Archive for the ‘Inside the Book’ Category

Women spies of the World Wars: Noor Inayat Khan

This blog series on women working undercover during the world wars highlights a few of the stories that inspired me while writing At the Table of Wolves which deals with the anti-fascist career of Kim Tavistock in the years leading up to WWII.

In the second World War the life expectancy of radio operators in occupied Europe was six weeks. Despite the danger, a number of women applied for and were accepted by the British military for missions behind enemy lines. Among them was Nancy Wake, the first subject of my blog series, and Noor Inayat Khan.

Inayat Khan, World War II radio operator Born in 1914, Noor Inayat Khan was the daughter of an American woman and a prominent Indian father who taught Sufism. The family settled in Britain but moved to Paris in 1920 where Inayat Khan studied music at the Paris Conservatory. At the outbreak of WWII the family fled to England where Inayat Khan cared for her siblings and her widowed mother. Despite her strong pacifist beliefs, she felt she most do something to fight the Nazis and joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force and soon, the Special Operations Executive (SOE) for work as a radio operator where her fluent French was seen as a crucial asset. Read More…

Women spies of the World Wars: Nancy Wake

At the Table of Wolves, historical fantasyMany women worked undercover during the world wars, but we know the names of only a few. Like men in the secret intelligence services, many went to their graves never revealing their roles. This blog series highlights a few that inspired me while writing At the Table of Wolves.

Nancy Wake

Nancy Wake, Spy of World War IIA decorated heroine of the French resistance in World War II, Nancy Wake’s life cut a meteoric path from an impoverished childhood in Australia to a high society hostess in the south of France and then, in occupied France, being responsible for saving hundreds of Allied soldiers’ lives, many of them downed paratroopers, by leading them across the Pyrenees to safety in Spain.

She said that she saw no reason why women should be limited to waving goodbye to their men and sitting at home to “knit balaclavas.”

The Gestapo noted her uncanny ability to elude capture, calling her “the White Mouse,” and putting a price of 5 million francs on her head. Read More…

Women Spies of the World Wars: Krystyna Skarbek

Many women worked undercover during the world wars, but we know the names of only a few. Like men in the secret intelligence services, many went to their graves never revealing their roles. This blog series highlights a few that inspired me while writing At the Table of Wolves.

Krystyna Skarbek, alias Christine Granville, was a Polish countess and  the first–and longest serving–British female spy. Her exploits were many, and yet her story, her name, and her achievements are hardly known. As just one example of an exploit which should be celebrated, she skied out of Nazi-occupied Poland with the first evidence of Operation Barbarosa, the German plan to invade Russia.

Destined to become Churchill’s “favorite spy,” she initially was turned down for service because she was a woman. Read More…

Women Spies in the World Wars: Virginia Hall

Many women worked undercover during the world wars, but we know the names of only a few. Like men in the secret intelligence services, many went to their graves never revealing their roles. This blog series highlights a few that inspired me while writing At the Table of Wolves.

Female spies; At the Table of Wolves

Painting of Virginia Hall at work as a spy. It’s displayed at the CIA in their fine art collection.

Virginia Hall.

The Gestapo badly wanted to apprehend this American spy, sending out an order saying, “She is the most dangerous of all Allied spies. We must find and destroy her.”

Virginia Hall was infamous as “The woman with the limp,” as she had a wooden leg, the result of a hunting accident. Read More…

Women Spies in the World Wars: Marika Rokk

In my research for At the Table of Wolves, I found a number of fascinating stories of women who played important roles in the world of espionage. This is one of them.

Marika Rokk

Said to be one of Hitler’s favorite actresses, Marika Rokk is likely to have had a secret life working against the Nazis for the Russians.

Born in Cairo to Hungarian parents and raised in Budapest, Marika Rokk got her start in show business in Paris, performing in the Moulin Rouge cabaret.

She was in the right place at the right time in 1935 when Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister, decided that Germany needed its own film star who could help showcase German films and engage in the culture wars with Britain and particularly the US with its superstars like Ginger Rodgers and Rita Hayworth. Rokk was relatively well-known dancer in various European revues and was tapped by Goebbels to be a Nazi film star. Subsequently, the two had an affair, but it is believed that by 1940 she had been recruited by the KGB. Read More…