Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Spy with 29 Names

Sometimes, life really is stranger than fiction.

Juan Pujol was a Spaniard who created one of the most incredible espionage networks in Europe during World War II. His incredible tale comes to life in The Spy with 29 Names: The Story of the Second World War's Most Audacious Double Agent by Jason Webster.

Pujol was caught up in the Spanish Civil War and because of it, he knew fighting totalitarianism was to be his life's mission. A quick, sharp-witted man, Pujol decided to become a double agent, and he began spying for the Nazis in 1941, pretending to be in London while he was actually in Lisbon. And the Nazis believed him. Once he hooked the Nazis, Pujol approached Great Britain with his newfound "status" and convinced them to begin a massive espionage campaign against the Germans.

The British - astonished at first at how well Pujol had done for himself - had to be persuaded that he was authentic, and once they did, they brought Pujol and his wife to live in Britain. Then Pujol got to work. Along with the help of his MI6 "handler", a Spanish-speaker named Tomas Harris, Pujol created an elaborate network of spies all across England. The catch? Not one of them was real. All of the spies were fictional: Pujol and Harris had made them all up.

Pujol, who was known to history as the famed double agent "Garbo", and MI6 were so successful that they were actually able to divert German Panzer divisions away from Normandy. The success of D-Day would not have been possible without them.

That one man was able to concoct such amazing, convoluted tales and have the German High Command trust his words was nothing short of incredible. This is a terrific, fast-paced, riveting story, one that must be read to be believed.