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Between Silk and Cyanide: A Codemaker’s War 1941–1945 Paperback – 3 Apr 2000

4.6 out of 5 stars 173 customer reviews

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Paperback, 3 Apr 2000
£68.59
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Product details

  • Paperback: 623 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; New Ed edition (3 April 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007100396
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007100392
  • Package Dimensions: 19.2 x 12.8 x 4.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars 173 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 166,322 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Synopsis

The secret of SOE's code war revealed for the first time...'As a comedy about the British at war, Leo Marks's book ranks with the fiction of Anthony Powell and Evelyn Waugh.' Observer * This is the witty, engrossing and highly personalised account of Leo Marks's experiences during the Second World War. He worked for the SOE -- responsible for placing, monitoring and communicating with all British secret agents working in enemy territory. Marks played a crucial role, re-inventing how agents sent coded messages back to London and using every trick in the book to get his way. * Between Silk and Cyanide is a great mixture of high level espionage, cynical commentary on government power struggles, human feeling for the agents risking everything for the war effort, and a keen sense of the absurd. 'Leo Marks never made it into the field himself. But his memoirs are as explosive as any sabotage conducted by those who did...Leo Marks never once loses contact with the personal courage and sufferings of the agents in the field, the reality which so shames the Whitehall warriors in the eyes of posterity...His tale is by turns fiery, scabrous, infuriating and deeply tragic.

The eyes mist over, the throat constricts; the heart thumps. I found Between Silk and Cyanide impossible to put down.' DONALD CAMERON WATT, Independent 'Irrepressibly witty and readable chronicle of a Candide in the madhouse of secret bureaucracy...It's made up of reconstructed dialogue and amazing anecdote. Many readers who think they are allergic to Maths will be astounded to find themselves reading and even grasping the devilish poetry of figure-ciphering...But at the centre of the Book is the black mystery of the worst disaster of Britain's secret war. The fun and satire of Between Silk and Cyanide sparkle against a dark background of anger and grief.' Neal Ascherson, Observer

From the Back Cover

In 1942, with a black-market chicken under his arm, Leo Marks left his father's famous bookshop, 84 Charing Cross Road, and went to war. He was twenty-two and a cryptographer of genius. In 'Between Silk and Cyanide, 'his critically acclaimed account of his time in SOE, Marks tells how he revolutionized the code-making techniques of the Allies, trained some of the most famous agents dropped into France including Violette Szabo and 'the White rabbit', and why he wrote haunting verse including his famous 'The Life I Have' poem. He reveals for the first time the disastrous dimensions of the code war between SOE and the Germans in Holland; how the Germans were fooled into thinking a Secret army was operating in the Fatherland itself; and how and why he broke General de Gaulle's secret code. Both thrilling and poignant, Marks's book is truly one of the last great Second World War memoirs.

"FASCINATING AND POIGNANT . . . IF YOU ONLY BUY ONE BOOK THIS YEAR, MAKE IT THIS."
PAUL ROUTLEDGE, 'Daily Mirror'

"Leo Marks never made it into the field himself. But his memoirs are as explosive as any sabotage conducted by those who did. Compulsive reading . . . Never once loosing contact with the personal courage and sufferings of the agents in the field, Mark's tale is by turns fiery, scabrous, infuriating and deeply tragic. The eyes mist over, the throat constricts; the heart thumps. I found 'Between Silk and Cyanide' impossible to put down."
DONALD CAMERON WATT, 'Independent'

'"Between silk and Cyanide' is a mesmerising account of World War II. 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 to unravel the puzzle myself and I found it difficult to put the book down until the drama had come to an end."
MARTIN SCORSESE

"An irrepressibly witty and readable chronicle of a Candide in the madhouse of secret bureaucracy. As a comedy about the British at war, this book ranks with the fiction of Anthony Powell and Evelyn Waugh . . . , the fun and satire of 'Between Silk and Cyanide' sparkle against a dark background of anger and grief."
NEAL ASCHERSON, 'Observer'

"A brilliantly funny, savage, often desperately moving story."
ELIZABETH BUCHAN, 'The Times' Book of the Year

'Between Silk and Cyanide' is the witty, engrossing wartime story of Leo Marks, a cryptographer of genius who transformed code-making and code breaking for SOE from 1942 to 1945, and went on to write the script of the cult film, 'Peeping Tom'

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