep you interested in characters now sadly long gone whose backgrounds and life style now seems so alien to our own. We owe much to those unsung heroes who never received the recognition they richly deserved. This book is a tribute to them. It rises above most books of its ilk by having been thoroughly and comprehensively researched. You never ever get the feeling that anything has either been missed out or made up. An excellent gripping read.
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35 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent 22 Jan 2010
By Mr. Pj Williams VINE VOICE
brilliant book, well written and flys along like a thriller, might not appeal to the historical purist but for someone delving into intelligence during world war two and want somewhere to start this is perfect. really creates a picture of the protagonists and the scenario. bought mine in the lake district and couldn't put it down. you wont regret the purchase. an excellent book by a great storyteller. have just bought his previous book zig zag on the strength of this
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Necessity is the mother of invention and the need to minimise casualties in an attack on a fortified target is justifiable grounds for this operation which,at another time and in different circumstances, would most certainly be unsavoury.Years ago I read Ewen Montagu's "The Man Who Never Was" and I always felt "uncomfortable" with it. Given Montagu's panache for deception,I always felt that we were not given the full/real details of the operation. But this understandable and should not be held against him. After all,intelligence work by its nature precludes full disclosure of events, even after 60 years.It is noted that Cholmondeley "Chumly" ...(Oh, the English and their pronounciation..never pronounce a word the way it's written),maintained his silence to the end observing all confidentialities. And that perversity produced by Hollywood with Clifton Webb in the starring role, albeit with a cameo appearance by Montagu,which I think is a betrayal of those men whose dedication ensured a successful and relatively low casualty landing in Sicily ...but then that's Hollywood for you.
My congratulations to Ben Macintyre for his depth of research, especially the profiles of the many characters like Hillgarth et al.Macintyre cannot be praised too much for his endeavour in bringing into the public domain the details and yes,the emotions of one of the most thrilling episodes of World War II. In a nostalgic mood, I visited the grave in Huelva about 36 years ago and I just stood there in my shoes and I wondered ..I wondered ..who really lies in that grave. Now, with full disclosure ...I have a name.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars I love it
An amazing war time story, told well.
Published 3 days ago by T. Leunig
2.0 out of 5 stars Very detailed but Macintyre does spend too much time talking ...
Very detailed but Macintyre does spend too much time talking about the biography of all the characters. Its not really necessary to the main story.
Published 4 days ago by mark lockyer
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Book arrived in good condition and in good time, excellent read thanks
Tom Berry
Published 5 days ago by Mr. Thomas Philip Berry
5.0 out of 5 stars another riveting read
The fact that the truth is often stranger than fiction, Ben McIntyre portrays a story that goes from the macabre to the fantastical.
Published 8 days ago by A Kennedy
5.0 out of 5 stars THEY WHO DECEIVE
I'd researched this story many years ago and the account of the mission in this book is still most absorbing and no less informative. There is one nagging doubt in my mind though. Read more
Published 12 days ago by Rod H
5.0 out of 5 stars A MUST READ
A truly good read.
Now that the blanket has been lifted on covert operations during WW II the book goes into fascinating detail.
Best book I've read in ages.
Published 14 days ago by John Butler
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
A bit slow you really have to work hard at concentrating on the story
Published 17 days ago by David1947
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant read
forget the film, this is a fascinating account, told in depth but never boring. it tells how it wasn't all as well planned as the Hollywood film would have you believe, but still... Read more
Published 22 days ago by Vulcanalia
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny and Informative
"Rollicking" is a very apt adjective to describe this book. It's fun, cracks along at a good pace and is ... a 'rollicking' good read. Read more
Published 22 days ago by L. Meadow
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but . . . .
Having read Montagu's book many years ago, I was delighted to read Ben MacIntyre's version which filled in a lot of gaps and at a rollicking pace. Read more
Published 24 days ago by Joe Gunn
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