Doundoulakis’ (I Was Trained to Be a Spy, Book II, 2012, etc.) memoir, co-written with Gafni, tells of his time as a young Greek who fled German-occupied Greece and returned later to face the enemy as an American spy.
When German forces drove Allied troops out of Greece, Doundoulakis and his brother, George, became a part of the Cretan resistance. But the two had to escape their home in Crete once the Gestapo learned of George’s association with British intelligence. Due to their time in the resistance and the fact that they were American citizens (born in Ohio), the brothers enlisted in the U.S. Army and joined the Office of Strategic Services. The OSS-trained Doundoulakis made his way back to Greece as a radio operator, where sending a covert transmission to Cairo headquarters could, if intercepted by the Germans, easily lead to capture and torture. The author’s memoir perfectly encapsulates the mixed feelings of his younger self; he was only 20 when sent to the city of Salonica, an event that was both exhilarating and terrifying. His flight from Greece, where he and others hid in caves, is an intense episode, as is his secret passage back into the country. But Doundoulakis’ espionage in Salonica—a substantial part of the story—is the most nerve-wracking section, because Doundoulakis, trained to avoid as much contact with German soldiers as possible, was perpetually wary and alert. He set up his radio antenna concealed in a factory (where he sold supplies as a front), while four German officers played bridge next door; just one of them looking up would have meant almost certain doom. Doundoulakis smartly centers his novel on his personal escapades and doesn’t pad down the narrative with unnecessary coverage of the ongoing World War II. There are constant reminders of the unrelenting danger: Parachute training, for instance, was euphoric for Doundoulakis, but less so when his chute didn’t open during one of the jumps. His OSS instructor summed it up best when he said that the spy life “is the kind of experience that you will brag about to your family and friends, if you survive.”
Treads familiar territory (his previous memoirs are much of the same), but readers new to his work will enjoy the exciting life he’s chosen to share.