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The Last Goodnight: A World War II Story of Espionage, Adventure, and…
by Howard Blum
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Fascinating woman, Betty Pack, and history and mostly annoying writing. Blum overly packages and sells Betty as an apparently very serious spy but presents her whole life as tradecraft, a conceit, from childhood on. It is a style and format that could not be much more silly and tiresome. And painful; I kept reading because Betty's life deserved it, and one always wants to know what happened next; but the packaging was so, so painful. ( )
This book is about one of the greatest spies of World War II, Mrs. Betty Pack, aka Miss Betty Thorpe. The story begins when Betty was making the rounds at her coming out and sleeping with many men and suddenly found out she was pregnant but didn't know who the father was. So she needed to find someone to marry and fast. So she latched on to Arthur Pack, who worked for the Foreign Service for England and at the time was stationed in Washington D.C. where Betty lived with her retired military father and her rich socialite mother. She gets Arthur to marry her but he wants her to get an abortion because people will know that she was pregnant before she was married and that will hurt his career. However, she can't get one because she's too far along so instead he finds a kindly couple to take the child in and foster him. This breaks Betty's heart.
Eventually, Arthur will get a prime posting in Spain right when the revolution is going on. Betty begins a passionate love affair with a man, Carlos, she met when she was a child and wanted desperately back then. When she became pregnant and needed to have an abortion she fled back to England and on the way she met Lord Castlerosse who was to assess her for the Secret Intelligence Office. He was pleased and introduced her to his boss Lord Beaverbrook who decided that she was perfect for work as a spy. She came from good stock, was beautiful, was intelligent, and had a shaky moral compass. Just as important she had a good cover as a diplomat's wife.
She also converted to Catholicism and had lessons with a handsome priest with whom she began an affair with. When the priest was rounded up by the Rebels in power she appealed to the Secret Intelligence Office to help get him out. They let her know which jail he was being held at and she used her considerable feminine wiles on a high church official to get him out of jail and out of the country. She had shown them she was capable.
Later from her new posting on the border of Spain and France as the war had taken over the country and caused them to leave the Embassy, only some had stayed behind at the new Embassy in northern Spain at a hotel. When England lost contact with them they asked Arthur to go over there to find out what was going on. When Betty had not heard from him the next day she took a driver and went over there herself and got captured. She used her feminine wiles to get out and went back. She radioed the Secret Intelligence Service who told her they were sending naval ships to get them out but it would take four days. Betty still determined to get her husband out went back over there and got stopped again, but this time by a different man who told her he couldn't let her proceed because of the fighting. She told him she'd take the risk so he gave her a pass and let her go. She risked her life and finally made it to the Embassy and gave her report to the Embassy Director who had a message for her to take back to England, which she did.
Later they relocated the Embassy in France and Carlos's wife came to her and begged her to find her husband who had been captured by the Rebels. So she sought help from the Secret Intelligence Office to find Carlos. In the meantime, she helps them sneak a prisoner out of prison. And when they do find Carlos the only way to get him out is by order of one of the leaders of the rebellion a hard man named Indalecio Prieto. But it's a rare man that Betty can't charm to her way of things. And England asked that she give him a list of men to be released and he released them as well.
The Service wanted Betty in Poland and made up some excuse that Arthur had made a mistake and needed a new post there. It was 1938 and things were heating up there politically. Betty took up a lover who provided her with information that she passed on to Secret Intelligence. They decided to make her a formal offer of work. To make her an official spy for Britain for pay. She agreed. Soon her lover dried up with information and she was told to begin sleeping with Count Lubienski who was chef de cabinet to Poland's foreign minister, Colonel Josef Beck, who was the dominant force in determining Poland's political future.
Lubienski told her everything from the secret peace talks Poland was having with the Nazis to the plans they were making with other nations to help them attack Germany. But most important he told her about the machine the Poles had created to decipher the Enigma code of Germany. Yes, the Poles cracked the Enigma device, not England and they did so in 1934 but didn't tell anyone for five years. In January 1939 Poland would give England a replica of their Enigma machine and the Germans would slightly change the code over the years and Alan Turing would adjust the machine to the new code as it changed. Soon it became too hot for Betty inside Poland and her and her husband was sent back to Chili, which upset Betty because all of the action was going on in Europe right now. But the Secret Intelligent Agency had other plans for Betty.
They wanted Betty to get a divorce which she gladly went about doing. By this time Betty's daughter was six-years-old but Betty felt no maternal feelings toward the child. She was desperate to get back in the game. They sent her to America where she would be operating out of Washington D.C. and over time she would get information out of the Italian Embassy and the Vichy Embassy that would prove to be of immense importance to the war effort. She would be constantly watched by Hoover's F.B.I. agents ready to arrest her for spying even though she was spying for the good of her country and had the backing of her president.
This book was an incredibly interesting story about a woman who sought the thrills and excitement that spying brought her and ended her restlessness and loved to use her intelligence as well as her charms to solve problems for the good of the world. She was an amazing woman who led one helluva life. Sadly she died of cancer at a relatively young age of fifty-three. This book is told in a unique way by a conversation that was had at the end of her life between her and a man named Hyde who was writing a book about her as they traveled through Ireland. It's a refreshing way to tell a historical story that is completely accurate as he kept notes on the encounter. Overall this is a fantastic book that tells a story that you'll want to hear. I give this book five out of five stars.
History is a nightmare.
-James Joyce (Ulysses)
You will find it difficult to, I think to live on the surface in the company of Spaniards. We do not understand this way of existing. That is why we’re the despair of the Anglo-Saxons. What you call dramatics, we call truth!
-Howard Blum (The Last Goodnight: A World War II Story of Espionage, Adventure, and Betrayal p 103)
What also distinguished him—and this was undoubtedly the secret of Castlerosse’s success—was his quick wit and brash, mischievous charm. A society doyenne out to get revenge for some slight approached him at a party, tapped his massive waist-coated belly with a catty finger, and snarled, “If this stomach were on a woman, I would think she was pregnant.” Without missing a beat, his lordship drawled back, “Madam, a half-hour ago it was on a woman and by now she very well might be pregnant.”
-Howard Blum (The Last Goodnight: A World War II Story of Espionage, Adventure, and Betrayal p 107)
From the moment she boarded the train—tried to unsuccessfully to light her cigarette with a box of Spanish matches and in her frustration quipped, “This is the only thing in Spain that doesn’t strike,” a friendship was born.
-Howard Blum (The Last Goodnight: A World War II Story of Espionage, Adventure, and Betrayal p 108)
“I could never love anyone completely. I am twenty-six already and the thing you mean is never likely to happen to me.” Now at fifty-three, a lifetime of experiences behind her, she saw that her prediction had proven true. Her heart could soar. Yet it would never find long-term fulfillment. A steady, companionable happiness would always elude her.
-Howard Blum (The Last Goodnight: A World War II Story of Espionage, Adventure, and Betrayal p 170)
Cast a cold Eye
On Life, on Death
Horsemen, pass by!
-W. B. Yeats
He might have suggested that confusing passion for love was, in its too human way, an honest mistake.
-Howard Blum (The Last Goodnight: A World War II Story of Espionage, Adventure, and Betrayal p 240)
If she continually convinced herself that she was falling in love, than one day, she wanted to believe, it would actually be true. She would be at peace and would finally settle into an imagined happiness. Her restlessness would vanish.
-Howard Blum (The Last Goodnight: A World War II Story of Espionage, Adventure, and Betrayal p 271)
Spies lie by inclination, and governments are in the business of endorsing these falsehoods. Truth inevitably falls by the wayside.
-Howard Blum (The Last Goodnight: A World War II Story of Espionage, Adventure, and Betrayal p 319)
He looked at her and was suddenly reminded of something Stephenson had said: Betty was “the greatest unsung hero of the war.”
-Howard Blum (The Last Goodnight: A World War II Story of Espionage, Adventure, and Betrayal p 463)
Exaggerated review of one woman spy's life. Did the interviewer really get sucked into this woman's tale? At one point the spy relies on giving a dog sleeping potion in the dog's water and, surprise, of course the dog drinks up the water as a good plot needs... yeah sure, I'll believe that. The book is a good tale even if only part is true.
Tom Clancy Line of Sight, Mike Madden, author; Scott Brick, narrator
Like most Clancy books, this one is exciting, but it is also very confusing and too detailed with extraneous information. There are so many tangential themes and so many unfamiliar sounding names and places that the listener will struggle with, that a print book would be a better choice to prevent the inevitable confusion even though the narrator is one of the best.
When the book begins, Jack Ryan saves someone who is being brutally attacked by an MS13 gang member. Although the two incidents seem unrelated, eventually a link is revealed. Several other violent incidents take place which seem to be related to unrest in the Eastern European world. The story moves to the White House where Jack is having dinner with his parents before he leaves for Europe to do work for Hendley Associates. His mom asks him to do her a favor. She once operated on a child in Sarajevo with a severe eye injury, and she had lost touch with the family. She was hoping he could find her so she could see how she made out in life.
From all appearances, it seems that a Chechen Russian is involved in a plot to create havoc in the world by disrupting the already precarious relationship that exists among the Serbs, the Croats and the Bosnians. Several horrific incidents take place which seem to be pointing a finger at the Serbs, but the reader is forced to question the veracity of that theory. Who would be interested in falsely accusing one country of violence against another and why would anyone want to disturb the fragile peace existing there? Yet, the tension in that region is rising and is obvious from the way the characters interact with each other as the date of a peace conference draws near.
It seems that there is a group of fanatic Muslims who want to gain world control, and they will stop at nothing in order to create their caliphate. The men involved believe that once the world is controlled by Islam, there will be peace. The fact that there will be terrible loss of life, upheaval and violence in that pursuit seems not to concern them. They are driven by ideology and fanaticism.
At the same time, that all of these violent events are taking place throughout the Middle East and Europe, there is a Bulgarian who is plotting the demise of Jack Ryan. Vasilev wants revenge for having once been defeated by him. He thinks he is using a Bulgarian accomplice to accomplish his goal, but the Bulgarian is also using him to accomplish his own goal of world domination. Actually, everyone seemed to be using everyone else. No one could be trusted.
There was no shortage of villains. When the novel ends, although the threads are knitted together, they often required the reader to suspend disbelief. Jack Ryan seemed to think with his heart and his desire rather than his brain, often making foolish errors in judgment which could endanger the entire world. This belied his position in life as the son of the President and an employee of a secret security organization to protect America. His naïveté seems contrived and stretched the reader’s credulity.
A World War 2 story of Espionage. Betty Pack was a perfect spy. She knew how to lie and charm men. Not afraid and very convincing. This was a very good read.
The New York Times bestselling author of the acclaimed Dark Invasion, channels Erik Larson and Ben Macintyre in this riveting biography of Betty Pack, the dazzling American debutante who became an Allied spy during WWII and was hailed by OSS chief General "Wild Bill" Donovan as "the greatest unsung heroine of the war." Betty Pack was charming, beautiful, and intelligent--and she knew it. As an agent for Britain's MI-6 and then America's OSS during World War II, these qualities proved crucial to her success. This is the remarkable story of this "Mata Hari from Minnesota" (Time) and the passions that ruled her tempestuous life--a life filled with dangerous liaisons and death-defying missions vital to the Allied victory. For decades, much of Betty's career working for MI-6 and the OSS remained classified. Through access to recently unclassified files, Howard Blum discovers the truth about the attractive blond, codenamed "Cynthia," who seduced diplomats and military attachés across the globe in exchange for ciphers and secrets; cracked embassy safes to steal codes; and obtained the Polish notebooks that proved key to Alan Turing's success with Operation Ultra. Beneath Betty's cool, professional determination, Blum reveals a troubled woman conflicted by the very traits that made her successful: her lack of deep emotional connections and her readiness to risk everything. The Last Goodnight is a mesmerizing, provocative, and moving portrait of an exceptional heroine whose undaunted courage helped to save the world.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)940.54History and Geography Europe Europe 1918- Military History Of World War II
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