Hemming (Agent M: The Lives and Spies of MI5’s Maxwell Knight, 2017, etc.) tells the story of MI6 operative Bill Stephenson (the model for 007) and how crucial he was to America’s entry into World War II.
Stephenson was sent to New York in June 1940, to convince U.S. officials to support England in her desperate fight against the Germans. Later that summer, President Franklin Roosevelt sent Bill Donovan on an unofficial visit to London to discern if England could survive. Stephenson knew of the visit and had MI6 take charge, wooing Donovan with royal visits and access to high-security operations. When Donovan returned to America, Stephenson convinced him the U.S. needed a stronger spy service. Donovan’s job was to get Roosevelt onboard. He was already leaning in that direction, ready to help in any way he could—everything that is, short of declaring war. Helping these interventionists was an East Coast group with strong influence called the Century Group. American isolationists, led by Charles Lindbergh, were their fiercest opponents. Lindbergh, who addressed huge crowds at anti-war rallies and justified Nazi aggression due to economic imbalance, received information from Hans Thomsen, the senior diplomat at the German Embassy in charge of keeping the U.S. out of the war. Thomsen developed the congressional “franking privilege” scheme whereby pro-German material could be mailed to sympathizers by sitting members of Congress for free. He also bribed newspapers to publish his false material. Stephenson and Donovan built the most diverse and extensive yet subtle propaganda drive ever directed by one sovereign state at another. In this page-turning spy thriller, Hemming shows how they mastered the art of starting rumors, infiltrating groups, and manipulating opinion polls. They also used forgeries, organized protests, and wiretaps and hacked into private communications. Their only rule: No rules.
Fluid, sharp writing, deep research, and a spy network with unparalleled ingenuity provide a snappy read and lots of shockers.