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  • Ben Macintyre -- author of Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal -- is back with the "utterly thrilling" Operation Mincemeat: How a Dead Man and a Bizarre Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured an Allied Victory. Reviewed today in the New York Times:

    Excellent westerns have been composed by people who could barely ride a horse, and the best writers of sex scenes are often novelists you wouldn't wish to see naked. But when it comes to spy fiction, life and art tend to collide fully: nearly all of the genre's greatest practitioners worked in intelligence before signing their first book contract.

    "W. Somerset Maugham, John Buchan, Ian Fleming, Graham Greene, John le Carre: all had experienced the world of espionage firsthand," Ben Macintyre writes in his new book, Operation Mincemeat. "For the task of the spy is not so very different from that of the novelist: to create an imaginary, credible world and then lure others into it by words and artifice." Both are lurkers, confounders, ironists, betrayers: in a word, they're spooks.

    Mr. Macintyre himself writes about spies so craftily, and so ebulliently, that you half suspect him of being some type of spook himself. It is apparently not so. He is a benign-seeming writer at large and associate editor at The Times of London, a father of three and the author of five previous, respected nonfiction books, including Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal (2007). Perhaps he is also controlling predator drones and a flock of assassins from a basement compound. But, alas, I doubt it.

    Operation Mincemeat is utterly, to employ a dead word, thrilling. But to call it thus is to miss the point slightly, in terms of admiring it properly. Mr. Macintyre has got his hands around a true story that's so wind-swept, so weighty and so implausible that the staff of a college newspaper, high on glue sticks, could surely take its basic ingredients and not completely muck things up (more...)

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