Finished Operation Garbo: The Personal Story of the Most Successful Spy of World War II, by Juan Pujol Garcia and Nigel West. A fantastic story. Pujol himself is the spy in question, and he wrote chapters 1-4, 6 and 11, while West wrote chapters 5, 7-10 and the epilogue. Code-named Garbo, Pujol was arguably the main reason for the Allied’s success on D-Day. Acting as a double agent for Britain’s MI5 security agency, the Germans believed him to be working for them instead, and Pujol invented in his imagination an entire complex spy network he supposedly controlled in the UK to persuade the Germans that Normandy would be just a feint and that the real main invasion force would land at Calais. This kept most of the German forces in Calais, making them seriously undermanned at Normandy. As rough as the invasion was, it could have been far worse without Pujol’s efforts and might have failed altogether. The Germans code-named him Arabel, but the Brits named him Garbo, reasoning he must be the greatest actor in the world. They also thought that if the Germans got wind of an agent named Garbo, they might figure it was a woman. But the Germans never did figure it out and believed him to the end. Pujol was decorated with Germany’s Iron Cross and Britain’s MBE. To protect himself and his family from vengeful Nazis if his secret ever got out, he faked his death after the war and disappeared to Venezuela, where he taught English for a while for Shell Oil and then ran a movie theater. West, who is actually an English politician named Rupert Allason, managed to track him down in the 1980s for the book and to reunite him with his fellow surviving spies. By all accounts, Pujol was a nice guy and to me will always be one of the really great men in history. Anyone who has an ancestor who survived D-Day action owes him a huge debt of gratitude.
Next up, it’s back to LA noir with The Promise, by Robert Crais. An Elvis Cole-Joe Pike entry, it also features LAPD K-9 Patrol officer Scott James and his 85-pound German shepherd Maggie from Crais’ Suspect.